Local and Scientific Perceptions of Environmental Change in the Ethiopian Highlands

Authors: Cara Steger*, Colorado State University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Mountain Environments
Keywords: ethnography, land use land cover change, Landsat, local knowledge, shrub encroachment, Ethiopia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Regent, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Understanding changes to the structure and functioning of landscapes is a central challenge in sustainability research, with far-reaching consequences for human well-being. In social-ecological systems, change is produced through interacting social and biophysical drivers, often with multiplicative and non-linear effects that can be difficult to distinguish. Integrating local and scientific knowledge can improve our understanding of landscape change by increasing the extent and resolution of available information, inspiring alternative conceptualizations of the relationships between drivers, and situating environmental change within multiple social and cultural contexts. However, power dynamics and issues of trust can impede effective knowledge integration. This paper explores points of convergence and contrast between local and scientific perceptions of change within a community-based conservation area in the central highlands of Ethiopia. We synthesize results from participatory mapping, interviews, group discussions, and remote sensing analysis to improve our understanding of how political structures have impacted local environmental governance and ecosystem service provisioning over time.

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