Information gaps in indigenous and local knowledge for science-policy assessments

Abstract

The need to understand nature’s contributions to people and across a broad spectrum of cultures and ecosystems is increasingly advocated in science assessments and policy decision-making for sustainability. However, for services such as food and medicine, gaps in existing studies on indigenous and local knowledge may preclude inclusive assessments. Here, using a large database of indigenous and local knowledge about plant services for New Guinea, we show that there are biological and cultural documentation gaps that will exclude many plant services and indigenous groups from assessments that are based solely on published research. Further, we unveil that, like the common property of ‘rarity’ in species assemblages, most plant services exhibit high rarity. Gaps and rarity are probably pervasive in other regions and will affect how plant services are conceptualized, assessed and sustainably managed.

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Fig. 1: Biological documentation gaps about plant services in New Guinea.
Fig. 2: Cultural documentation gaps about plant services in New Guinea.
Fig. 3: Indigenous knowledge network about shared plant services in New Guinea.
Fig. 4: Rarity in plant services.

Data availability

The data of ILK about plant services for New Guinea that was generated and analysed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request. Language data are available from the Ethnologue (ref. 10), elevation data are available from CGIAR-CSI (ref. 40) and ecoregion data are available from WWF (ref. 41).

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Acknowledgements

We thank D. Frodin and the staff at the Library, Art and Archives Department of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew for assistance in finding references. We extend our gratitude to: L. Green (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Digital Collections Unit) and S. Arias (Naturalis Biodiversity Center) for assistance with herbarium databases; K. Willis and T. Ulian for support; I. Olivares for reviewing earlier versions of this manuscript; and I. Cámara for assistance with the design-layout of figures.

Author information

R.C.-L. conceived the study. Z.D. and R.C.-L. collected data. R.C.-L. analysed the data. R.C.-L. wrote the paper. Both authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Correspondence to Rodrigo Cámara-Leret.

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Supplementary Fig. 1, Supplementary Tables 1 and 2.

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