Towards biocultural approaches to peatland conservation: The case for fish and livelihoods in Indonesia

Conservation projects are likely to fail if plans to preserve important wildlife habitats and species are not co-developed between conservation organisations and local communities to reflect the needs and diverse values of the latter. Tropical peatland conservation represents a case in point: local community livelihoods have only recently come into focus, particularly within academic literature. Instead, many previous studies emphasise the need to conserve intact peat swamp forests for their carbon storage, as a habitat for flagship species such as the orangutan, and to provide fire-free landscapes. Here, we explore the socio-environmental issues being faced in the peatland landscapes of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. This includes the loss of peat-swamp forest, decreases in peatland fish populations and related socio-cultural challenges such as potential loss of fishing livelihoods along with historic and continued experiences of marginalisation of indigenous communities. To find solutions to these complex and interrelated problems, an interdisciplinary approach which focuses on interdependencies and includes multiple worldviews is required. We propose an approach which deploys both Ethan Miller's use of livelihoods (incl. Miller, 2019) and biocultural approaches to conservation to analyse human-nonhuman relationships, with a focus on fish and fishing livelihoods. We draw on data from in-depth social and ecological research in two village communities in Central Kalimantan, and in so doing illustrate how fish conservation has the potential to support important biocultural and livelihood relationships between human and nonhuman communities in peatland areas. Our findings lend support to previous calls for biocultural approaches to conservation in other socio-ecological contexts, and lead us to conclude that tropical peatland conservation initiatives that integrate such approaches will result in improved outcomes for peatlands, forests, biodiversity and people. These findings will be relevant to other tropical peatland areas with high dependence on fishing as a source of livelihood, such as the peatlands of the Amazon and Congo basins.
  • Authors: Thornton, S.A., Setiana, E., Yoyo, K., Dudin, Yulintine, Harrison, M.E., Page, S.E., Upton, C.
  • Author Affiliation: University of Leicester, Universitas Palangka Raya (UPR), University of Exeter
  • Subjects: tropics, peat, Orangutan, fishing
  • Publication type: Journal Article
  • Source: Environmental Science and Policy 114: 341-351
  • Year: 2020
  • DOI:
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