Abstract

Remote sensing and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) can be combined to advance conservation of remote tropical regions, e.g. Amazonia, where intensive in situ surveys are often not possible. Integrating TEK into monitoring and management of these areas allows for community participation, as well as for offering novel insights into sustainable resource use. In this study, we developed a 250 m resolution land-cover map of the Western Guyana Shield (Venezuela) based on remote sensing, and used TEK to validate its relevance for indigenous livelihoods and land uses. We first employed a hyper-temporal remotely sensed vegetation index to derive a land classification system. During a 1 300 km, eight day fluvial expedition in roadless areas in the Amazonas State (Venezuela), we visited six indigenous communities who provided geo-referenced data on hunting, fishing and farming activities. We overlaid these TEK data onto the land classification map, to link land classes with indigenous use. We characterized land classes using patterns of greenness temporal change and topo-hydrological information, and proposed 12 land-cover types, grouped into five main landscapes: 1) water bodies; 2) open lands/forest edges; 3) evergreen forests; 4) submontane semideciduous forests, and 5) cloud forests. Each land cover class was identified with a pulsating profile describing temporal changes in greenness, hence we labelled our map as "The Forest Pulse". These greenness profiles showed a slightly increasing trend, for the period 2000 to 2009, in the land classes representing grassland and scrubland, and a slightly decreasing trend in the classes representing forests. This finding is consistent with a gain in carbon in grassland as a consequence of climate warming, and also with some loss of vegetation in the forests. Thus, our classification shows potential to assess future effects of climate change on landscape. Several classes were significantly connected with agriculture, fishing, overall hunting, and more specifically the hunting of primates, Mazama americana, Dasyprocta fuliginosa, and Tayassu pecari. Our results showed that TEK-based approaches can serve as a basis for validating the livelihood relevance of landscapes in high-value conservation areas, which can form the basis for furthering the management of natural resources in these regions.

Keywords: Amazonia, forest conservation, greenness, indigenous people, land cover, land use, remote sensing.