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Including indigenous and local knowledge in climate research: an assessment of the opinion of Spanish climate change researchers

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Researchers have documented that observations of climate change impacts reported by indigenous peoples and local communities coincide with scientific measurements of such impacts. However, insights from indigenous and local knowledge are not yet completely included in international climate change research and policy fora. In this article, we compare observations of climate change impacts detected by indigenous peoples and local communities from around the world and collected through a literature review (n = 198 case studies) with climate scientists’ opinions on the relevance of such information for climate change research. Scientists’ opinions were collected through a web survey among climate change researchers from universities and research centres in Spain (n = 191). In the survey, we asked about the need to collect local-level data regarding 68 different groups of indicators of climate change impacts to improve the current knowledge and about the feasibility of using indigenous and local knowledge in climate change studies. Results show consensus on the need to continue collecting local-level data from all groups of indicators to get a better understanding of climate change impacts, particularly on impacts on the biological system. However, while scientists of our study considered that indigenous and local knowledge could mostly contribute to detect climate change impacts on the biological and socioeconomic systems, the literature review shows that information on impacts on these systems is rarely collected; researchers instead have mostly documented the impacts on the climatic and physical systems reported by indigenous and local knowledge.

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  1. In the survey, we used the term traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) instead of indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) because ILK is a more recent expression defined by IPBES members ( and people from outside social-interdisciplinary fields are more familiarized with the term TEK. Here, we have opted to use the more generic term local knowledge.


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Authors are grateful for the collaboration of all researchers who have participated in this study by answering the web survey and to our research group’s members who helped us to codify the articles.


Authors acknowledge financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, through the María de Maeztu Programme for Units of Excellence in R&D (MdM-2015-0552), the project grant CSO2014-59704-P and funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under grant agreement no. 771056-LICCI-ERC-2017-COG.

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Correspondence to David García-del-Amo.

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This research received the approval of the Ethics committee of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (CEEAH 3581 and CEEAH 4781).

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García-del-Amo, D., Mortyn, P.G. & Reyes-García, V. Including indigenous and local knowledge in climate research: an assessment of the opinion of Spanish climate change researchers. Climatic Change 160, 67–88 (2020).

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