Thursday, August 5, 2010 - 11:10 AM

COS 80-10: Biocultural Conservation for socio-ecological well-being: Identifying drivers of biocultural homogenization in remote and metroplex cultural landscapes

Alexandria K. Poole, University of North Texas and Ricardo Rozzi, University of North Texas and University of Magallanes - Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, Chile.

Background/Question/Methods   As of 2008, the technosphere represents the most common everyday environment for the majority of humans with 50% of the world population living in urban areas. Paired with this significant move of humans into technological environments is the emergence of a global phenomenon that has been identified as biocultural homogenization -- the homogenizing of corresponding and interrelated local ecological knowledge, practices, languages, biota and landscapes. With the aim of investigating and counter-balancing the fast process of biocultural homogenization, the Sub-Antarctic Biocultural Research and Conservation Program coordinated by the University of North Texas, (UNT), USA, and University of Magallanes, Chile, is developing methodological approaches which treat phenomena as biocultural units. This methodology integrates ecological research and environmental ethics into biocultural education and conservation, and has been developed based on theoretical and empirical work at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park (OEP) in the remote region of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (55oS), member of the Chilean Long-Term Socio-Ecological network and the UNESCO Ibero-American biosphere reserve network.

To investigate the mindsets and perceptions of their local environment we initiated a survey about residential knowledge and cosmopolitan biological and cultural diversity interviewing students of the UNT. Complementarily, we are quantifying the diversity and proportions of native and exotic plant products at Denton's groceries stores to assess the degree of biocultural diversity/homogenization in the urban cultural infrastructure.

Results/Conclusions   Over 50% of the plant species named by students were exotic to northern Texas. Students also answered with various plant products (e.g. grapefruit or hay) revealing that their perception considered plants nonliving, or items of utility. Interviewees were predominantly long-term residents of Texas, revealing a lack of knowledge about local flora despite long-term residency.

Cape Horn has one of the lowest population areas in the world (>0.001inhabitants/km2) in contrast to the DFW metroplex with a population of 6.3 million, Here, we undertake a comparative approach to assess the biocultural homogenizing impact of the technosphere and logosphere in these respective remote wilderness and industrial human ecosystems. Such methodologies and indicators can be integrated into existing social, cultural and ecological assessments (e.g. ecosystem service evaluations) to identify potential drivers of biocultural homogenization by encompassing various components of human and natural systems as well as the complex and dynamic feedbacks between human beings and their environment–including the linguistic and cultural heterogeneity.