How predictive is traditional ecological knowledge? The case of the lacandon maya fallow enrichment system

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Authors: Tacher, S.I.L. and Golicher, J.D.

Journal: Interciencia

Volume: 29

Issue: 9

ISSN: 0378-1844

The ability to predict through causal understanding or statistical association is a key feature of scientific knowledge. However, the predictive power of traditional ecological knowledge in an observational setting is rarely critically evaluated. We analyze the results of an applied case study of indigenous fallow management in the context of its predictive power. In order to do this we applied three contrasting statistical analyses; visual pattern matching, general linear modelling and graphical models. Our results suggest that a degree of abduction or a posteriori explanation is typically needed in the analysis of the observations of natural phenomena that indigenous people make. Despite this, contextually useful predictive power may be extracted from such information through a combination of experience, deduction and probabilistic induction. The present case study suggested that the traditional ecological knowledge of the Lacandon people could provide useful guidance for the restoration of ecosystem function. In particular, the results support the use of Ochroma pyramidale as a soil enriching agent.

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