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Village bird study highlights loss of wildlife knowledge from one
Date:2/13/2009

s showed that older people could more accurately name the three most common species in the past, whereas young and old residents were equally accurate when it came to naming the current common species. This indicates that all villagers are equally knowledgeable about the current state of bird populations, but that younger members of the community are less aware of past changes. Additionally, people who thought that there had been no change in bird populations were more likely to name birds that are common now, rather than those which were more common in the past.

For three of the four species, the house sparrow, starling and wood pigeon, the accuracy with which villagers were able to judge whether numbers of these birds had gone up or down increased with age, showing again that younger people were less able to accurately recognise how populations had changed over time.

These results suggest that wildlife knowledge is not being passed on from older to younger people, resulting in 'generational amnesia' where what is perceived as 'normal' by younger residents may in fact be quite different from circumstances a couple of decades ago. The study also provides evidence for the potential importance of 'personal amnesia' where people assume that what they see now is how the world has always been.

Sarah Papworth, a PhD student in Imperial College London's Department of Life Sciences, lead author of the paper, explains: "Our survey results indicate that the baseline has shifted in this village: in the course of a generation, changes in bird populations have been collectively 'forgotten' by the community. If this trend continues, this knowledge will be lost altogether in a couple more generations, and people will have little idea that their local wildlife was ever any different to what they see today with their own eyes."

Ms Papworth and her colleagues say that if shifting baseline syndrome is occurring in relatio
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Contact: Danielle Reeves
danielle.reeves@imperial.ac.uk
44-020-759-42198
Imperial College London
Source:Eurekalert

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