Development of Linked Cultural and Biophysical Indicators for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area

By Leanne Claire Cullen-Unsworth, Rosemary Hill, James R A Butler and Marilyn Wallace.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Worldwide there are examples of ecosystems that exist in their current state due to the complex interactions between people and the environment over time. Traditional patterns of land use have contributed to the maintenance of biodiversity and other natural values. The resultant landscapes are living examples of cultural heritage, rich in natural and cultural values because of the presence of people. Protection of these landscapes requires an approach that recognises and integrates natural and cultural values, maintains traditional connections to the environment and engages people in the management of the landscape. In recent years there has been wider recognition of the important role that Indigenous knowledge can play in developing and implementing natural resource management
(NRM) strategies. The biophysical surroundings of many Indigenous peoples are of symbolic significance to them, hence their perception and values of natural resources may be vastly different to those of scientists or managers. A major challenge remains to identify pathways of integration for Indigenous and scientific knowledge and systems. We discuss a research framework that explicitly embraces the co-production of knowledge to jointly develop linked biophysical and cultural indicators of ecosystem change. These indicators were developed to facilitate cooperative NRM within a World Heritage Area, the Wet Tropical Forest of Far North Queensland, Australia. Our approach practices multi-directional learning and mutual benefit, promoting cross transfer of skills through the cooperative generation and documentation of information.

Keywords: Cooperative Research, Research Partnerships, Cooperative Management, Knowledge Integration, Indicator Development, Cultural Indicators

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.181-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 973.332KB).

Dr. Leanne Claire Cullen-Unsworth

Research Fellow, Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE), Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK

Leanne is a Research Fellow at the Sustainable Places Research Institute within Cardiff University, UK. Dr. She previously worked as an Environmental Scientist with CSIRO developing linked socio-cultural and biophysical indicators for the Queensland Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Her PhD research looked at the direct economic value of natural marine resources to local dependents; resource use patterns; alternative livelihoods; and developed a series of economic performance criteria to monitor the local economic impacts of management action/inaction within a small island community in a marine national park in Indonesia. Leanne has an MSc in Marine Environmental Protection (2000-2001) from the University of Wales, Bangor and BSc (honours) in Marine Biology from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1997-2000).

Dr. Rosemary Hill

Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Dr. James R A Butler

CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Marilyn Wallace

Bana Yarralji Bubu Inc., Queensland, Australia