, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 377-387
Date: 08 Jul 2006

Emergence of Indigenous Vegetation Classifications Through Integration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Remote Sensing Analyses

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Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) can play an important role in the understanding of ecological systems. Although TEK has complemented scientific and managerial programs in a variety of contexts, its formal incorporation into remote sensing exercises has to date been limited. Here, we show that the vegetation classifications of the Ache, an indigenous hunter-gatherer tribe of the Mbaracayu Forest Reserve in Paraguay, are reflected in a supervised classification of satellite imagery of the reserve. Accuracy of classification was toward the low end of the range of published values, but was reasonable given the difficult nature of separating forest classes from satellite images. Comparison of the resultant map with a more traditionally elaborated vegetation map highlights differences between the two approaches and the gain in information obtained by considering TEK classifications. We suggest that integration of TEK and remote sensing may provide alternative insights into the ecology of vegetation communities and land cover, particularly in remote and densely forested areas where ecological field research is often limited by roads and/or trail systems.