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Diverse knowledge systems reveal social–ecological dynamics that inform species conservation status

Lee, Lynn Chi, Thorley, Joe, Watson, Jane, Reid, Mike, Salomon, Anne Katherine
Conservation letters 2019 v.12 no.2 pp. e12613
abalone, conservation status, indigenous knowledge, models, population dynamics, Canada
Understanding changes over historical timescales is essential to gauge conservation status of a species. Modern ecological data typically neglect past magnitudes of change, which fortunately can be evaluated by bridging disparate knowledge sources. We synthesized zooarchaeological, historical, traditional, and western science knowledge to document changes in relative abundance of key species in Canada's northern abalone social–ecological system (SES) from the Holocene to present. Integrated models fit to traditional and western science data revealed 3.7% annual population decline from 1940s to 2010s for large abalone, although traditional knowledge density estimates were 9.5× higher than those derived from western science. Abalone are presently scarce compared to the mid‐1900s, but more abundant than before the early 1800s, calling their endangered status into question. Linking multiple knowledge sources can build SES understanding, facilitate power sharing, and support ecologically sustainable and socially just conservation outcomes.