Local Ecological Knowledge and ecosystem resilience to climate change in Pacific Islands

A social-ecological investigation of ecosystem resilience in a changing climate

PIs: Tamara Ticktin, Kimberly Burnett, Alan Friedlander, Thomas W Giambelluca, Stacy Jupiter

RAs: Jonatha Giddens, Whitney Goodell

Project overview

Local ecological knowledge (LEK) – knowledge-practice-belief systems passed down over generations through adaptive management – have allowed Pacific Islanders to be resilient to climate extremes that characterize their islands. However, the dynamics of LEK and its potential to enhance resilience to climate change is poorly understood.

This project draws on a combination of long-term existing social and ecological datasets, new experiments, and state-of the art climate and ecosystem service modeling to:

1)Test the relationships among LEK and indicators of adaptive capacity and social-ecological resilience to climate change in coastal Fijian communities.

2)Develop spatially explicit ecosystem service models to explore the effects of different land/ocean use and climate change scenarios on ecosystem services and indicators of resilience in three Hawaiian and Fijian watersheds.

This research will be conducted in Fiji and in the Hawaiian communities of Haena, Kauai and Kaupulehu, Hawaii Island.

The goal is to better understand the complex patterns and processes involved in coupled human and natural systems so that we can determine how social-ecological systems are and can be resilient to climate change.


Research questions

Part I: Does LEK affect indicators of social-ecological resilience and adaptive capacity to climate change?

Part II: What combination of land-uses practices best enhance social-ecological resilience under different climate change scenarios?


By measuring, quantifying, and modeling indicators of resilience – both ecological and social-cultural – we will advance ecosystem service modeling for sustainability by adding the dimension of resilience to comparisons of tradeoffs and synergies among services across scenarios.

This project will enhance local capacity to manage coastal areas for sustainability, and contribute to policy development in resilience and adaptation to climate change. By determining the drivers of social-ecological resilience, the models produced will identify how ecosystem services and social-ecological resilience can be maximized under climate change scenarios.


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