Shepherds’ local knowledge and scientific data on the scavenging ecosystem service: Insights for conservation

“The wild beasts are not our problem, the problem is we can’t sell our products and the prices are too low […] Even beasts […] have a purpose, even the bad ones like wolves, they have their own role, they eat the corpses of dead animals, they cleanse the landscape” Stefan Dunca, 50 years old, shepherd, in Roué and Molnár (2016, pp. 35)

Abstract

Integrating indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) and scientific knowledge (SK) in the evaluation of ecosystem services has been recommended by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. We examined the similarities and contradictions between shepherds’ ILK and SK on the scavenging service provided by vertebrates in Spain. We conducted 73 face-to-face surveys with shepherds to evaluate their ILK. We collected scientific information on 20 scavenger species by monitoring the consumption of 45 livestock carcasses with camera traps. We found a high consistency between ILK and SK regarding the provision of the scavenging service by vertebrates, which was also consistent over the range of shepherd ages and experience. Our findings support the importance of ILK held by shepherds to better understand and to collect information on the scavenging service, particularly at the species level. The integration of ILK and SK into the management strategies of scavengers can benefit the conservation of globally endangered scavengers and the ecosystem services they provide.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to all shepherds, for their invaluable contributions to this work. I. Pérez helped during the questionnaire design and R. Pascual-Rico during the fieldwork. The study was partly supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and ERDF (Projects CGL2012-40013-C02-02 and CGL2015-66966-C2-1-R) and by the Excellence Project (RNM-1925, Junta de Andalucía). ZMR was supported by a pre-doctoral Grant (FPU12/00823) and a mobility Grant (EST15/00741), MM by a Severo Ochoa Program for Centres of Excellence in R+D+I (SEV-2012-0262) and by a research contract Ramón y Cajal from the MINECO (RYC-2015-19231), PMT by a Portuguese FCT Grant (SFRH/BPD/112437/2015), and EA by La Caixa-Severo Ochoa International Ph.D. Program 2015. Comments from one anonymous reviewer improved the original manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zebensui Morales-Reyes.

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Morales-Reyes, Z., Martín-López, B., Moleón, M. et al. Shepherds’ local knowledge and scientific data on the scavenging ecosystem service: Insights for conservation. Ambio 48, 48–60 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-018-1055-6

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Keywords

  • Camera trapping
  • Carrion
  • Experience
  • Extensive livestock farming systems
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Vultures