Biocultural conservation systems in the Mediterranean region: the role of values, rules, and knowledge


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The Mediterranean Basin is a global biodiversity hotspot, but formal conservation approaches have not been wholly effective to halt species and ecosystem losses in this world region. There is wide agreement that maintaining traditional and diverse land-use systems is key to conserving biodiversity across the Mediterranean region. Biocultural approaches provide a perspective to understand and manage the interplay of nature and culture in various contexts. To develop biocultural systems as positive alternatives to unsustainable land-use systems requires an understanding of the decision-making contexts that enable such approaches. The aim of this synthesis study is therefore to compare how four biocultural conservation systems in the Mediterranean are shaped by values, rules, and knowledge. Our study is based on a synthesis of the literature published on agdal (Morocco), communal forests (Spain), sacred natural sites (Greece), and hima (Lebanon). Our synthesis shows that instrumental, intrinsic, and relational values are all fundamental components of the systems studied. Instrumental values, such as the provision of fodder or firewood, are central, and are often the result of a careful adaptation to the uncertainty inherent to Mediterranean climatic conditions. Systems like agdal and hima have originally been shaped by informal rules (often with the primary motivation to ensure equitable resource use and frequently involving taboos) and were then formalized to varying degrees. All four systems are strongly driven by local knowledge. We conclude that biocultural systems in the Mediterranean represent “people and nature” approaches that support linkages between nature and human well-being. Fostering biocultural conservation in the Mediterranean requires navigating multiple interlinkages between values, rules, and knowledge in decision-making.
Community-based conservation, Values-rules-knowledge framework, Local ecological knowledge, Relational values, Protected areas, Biocultural diversity
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