In a significant stride towards sustainable environmental practices, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have crafted a framework to assist communities in managing local ecological resources. The approach ditches one-size-fits-all strategies for a tailored method that leans on traditional knowledge, as detailed in the journal PLOS ONE. Ana Quiñónez Camarillo, a Ph.D. candidate at UMass Amherst, underscored the plight of under-resourced countries struggling to balance economic development and environmental conservation. "And so environmental organizations often wind up pushing a top-down conservation strategy, which may or may not be acceptable to the local people. If the strategy isn't acceptable, then it may fail, costing time, money, and goodwill and further endangering ecological and social health," Quiñónez Camarillo told UMass News.
The new multiscale ecological framework was specifically devised to address issues in Lake Yojoa's watershed in Honduras, a region not only of rich biodiversity but also of economic activities like mining and tourism. The framework seeks to directly engage locals in identifying and resolving problems that might seem disconnected from environmental well-being at first glance. "One of the biggest issues facing international sustainability efforts is that smaller, less economically developed countries often don't have the resources to conduct nuanced," stated Quiñónez Camarillo.
Timothy Randhir, UMass Amherst Professor of Environmental Conservation and co-author, advocated for the framework's adaptability in making complex theoretical science accessible to communities. Their approach focuses on threats, consequences, and solutions (TCS) that resonate with the day-to-day experiences of people. It's about making those vague connections between actions like logging and the fish population in the lake crystal clear for those who otherwise might not see the link. "If you were to tell someone in the mountains, 'don't log in this way to protect the fish in the lake,' it wouldn’t make any sense," Quiñónez Camarillo explained in a statement obtained by UMass News.
The TCS framework attempts to bridge the gap between science and public engagement. Randhir notes the difficulty in translating scientific models into public action. "Our TCS framework makes thinking across multiple scales more approachable for local communities by focusing on the three big areas—threats, consequences and solutions—that are familiar to how people live their daily lives," Randhir said, as per UMass News. The success of such grassroots initiatives often depends on intimately understanding the local context, which this framework aspires to achieve, potentially opening the doors to more sustainable futures for communities worldwide.