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Exploring the Basic Ecological Unit: Ecosystem-like Concepts in Traditional Societies

Berkes, Fikret and Kislalioglu, Mina and Folke, Carl and Gadgil, Madhav (1998) Exploring the Basic Ecological Unit: Ecosystem-like Concepts in Traditional Societies. In: Ecosystems, 1 (5). pp. 409-415.


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Ancient conceptualizations of ecosystems exist in several Amerindian, Asia-Pacific, European, and African cultures. The rediscovery by scientists of ecosystem-like concepts among traditional peoples has been important in the appreciation of traditional ecological knowledge among ecologists, anthropologists, and interdisciplinary scholars. Two key characteristics of these systems are that (a) the unit of nature is often defined in terms of a geographical boundary, such as a watershed, and (b) abiotic components, plants, animals, and humans within this unit are considered to be interlinked. Many traditional ecological knowledge systems are compatible with the emerging view of ecosystems as unpredictable and uncontrollable, and of ecosystem processes as nonlinear, multiequilibrium, and full of surprises. Traditional knowledge may complement scientific knowledge by providing practical experience in living within ecosystems and responding to ecosystem change. However, the "language" of traditional ecology is different from the scientific and usually includes metaphorical imagery and spiritual expression, signifying differences in context, motive, and conceptual underpinnings.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Ecosystems
Publisher: Springer-Verlag
Additional Information: Copyright for this article belongs to Springer-Verlag
Keywords: Traditional ecological knowledge;Human ecology;Ecological anthropology;Ecosystem;Watershed
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2004
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 04:15
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/1396

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