Cullen, L. C., J. Pretty, D. Smith and S. E. Pilgrim (2007). Links between local ecological knowledge and wealth in indigenous communities of Indonesia: Implications for conservation of marine resources. The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences 2(1): 289-299.
Abstract:Accumulated knowledge about nature is an important part of people’s capacity to manage and conserve the en- vironment. Local ecological knowledge is vital if natural habitats are to receive sufficient public support for their conservation and if local capacity for self-management is to be maintained. Loss of traditional knowledge is a worldwide phenomenon, resulting in reduced environmental awareness and diminished local capacity for sustainable use and conservation of natural resources. Economic development leading to environmental disconnection through reduced local resource dependence and interaction is causing local knowledge to be hybridised and lost or replaced with modern knowledge systems. Simultaneously, globalisation and increased opportunities to trade can result in severe overexploitation. To date, there have been few cross-cultural and quantitative studies to describe this knowledge loss. This study illustrates the loss of local knowledge using an Indonesian case study, the Kaledupa sub-district of Wakatobi Marine National Park. Kaledupa has a population of around 17,000 comprised of two distinct cultural groups, Kaledupan Islanders (Pulo) and traditionally nomadic boat people (Bajo) now living in permanent houses on stilts over the sea. Marine resources are heavily exploited for income, food, building materials and waste disposal by both groups. Marine ecological knowledge differed significantly between Bajo and Pulo communities (U = 1305.000; p < 0.001). An inverse relationship was shown between marine ecological knowledge and wealth (Rs = -0.395; p < 0.001), and a positive relationship between marine ecological knowledge and support for traditional management practices (Rs = 0.396; p < 0.001). This has implications for future management of marine and coastal systems in the area and in similar small island communities worldwide.