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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


ROZZI, RICARDO et al. Field environmental philosophy and biocultural conservation at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park: Methodological approaches to broaden the ways of integrating the social component ("S") in Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) Sites. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2010, vol.83, n.1, pp.27-68. ISSN 0716-078X.

In order to effectively address the problems derived from global environmental change, environmental scientists, citizens and decision-makers now recognize the need to integrate more fully the human or social component into ecological research. We propose that to achieve this integration, Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) networks offer an ideal platform, because such sites enable research at ecological, cultural, and political local scales, and at the same time allow addressing these issues at a global scale. However, this socio-ecological work still requires better articulation of programs developed at multiple geographic, ecological and political scales. In addition, until now the social component considered in LTSER programs has focused on economic factors, omitting ethical dimensions. A central reason for this omission is the lack of methodologies to systematically integrate ethics into LTSER programs. As a contribution to resolve this limitation, here we develop a methodological approach that we call “field environmental philosophy.” It integrates ecological research and environmental ethics into biocultural education and conservation through an interrelated four-step cycle: i) interdisciplinary ecological and philosophical research, ii) composition of metaphors, and communication through simple narratives, iii) design of guided field experiences with an ecological and ethical orientation, and iv) implementation of in situ conservation areas. This cycle has been defined a posteriori, by analyzing successful experiences of biocultural research, education and conservation program at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park (OEP) in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (CHBR). The Masters of Science in Subantarctic Conservation at the University of Magallanes (UMAG) adopted this cycle as a structured methodology to design theses and academic curricula for students who are creating innovative educational and ecotourism activities, such as “Ecotourism with a Hand Lens” and “Ethical Birding.” To articulate the programs at multiples scales, the OEP functions at the local scale as a research center in the CHBR, at the national level as a cofounder and southernmost site of the Chilean LTSER network coordinated by the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB), Chile, and at the international level as a reserve and field station of the Subantarctic Biocultural Conservation Program that is coordinated by UMAG, IEB and the University of North Texas (UNT). This organization of nested units has permitted to synergistically articulate the work at local, national and international scales. Collaborative research has led to the discovery of biological and cultural diversity singularities in the remote Magellanic subantarctic ecoregion, enabled education and conservation work with multiple social actors and institutions, and has strengthened the incorporation of environmental philosophy into socio-ecological research. In this way, OEP’s program is contributing to broaden the definition of the social (“S”) component in LTSER, and to generate methodologies to integrate, at multiple scales, ecological and ethical dimensions into socio-ecological research, as well as biocultural education and conservation programs, which could be implemented and assessed at other LTER sites.

Keywords : Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve; environmental ethics; metaphor; subantarctic; Sustainable Biosphere Initiative.

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