Incorporating Local and Traditional Knowledge Systems: New Insights for Ecosystem Services and Transdisciplinary Collaborations (SGP-HW 072)

Project information

Gabriela Alonso Yanez, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary (Fund Recipient Institution), Canada.
Contact – Email:
(June 2019 –  2022). USD 199,605
Canada, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay

Executive summary Results Outreach Investigators Students

Executive Summary

Recognizing the extent of the biodiversity extinction crisis (Davis et al., 2018), and as parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and associated Aichi Targets, countries have developed National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). Yet, there exists a key gap in the effective implementation of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services management initiatives at local and regional scales (Aurelio Acevedo-Ortiz et al., 2018, Carmen et al., 2018). The overall emphasis in the Convention on Biological Diversity and more specifically in the Aichi Targets to develop governance strategies and associated policies that recognize the critical role that culture and other forms of knowledge play in defining all links between people and nature, speak to how important it is to conduct research that supports rights-based approaches to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and their implications for human well-being (Diaz et al., 2018).

Attending to this context, this research aims to identify the constellation of conditions and participatory processes through which governance modalities emerge that are able to facilitate the incorporation of local and traditional knowledge, and navigate divergent interests and diverse value systems. Drawing upon research on Ecosystem Services valuation and assessment schemes and literature on governance that allow for a more inclusive and participatory integration of types of knowledge and cultural heritage, this project will support and enable a transdisciplinary working group, composed of scientists, decision-makers, and local practitioners, to conduct an action research mixed-methods study and will integrate and synthesize information from diverse social-ecological datasets from four place-based case studies located in Canada, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia.

The central objective of the proposed research is to enable the successful implementation of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services management at the local scale to enhance human well-being in the context of climate change and ecosystem degradation in the Americas. The research also poses four measurable objectives with concrete anticipated outcomes: 1) Generate actionable science outputs to advance understanding of the conditions through which governance modalities emerge that are capable of incorporating traditional and local knowledge and navigating divergent interests and values; 2) Identify barriers and enablers for the emergence of governance modalities that include traditional and local knowledge and navigate divergent and heterogeneous interests; 3) Foster collaborative knowledge mobilization spaces for stakeholders and researchers to share their governance-related experiences; 4) Contribute to and advance current scholarly discussions around governance modalities for local biodiversity conservation implementation

The central question framing this research asks: which governance modalities are best suited to navigate divergent interests and incorporate local and traditional knowledge to address local-scale biodiversity conservation implementation gaps? Through the proposed series of Collaboratories, we will engage stakeholders in a constantly iterative and learning process which will enable to integrate diverse social-ecological datasets with novel data on social values and traditional knowledge systems from local practitioners and decision-makers. As a result from this process we will produce a series of outputs that will generate impacts of societal, policy, and scholarly nature such as; conference presentations, scholarly publications, thesis, and practice guidelines for decision makers documenting and systematizing barriers, enablers and strategies for each of the cases to be able to face the emerging governance challenges.


Keywords: biodiversity, indigenous, ILK, multilateral, ecosystem services

●      Key themes were identified as key enablers or barriers for biodiversity conservation, these were: Power asymmetries, conflict, and plurality (understood as plural world-views.

●      Investigators conducted an analysis of the policy context in each case study, which has allowed them to identify topics of interest across cases including: a) forms of state organization, b) relationships with civil society, c) engagement with international organizations among others.

●      Investigators worked together with local knowledge keepers to develop strategies to genuinely include them in the research process. The resulting strategies include: a) provisions to ensure the confidentiality and protection of Indigenous knowledge keepers, activists and vulnerable groups from unauthorized disclosure in the context of this project and regulatory decisions within the institutions involved.

●      Investigators successfully completed seven Communities of Practice Collaboratories (CPCs) to enable a systematic research component on transdisciplinary learning processes.


Principal Investigator


Gabriela Alonso Yanez, University of Calgary

Co-Principal Investigators (co-PI)


Carlos Ormond, Haida Gwaii Institute


Sebastian Bonelli, The Nature Conservancy – Santiago Office


Alexander Rincón, Universidad Nacional de Colombia


Álvaro Soutullo, CURE - Centro Universitario de la Región Este, Univ. de la República,


Lily House-Peters, California State University, Long Beach


Ana Alicia Watson, University of Calgary, Canada
Peru / Canada

Andres Fernandez Grandi, Universidad de la República, Uruguay

Maria Monica Clavijo Romero, Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Samantha Ishak, California State University- Long Beach

Hector Turra, University of Calgary