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Social–ecological memory and responses to biodiversity change in a Bribri Community of Costa Rica

  • Mariana Rodríguez ValenciaEmail author
  • Iain Davidson-Hunt
  • Fikret Berkes
Biodiversity Change and Human Adaptation


Social–ecological memory (SEM) is an analytical construct used to consider the ways by which people can draw upon biological materials and social memory to reorganize following a disturbance. Since its introduction into the literature, there have been few cases that have considered its use. We use ethnographic methods to study Bribri people’s commercial crops that have been invaded by different fungal pathogens and have undergone several disturbance recovery cycles. We show how the Bribri have used social memory and ecological memory together, dynamic interactions of legacies and reservoirs, and the role of mobile links for reorganization following the impact of fungal diseases. Insights from the Bribri indicate that protection of biodiversity, management practices, and adoption of new species and varieties are all crucial. The SEM concept extends the understanding of Indigenous knowledge, to include linkages to other peoples’ memory and to landscapes as reservoirs of SEM. An understanding of how people use SEM to respond to disturbances is necessary as biodiversity changes are expected to become more pronounced in the future.


Bribri Indigenous people Fungal pathogens Resilience Social–ecological memory 



The authors are grateful to the Bribri people that participated in this research. Especial thanks to Ali García who supported this research with the Bribri names of the biological species reported in this paper. This work was carried out with the aid of a Doctoral Fellowship awarded to Rodriguez Valencia from the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Conacyt 209590/313551), by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Awards 435-2015-1478 and 410-2010-1817 (PI Davidson-Hunt), and the Canada Research Chairs Program (Berkes).


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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