Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1673–1685 | Cite as

An empirically tested overlap between indigenous and scientific knowledge of a changing climate in Bolivian Amazonia

  • Álvaro Fernández-LlamazaresEmail author
  • Raquel Amaral Garcia
  • Isabel Díaz-Reviriego
  • Mar Cabeza
  • Aili Pyhälä
  • Victoria Reyes-García
Original Article


Existing climate data for Bolivian Amazonia rely on observations from a few sparse weather stations, interpolated on coarse-resolution grids. At the same time, the region hosts numerous indigenous groups with rich knowledge systems that are hitherto untapped in the quest to understand local climate change. Drawing on an empirical dataset of climate change observations by an Amazonian native society, we assess the potential use of indigenous knowledge for complementing available climate data. We find indigenous observations to be robustly associated with local station data for climatic changes over the last five decades. By contrast, there are discrepancies between gridded climate data and both indigenous observations and local station observations. Indigenous knowledge can be instrumental to enhance our understanding of local climate in data-deficient regions. Indigenous observations offer a tool to ground-truth gridded descriptions of climatic changes, thereby making adaptation strategies more robust at local scales. We contend that the use of indigenous knowledge could help to assist the climate interpolation process and address the prevailing uncertainties in local assessments of climate change.


Climate data Ethnoclimatology Ground-truthing Indigenous observations Interpolation Local environmental knowledge 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement Nr. FP7-261971-LEK to V. R.-G. M.C., Á.F.-LL. and A.P. were also supported by the Academy of Finland (Grant Agreements Nrs. 292765 and 284601), Á.F.-LL. by the Finnish Centre for International Mobility (CIMO) and R.A.G. by the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the National Research Foundation of South Africa. We thank all the Tsimane’ who shared their knowledge with us, the Gran Consejo Tsimane’ and CBIDSI for all their support, V. Cuata, S. Fraixedas, S. Huditz, P. Pache, M. Pache, and I.V. Sánchez for all their help during fieldwork, J. Nyman and P. Bottazzi for cartographic assistance, and N. Font, T. Huanca, B. Martín-López, A. Rosell-Melé, M. Tengö, T. Thornton, and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments and suggestions to previous versions of the manuscript. We acknowledge the Servicio Nacional de Hidrología y Meteorología of Bolivia (SENAHMI) and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) for providing climate data. Funding was provided by Biotieteiden ja Ympäristön Tutkimuksen Toimikunta (Grant Nrs. 250444 and 257686).

Supplementary material

10113_2017_1125_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1456 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Raquel Amaral Garcia
    • 3
  • Isabel Díaz-Reviriego
    • 1
    • 4
  • Mar Cabeza
    • 2
  • Aili Pyhälä
    • 1
    • 2
  • Victoria Reyes-García
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA)Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  2. 2.Metapopulation Research Centre (MRC), Department of BiosciencesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Centre for Statistics in Ecology, the Environment and Conservation, Department of Statistical SciencesUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  4. 4.Urban Transformation and Global Change Laboratory, Internet Interdisciplinary InstituteUniversitat Oberta de CatalunyaCastelldefels, BarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA)BarcelonaSpain

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