The Unique Character of Traditional Forest-Related Knowledge: Threats and Challenges Ahead

  • Ronald L. Trosper
  • John A. Parrotta
  • Mauro Agnoletti
  • Vladimir Bocharnikov
  • Suzanne A. Feary
  • Mónica Gabay
  • Christian Gamborg
  • Jésus García Latorre
  • Elisabeth Johann
  • Andrey Laletin
  • Lim Hin Fui
  • Alfred Oteng-Yeboah
  • Miguel Pinedo-Vasquez
  • P. S. Ramakrishnan
  • Youn Yeo-Chang
Part of the World Forests book series (WFSE, volume 12)


This chapter reflects on the major findings of the lead authors of this book regarding traditional forest-related knowledge (TFRK) using five criteria for distinguishing the unique character of traditional knowledge: (1) its attention to sustainability; (2) relationships to land; (3) identity; (4) reciprocity; and (5) limitations on market involvement. Following an explanation of these criteria, we discuss the definition of “traditional forest-related knowledge,” with some remarks about its resilience. We then consider threats to the maintenance of TFRK, how other definitions of sustainability differ from that used in TFRK, and how relationships that holders of this knowledge have to their land have been weakened and their identities challenged. We highlight how the key role of reciprocity, or the sharing of the utilization of land, is undermined by individualistic motives which are promoted by the global expansion of modern markets (for commodities, ecosystems services and for knowledge itself), which also challenge the policies of traditional knowledge holders to keep market influences under control. We then focus on two notable, but often ignored, contributions of TFRK (and the holders of this knowledge) to forest management today, specifically the preservation of biodiversity, and traditional knowledge-based shifting cultivation practices and their importance for both sustainable management of forests and food security. Finally, we consider enabling conditions for the preservation and development of TFRK, and examine the role of the scientific community in relation to TFRK and principles for successful collaboration between traditional knowledge holders and scientists.


Biodiversity Cultural diversity Forest management Forest science Local communities Indigenous peoples Sustainability Traditional knowledge 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald L. Trosper
    • 1
  • John A. Parrotta
    • 9
  • Mauro Agnoletti
    • 10
  • Vladimir Bocharnikov
    • 11
  • Suzanne A. Feary
    • 12
  • Mónica Gabay
    • 13
  • Christian Gamborg
    • 14
  • Jésus García Latorre
    • 15
  • Elisabeth Johann
    • 16
  • Andrey Laletin
    • 2
  • Lim Hin Fui
    • 3
  • Alfred Oteng-Yeboah
    • 4
  • Miguel Pinedo-Vasquez
    • 5
    • 6
  • P. S. Ramakrishnan
    • 7
  • Youn Yeo-Chang
    • 8
  1. 1.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Friends of the Siberian ForestsKrasnoyarskRussia
  3. 3.Forest Research Institute MalaysiaKepongMalaysia
  4. 4.Department of BotanyUniversity of GhanaLegonGhana
  5. 5.Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC)Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  6. 6.Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR)BogorIndonesia
  7. 7.School of Environmental SciencesJawaharlal Nehru UniversityNew DelhiIndia
  8. 8.Department of Forest SciencesSeoul National UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  9. 9.Research and DevelopmentU.S. Forest ServiceArlingtonUSA
  10. 10.Dipartimento di Scienze e Teconolgie Ambientali Forestali, Facoltà di AgrariaUniversità di FirenzeFlorenceItaly
  11. 11.Pacific Institute of GeographyRussian Academy of ScienceVladivostokRussia
  12. 12.Conservation ManagementVincentiaAustralia
  13. 13.Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable DevelopmentDirectorate of ForestryBuenos AiresArgentina
  14. 14.Danish Centre for Forest, Landscape and PlanningUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  15. 15.Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water ManagementViennaAustria
  16. 16.Austrian Forest AssociationViennaAustria

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