Interdisciplinary programme on indigenous indicators of fauna and flora - PIAF

Last update: 19 January 2018

Multidisciplinary, comparative research project to understand in the context of rapid change in rural areas how local stakeholders understand, manage and build strategies for their environments

Dates 2013-2016


PIAF is a multidisciplinary, comparative research project situated on three continents and in four countries (France, United States, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe). It seeks to understand: (1) in the context of rapid change in rural areas (e.g. demographic shifts, climate change, policy pressures) how local stakeholders (both the lay public and land mangers) seek to understand changes in their environments by observing the state of the biodiversity around them; and (2) how these observations and diagnostics allow them to manage or protect their landscapes and biodiversity on a daily basis and build strategies to adapt to perceived changes. PIAF entails the formation of a multidisciplinary team of young researchers (ethnologists, anthropologists, geographers, ecologists and lawyers) each from UMRs that are well known in their respective fields and whose research programs focus on socio-environmental interactions. Our project is based on bringing together multiple sites of long-term research (the Zones Ateliers of CNRS and the Long Term Ecological Research program) and leveraging the existing multidisciplinary research conducted in these field sites, providing insight into the dynamics of socio-ecological systems in the context of global change. Our teams have accumulated body of data and analyses that will permit us to undertake a comparison of local perceptions of global change by different types of actors, across three continents. At the same time, it will allow us to understand changes in biological processes in these same areas. We argue, therefore, that through the comparison of these local case studies we will construct a general understanding of how people use biodiversity to understand environmental change – in the city or country, in the North and in the South. The broad applicability of the framework across these different gradients and areas is the fundamentally transformative aspect of this project.

PIAF seeks to understand how these societies think about the effects of change in their environments: (1) what are the diagnostics that local actors use, whether they are members of the lay public or managers, (e.g. identification and interpretation of changes, adaptation strategies); (2) what is the articulation between different types of indigenous and external forms of knowledge, both local and global (managers, technicians, scientists), and how do these different knowledge bases complement or contradict each other in local environmental management plans; 3) how do the socioeconomic, political, and environmental contexts influence the development of diagnostics and the privileging of certain types of knowledge to the detriment of others (power relationships between actors, proximity to a protected area, etc.)?

PIAF is a program of basic research that will contribute a general conceptual framework and methods for comparative analyses of the objects of our research and seeks to build an international and interdisciplinary network of young researchers around the question of human-nature interactions and issues of biodiversity conservation. A second research component that is more applied seeks to mobilize knowledge useful for managers and local land users, as well as the generalizable knowledge derived from comparison that is useful at the global scale (general principles of understanding relations that humans have with nature) for conservation practitioners in the international community.

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Last update: 19 January 2018

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