Human culture is strongly inﬂuenced by ecosystems, and ecosystem change can have a signiﬁcant impact on cultural identity and social stability. Human cultures, knowledge systems, religions, heritage values, social interactions, and the linked amenity services (such as aesthetic enjoyment, recreation, artistic and spiritual fulﬁllment, and intellectual development) have always beeninﬂuenced and shaped by the nature of the ecosystem and ecosystem conditions in which culture is based. At the same time, humankind has always inﬂuenced and shaped its environment. Rapid loss of culturally valued ecosystems and landscapes lead to social disruptions and societal marginalization, now occurring in many parts of the world.
To achieve conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems,‘‘traditional’’ and ‘‘formal’’ knowledge systems need to be linked. There is an emerging need and opportunity for building bridges between these two systems to improve the quality of human life. The complex relationships that exist between ecological systems and cultural systems can be understood only by linking our formal knowledge system, based on a hypothetical-deductive approach and inductivereasoning to understand ecosystems, with the traditional knowledge system, derived from societal experiences and perceptions. Our understanding of the tangible beneﬁts derived from traditional ecological knowledge, such as medicinal plants and local species of food, is relatively well developed. However, our knowledge of the linkages between ecological processes and social processes, and their tangibleand intangible beneﬁts (such as spiritual and religious values), and of the inﬂuence on sustainable natural resource management at the landscape level needs to be strengthened.
Loss of traditional knowledge systems has many direct and indirect effects on ecosystems and human welfare. The loss of traditional knowledge has a direct effect on the depletion of fauna and ﬂora and the degradation ofthe habitats and ecosystems generally. Traditional is knowledge is largely oral, and there is signiﬁcant loss every time an old person dies without leaving a record of what they know. Equally signiﬁcant is the loss of languages—the vehicles by which cultures are communicated and reproduced. It is estimated that more than 5,000 linguistic groups contain the traditional knowledge of humankind, many ofwhich may disappear by 2020. TK is a key element of sustainable development, particularly in relation to plant medicine and agriculture, which may offer solutions and cures to pandemics such as AIDS and cancer as well as to many other health problems that are emerging with globalization.
The importance of cultural services and values is not currently recognized in landscape planning andmanagement. These ﬁelds could beneﬁt from a better understanding of the way in which societies manipulate ecosystems and then relate that to cultural, spiritual, and religious belief systems.
This realization is reﬂected in the emphasis placed by many international organizations, such as UNEP, UNESCO, FAO, IUCN, and WWF, in recognizing ‘‘cultural landscapes,’’ ‘‘cultural agro-ecosystems,’’ World HeritageSites, and Biosphere Reserves. The so-called ecosystem approach implicitly recognizes the importance of a socioecological system approach, and policy formulations should empower local people to participate in managing natural resources as part of a cultural landscape, integrating local knowledge and institutions.
In planning and managing ecosystems, a balance must be found between cultural andamenity services. Due to changing cultural values and perceptions, there is an increasing tendency to create landscapes with high amenity values (for aesthetic and recreational use, for example) at the expense of traditional landscapes with high cultural and spiritual values. The remaining traditional landscapes require urgent protection in order to create diversiﬁed landscape systems that...
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