Knowledge co-production in the Biosphere Reserve of Mapimí, Mexico: Participatory assessment of dryland socio-ecological rangeland health
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
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Ricardo Ismael Mata-Páez, Elisabeth Huber-Sannwald and Tulio Arredondo-Moreno, División de Ciencias Ambientales, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, A.C., San Luis Potosí, SL, Mexico, Natalia Martínez-Tagüeña, CONACYT-Consorcio de Investigación, Innovación y Desarrollo para las Zonas Áridas-IPICYT, San Luis Potosi, SL, Mexico, Ruperto Cázares-Reyes, Ejido La Soledad, CI, Mexico, Víctor Manuel Reyes-Gómez, Instituto de Ecología, A. C., Mexico
Ricardo Ismael Mata-Páez
División de Ciencias Ambientales, Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica, A.C. San Luis Potosí, SL, Mexico
Background/Question/Methods Participatory research employs a transdisciplinary methodology to weave different knowledge systems into comprehensive projects that address local needs and interests. It requires collaborative relationships between diverse stakeholders that foster knowledge co-production and its later adoption as social knowledge in local communities. We asked how can participatory methods facilitate collective resource management and help co-define best practices for biodiversity conservation in dryland rangelands from a complex socio-ecological system’s perspective? We initiated a multistakeholder partnership with local inhabitants of the ejido "La Soledad" inside of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve of Mapimí (BRM) in Mexico. They are currently changing the cattle management system from continuous to rotational grazing in response to conservation policies promoted by local government institutions. Local farmers expressed great interest in co-designing a monitoring plan to evaluate potential shifts in rangeland health in dryland systems characterized by banded vegetation imbedded in a complex dune landscape and 250 mm annual precipitation. We jointly monitored the multifunctionality of this landscape (modified Landscape Functional Analysis) with 18 gradsects along a grazing intensity gradient (low-moderate-high), weaving profound local knowledge regarding hydrological flows, legacies of livestock management and their interactions with socio-economic and political factors, with data obtained from ecological methodologies. Results/Conclusions We jointly identified local rangeland socio-ecological health indicators: desirable plants, vegetation condition, regeneration potential, plant cover, soil stability. Local indicators clearly reflected the needs of the local inhabitants, such as, annual forage species, medicinal and other plants providing cultural services, and their condition assessments related to herbivory impact. These important local management factors usually are not included in landscape functional assessments. On the other hand, the locals did not consider soil health indicators, highlighting the importance of integrated rangeland health assessments. Moderately grazed dunes presented a higher landscape organization index than those with high grazing intensity (p<0.05); this coincides with the local indicator of vegetation cover (p<0.05). Moderately grazed dunes exhibited the greatest diversity of plants (p<0.05) and desirable species (p<0.05). The vegetation bands were not differently affected by grazing. This participatory baseline assessment provided an important evaluation of the system and will be useful for monitoring potential changes in landscape multifunctionality that may arise as a consequence of rotational grazing practices. The co-produced knowledge on the ecohydrological functioning of the landscape of "La Soledad" and its relation with cultural, political and social aspects at different scales, allows stakeholders to make better rangeland management decisions within the BRM.