PhD defence: Local participation and ecological knowledge in environmental monitoring: case studies of local and indigenous communities in Southeast Asia

PhD defence

Nerea Turreira García


Indigenous and local peoples are increasingly being recognised to play an important role in the global environmental science-policy arena. In this context, participatory environmental monitoring (PEM) is promoted as a cost-effective approach to collect and report data on environmental trends while providing social co-benefits to local people. However, in practice there is little common understanding about what is meant by ‘participatory’, i.e. to what extent are local peoples’ interests, motivations and perceptions taken into account in PEM schemes. Cases that involve local peoples’ ecological knowledge in PEM rarely investigate the validity and consistency of local knowledge systems. This thesis presents four papers exploring the role of local participation and ecological knowledge in PEM: a literature review of PEM projects across the world, and three empirical case studies of forest monitoring and ethnobotanical knowledge in Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. The studies analysed local participation in PEM, motivations to engage, aspects of local ecological knowledge (LEK) important in PEM and local peoples' perceptions of PEM. Methods included focus group discussions, interviews, field identifications and herbaria work. Results show that the role of local peoples in PEM was generally reduced to data collection, and that they were rarely involved in deciding what to monitor, how, and what the data can be used for. Local people most often engaged in PEM to achieve management rights, or due to livelihood and territorial concerns. To successfully involve LEK in PEM with scientific purposes, it is important to assess:  i) participants’ socio economic profiles; ii) access to and use of the natural resources being monitored, and in the case of monitoring plant resources iii) usefulness of the species, significance of the individual to be identified and “ease” of identification. This thesis contributes with theoretical and methodological knowledge on how to involve local peoples and their knowledge in meaningful ways in PEM, which can potentially be used to implement global initiatives for forest and biodiversity protection (e.g. CBD, IPBES, SDG and REDD+).


Henrik Meilby, Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics,mUniversity of Copenhagen

Ida Theilade, Senior Researcher, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assesment Committee

Mariève Pouliot, Associate Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Manuel Pardo de Santayana, Professor, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Mikkel Funder, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies

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