DiverseK - Integrating diverse knowledge systems for environmental policy

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The DiverseK working group is a network of environmental and social scientists working to develop recommendations for the most pressing environmental and social justice issues.


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- Establish a clearer methodological and ethical basis for the integration of diverse knowledges.
- Support conservation needs in co-production with stakeholders.
- Re-assess current environmental policies based on the new integrated knowledge.


Daniele Colombaroli (Centre for Quaternary Research RHUL, UK)
Michael Coughlan (Institute for a Sustainable Environment, University of Oregon, USA)
Qiaoyu Cui (Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, China)
Estelle Razanatsoa (Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa)
Charuta Kulkarni (European Union Marie Curie Fellow, UK)
Jay Mistry (Geopolitics, Development, Security and Justice Group, RHUL, UK)


Dec 2020
 Dec 2023

Worldwide, the loss of biodiversity through increased land conversion, regional climate changes and catastrophic wildfires are causing irreversible consequences for habitats and livelihoods.

This calls for a reassessment of environmental policies in many areas under protection, particularly where conservation plans lack the full knowledge base to solve existing conflicts between restoration targets, local livelihood/traditions, and ecological processes in the context of their long-term variability.

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An example of traditional use of fire in Venezuela, for shifting cultivation in forest. Image credit: BA Bilbao. Click to enlarge.

For example, the view that fires are detrimental (or even "unnatural") contrasts with paleonvironmental and local/Indigenous knowledge highlighting the ecological importance of disturbance regimes, and their role in sustaining biodiversity and livelihoods in many areas of the world.

With climate change and biodiversity loss at the forefront of international concerns, there is an urgent need to draw together more diverse knowledges from science and local stakeholders, that is mostly missing in current ecosystem management. Filling this knowledge-gap also involves critical reflection on the ethical implications of field-based research, and the relationship of scientists to the people in the places they research.

Inclusive and integrative research can support local communities and other stakeholders as they face the most pressing challenges for environmental policy in a future warmer world, in ways that are socially just.

We believe that the new evidence to tackle future sustainability challenges comes from the integration of ecological and socio/cultural disciplines (traditionally separated within academia), but also Indigenous knowledge, typically outside of conventional Western academic disciplines.

This working group is timely considering the ongoing loss of traditional knowledge as a result of historical processes of colonisation, resource extraction and state intervention, and the shortcomings of public systems for dealing with vulnerable communities as highlighted by the last pandemic.

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Knowledge from past environments can reveal the fire regime conditions that maximise biodiversity in specific ecosystems. In the Alps, plant biodiversity is maximized at intermediate conditions and traditional fire practices can help maintaining the balance between natural and cultural heritage values. Image credit: D. Colombaroli. Click to enlarge.

Planned timeline

Our approach bridges specific disciplines of the Social (TEK, Anthropology) and Environmental Sciences (Long-term ecology, Dendroecology), and focuses on environmental policy issues related to Biodiversity Conservation, Fire Management and Climate Impacts on ecosystems.

Year 1: Methodological advancements for knowledge integration

Methodological and ethical basis for the integration of diverse knowledges, and development of guidelines for best practice for researchers working at the interface between paleoecology and local knowledge.

Year 2: Stakeholder engagement to tackle regional policy challenges

Integrative engagement with local communities, academics and protected areas commission members, through a process of inter-cultural exchange to inform environmental management, such as landscape conservation, environmental risk management, land rights and cultural heritage.

Year 3: Global case studies

Contested management of protected areas: analyses of emerging conflicts between conservation targets, socio-ecological and environmental needs to inform on alternative and more sustainable measures for conservation in specific areas.

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Betula ermanii Cham. forest at an elevation of ca. 2000 m a.s.l. in Changbai Mountains, Northeast China, is a dominant deciduous tree in the mixed coniferous forest affected by climate change in its lower altitudinal limits. Image credit: Qiaoyu Cui. Click to enlarge.

Learn more and participate

We aim to create a multi-disciplinary framework that provides key scientific advice for policy recommendations on terrestrial ecosystems, in line with Future Earth's mission to foster international effort for a more sustainable planet.

We welcome people interested in environmental policies related to restoration, fire impacts, carbon stocks, forest management, biodiversity, and livelihoods.

To join our integrated activities, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Find out more about the group's scientific goals.

Find out more about the group's members.

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