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

n to bird populations in this Yorkshire village, then it is likely to be occurring in other areas, and in relation to other species and ecosystems too. This is a worry because it means people will more readily accept a degraded environment, if they do not know things were any better in the past.

Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland, also from Imperial's Department of Life Sciences, co-author of the paper, says that action should be taken to now to ensure that community members keep themselves up to date with changes in their environments:

"This could involve encouraging younger members to talk to their elders about what their local area was like only a few years ago, or using historical accounts or old photographs to demonstrate changes visually. If we don't do this, then we risk sleepwalking through the degradation of our natural world, without realising what we are losing," she said.

In the meantime, she adds, conservationists may have to take shifting baseline syndrome into account when planning activities:

"It is more and more common for people to use local residents' recollections alongside traditional scientific methods when compiling data on changes in biodiversity over the years. This is a great way to engage local people with conservation and use their valuable knowledge. It's particularly useful in many parts of the world where there has been no previous scientific monitoring.

"However we do need to be careful to bear in mind that individual and collective memories of previous environmental conditions can be warped by time. Nothing can replace long-term independent monitoring of biodiversity trends in providing us with a baseline for conservation action," she concludes.


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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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