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Ecological Calendars: Meeting the challenge of climate change and biodiversity

Category: Uncategorized

In Western European and North American academic sciences, standardized seasons and calendars allow for experts to communicate about specific dates and periods with clarity. But nature is not a homogenous grid to which all environments conform. Our own experiences can confirm that the muggy thick heat of summer can seem endless in some regions while being just a brief blip in others. Some communities might talk less about Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer and more about rainy seasons or hurricane seasons or fishing seasons. Communities that have been embedded in environments for generations begin to develop their own rhythms of understanding about the world around them. In turn, these cultural calendars keep locals attuned to ecological changes and interconnections.

Two pieces in a new special issue Rhythms of the Earth: Ecological Calendars and Anticipating the Anthropogenic Climate Crisis highlight the importance of valuing Indigenous ecological calendars for tracking and protecting biodiversity. Climate change is rapidly changing the behaviors and lifecycle timelines for indicator species, which are plants and animals that are very sensitive to changes in their environments. Indigenous ecological calendars are attuned to these patterns and can help identify when they change as well as predict how they will change in the future.

Working together and respecting multiple ways of knowing, as the authors Karim-Aly S. Kassam and Joseph Bernardo point out, can help ensure food security and sovereignty. This sentiment is echoed by authors Nancy J. Turner and Andrea J. Reid who suggest that now more than ever we need to have approaches that are poised to deal with change. And Indigenous communities and their ecological calendars may provide a template for that. Turner and Reid note, “Indigenous Peoples of Northwestern North America are experts at balancing the expected with the unexpected in their lifeways.”

Together, these two articles provide a call to action for ethical and collaborative partnerships with Indigenous stewards.

This is a challenge that many Thriving Earth Exchange Community Leaders, Community Science Fellows and Community Scientists have tried to meet. For example, in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, scientists worked with local knowledge holders to adapt ecological calendars to predict bioclimatic variables. In North America, ecologists worked with the Lakota and Dakota peoples to analyze and interpret climate projections at the local level using an award from Amazon Web Services and Thriving Earth Exchange. And in Alaska, communities are working to understand how climate change is impacting berry seasons. These are just a few of the projects that are working to develop equitable partnerships that can work together towards addressing a changing future.

You can read both articles and the rest of the special issue here for free. And you can learn more about Thriving Earth Exchange projects and how you can get involved here .

Liz Crocker editor

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