Cultural Ecosystem Services and Restoration: Reconnecting communities and people with naturePosted: May 4, 2016
Cultural Ecosystem Services and Restoration: Reconnecting communities and people with nature
By Andrea Hirschberg
As people realise how degraded the environment has become, more are turning to local ecological restoration projects to help ‘do their bit’. Greater Wellington alone has over 30 local community based restoration groups listed on its web page (GWRC, 2016), with likely many more unlisted. For many restoration groups the aim is to restore the physical environment or return a particular species to the area. However, for other groups the cultural aspect (such as community connections and education) of restoration is the main aim of the project (Fernandez-Gimenez et al., 2008).
Cultural Ecosystem Services
Saeukhan and Whyte (2005) describe cultural ecosystem services (CES) as “nonmaterial benefits people obtain form ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences”. While CES are often highly regarded by many who are participating in restoration projects (Brancalion et al., 2014). They are however, often not covered in a lot of ecosystem services research (Chan et al., 2012 b) and there is currently poor integration of CES into management plans (Milcu et al., 2013, Plieninger et al., 2012 & Chan et al., 2012 a). The aim of this essay is to look at how restoration and cultural ecosystem services can foster community connections and connections between the people and the land
As Milcu et al. (2013) found, with the exception of recreational, aesthetic, heritage and educational services, there is very little inclusion of cultural ES into management plans. Meaning that values such as spiritual value, cultural identity and history and the knowledge system (Tilliger et al. 2015) in relation to the ecosystem are often left out of management plans. This means that many management plans lack the full range of success indicators available to them. A broader range of social-science tools need to be used when putting together a management plan to include cultural values rather than just economic values (Chan, et al. 2012 b & Tilliger et al. 2015). Tilliger et al. (2015) believe that the lack of inclusion and study of CES is due to CES being less tangible than other ES and often including non-use values making CES harder to estimate and quantify.
Interconnections of People and Nature
Community-based natural resource management can play a significant role in ecological restoration projects. This is done by providing civic engagement through resource and knowledge pooling, the growth of trust between stakeholders and connection with other community groups (Hibbard et al. 2006). The strengthening of relationships between community members was found to be an important factor for members of restoration groups by Kittinger et al. (2013) and Fernandez-Gimenez et al. (2008). One member of Kittinger et al. (2013) study states “we are not just restoring an ecosystem but a community”. In their study looking at collaborative, community-based forestry organisations Fernandez-Gimenez et al. (2008) found that this community building aspect of the restoration project was the most important aspect for some members of the restoration group. The restoration project provided a space for those who were interested in the same place to learn together and share knowledge about that place. Community based restoration projects allow a diverse range of people to come together for a common purpose and create a plan which relevant to them.
Fernandez-Gimenez et al. (2008) also found that restoration projects helped to reconnect people with the land and engaged people in the natural resources around them. Participating in community restoration projects helps people become more aware of the interconnectedness of nature and how their action affects the environmental health (Egan et al. 2011 and Kittinger et al. 2013). This is especially true for restoration projects based on traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Indigenous communities tend to have a more holistic world view than western science (WS) and many indigenous communities see themselves as a part of nature and on an equal level to everything else that makes up the ecosystem. For Maori this holistic world view has resulted in the idea of mauri (or life force of something). In terms of restoration, this means that if the mauri of the land is damaged then the mauri of the people is also damaged; if the land is sick the people are as well. Maori also believe in kaitiakitanga where everyone is a guardian of the land and everyone has responsibility to maintain the mauri of the land (Henwood & Henwood & Roberts et al. 1995). These two values are often what underpin iwi, hapu and whanau based restoration projects and are instrumental in reconnecting people with their land.
In their 2015 study Tilliger et al. focused on the connections between CES and the connections between CES and the land. They found that as cultural values and cultural connections to the land were lost degradation of the land occurred, which in turn resulted in a further loss of CES from the land, as shown in FIG. 1 below. I believe that in restoration projects the reverse can be true; as the land is restored CES will increase which will increase the restoration efforts.
|Figure 1. Shows the connections between CES and the land and how a reduction in one can result in a reduction of the other. From Tilliger et al. 2015|
While there is currently a lack of studies and restoration management plans which focus on CES (Chan et al. 2012 b & Tilliger et al. 2015) those studies which have looked at CES (including Brancalion et al. 2014, Kittinger et al. 2013 , Fernandez-Gimenez et al. 2008 and Milcu et al. 2013) found that CES are widely regarded by participants. In some cases the reconnection of communities was the main reason for many participants becoming involved (Kittinger et al. 2013 and Fernandez-Gimenez et al. 2008). The reconnection of mana whenua with the land and the reassertion of kaitiakitanga by the mana whenua is often the driving factor of Maori led restoration projects in New Zealand (Henwood & Henwood & Roberts et al. 1995)
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