Traditional ecological knowledge among reindeer herders in northern Sweden
ABSTRACT The present thesis analyzes the traditional ecological knowledge about the plants reindeer graze upon among reindeer-herding Sami. The study was carried out by means of interviews with a total of 22 Sami reindeer herders from four Sami reindeer herding communities (in Sweden the term "sameby" is used) in northern Sweden: Gabna, Laevas, Girjas and Udtja. The subjects of the interviews were the plants reindeer graze upon during the summer season (Paper I) and the lichens reindeer feed upon during the winter season together with the reindeer grazing of mushrooms (Paper II). The informants were given the following tasks: a) to identify and name plants either in the Swedish or the Sami language, b) specify which plants the reindeer eat, c) specify which plants are used during different seasons, and d) describe a good winter pasture. The nomenclature for vascular plants in the Sami language is limited to a few species, many of them are traditionally used in the reindeer herder's own fare. Other fodderplants the herders have knowledge of are plants that are eaten by reindeer in seasons of sparse pasture, as during the winter, spring and autumn. Accordingly, lichens have a detailed nomenclature in Sami, where the different species are categorized according to their appearance and habitat, such as jeagil, lahppo and gatna. Grasses in the Sami language are generally called rássi, but some species of grass are called sitnu. Rássi is the name used for grass and sedges, and also for forbs. Rássi is grazed upon during the summer, while sitnu is grazed upon in the winter as well. The Sami nomenclature for known fodderplants sometimes have a uniform nomenclature, and this occurs for especially important plants or plants that indicate good pastures, such as Equisetum fluviatile which is grazed upon when summer forage is passed, or utilized under the snow during the winter. Apart from these functional groups, Sami nomenclature for vascular plants is very sparse.
When the reindeer herders characterize good winter pasture they first pay attention to the snow conditions, rather than the amount of lichens. The reindeer herders choose to let their reindeer graze in moist ground areas during early winter, while dry areas are saved until later in the winter. Dry areas are expected to have thinner snow cover than moist areas. Snow quality is of cardinal importance for winter pasture, and the Sami language has about three hundred words for different snow conditions. This thesis concludes that knowledge about the plants that reindeers graze upon in the summer is sparse among the reindeer herders, but that there is a highly functional terminology for winter pastures conditions. Not only actual forage as lichens are described by a detailed nomenclature, but also snow conditions play a major role in the evaluation of the pastures. It is probably important that the herders preserve their collective traditional knowledge. It is also important that they seek to increase and deepen this knowledge to keep up with the growing demand for more rationalized reindeer herding, and to be able to communicate effectively with other parties in an increasingly arronded reindeer herding pasturage.
Full-textDOI: · Available from: Berit Inga, Apr 29, 2014
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ABSTRACT: Reindeer husbandry's strong connection to the land, together with the ongoing climate-change debate, has generated growing interest in its socio-ecological resilience and vulnerability. The ability of indigenous societies and their activities to respond to change is widely recognized to be dependent on several factors, such as socioeconomic forces and aspects of governance, all of which have long historical backgrounds. However, although historians constantly address questions about human societies, there have been very few historical studies on their resilience, vulnerability and adaptation strategies. Here, using historical sources, we analyze the vulnerability of reindeer husbandry (and the Sami societies that depended on it) in Sweden during the 19th century. We demonstrate that although reindeer management was a much more diverse enterprise at that time than it is now, the major adaptation strategy and constraining forces were similar to those of today. The foremost adaptation strategy was, and still is, the flexible use of pasture area, and the clearest constraints during the 19th century were the loss of authority over the land and the imposed regulation of reindeer management–both of which were strongly connected to the process of colonization.TerminologyThroughout this paper we use the terms reindeer management and reindeer pastoralism interchangeably. Sami reindeer pastoralism has been described as a complex system with two different aspects of management: herding and husbandry. Husbandry has been defined as the accumulations of profit whereas herding has been defined as the control of the animals in the terrain (Paine, 1970, p. 53). In a Swedish context husbandry questions concerning slaughter and castration of reindeer were discussed within the household and herding matters were resolved jointly within the traditional working community Siida. The Siida consisted of households working together on traditional pasturelands and these constellations were grouped together into administrative reindeer pasture districts (Sami villages) ( ,  and ).Highlights► Via historical sources we study vulnerability of Sami reindeer management in 19th C. ► The foremost adaptation strategy was the flexible use of pasture area. ► Primary constraints were the loss of authority over the land and imposed laws. ► Adaptations of today have been operating in Northern Sweden for 100 years or more.Global Environmental Change 08/2011; 21(3):1095-1105. DOI:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.03.005 · 5.09 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Over the last two decades, traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) has gained increasing attention as a source of information for environmental science, policy, and management. TEK is defined as a body of knowledge and beliefs about the relations of specific human societies to the local environments in which they live, as well as their local practices for ecosystem use and stewardship.1 Although TEK is different from scientific knowledge, both bodies of knowledge are believed to be largely complementary, having great potential to enrich one another in informing decision-making processes and improving understanding of ecosystems and their dynamics.2,3 TEK can provide insights for the management of species, habitats, ecosystem services, protected areas, and human-shaped landscapes in general. Well-known examples of TEK guiding resource management include the watershed management of salmon rivers by the Amerindians of the Pacific Northwest,4 biodiversity enhancement through creation of forest islands by the Kayapo of Brazil,5 and the conservation of ancient human-influenced natural environments, such as the Satoyama landscapes in Japan.6 Furthermore, it has been argued that implementing TEK may increase the capacity of social-ecological systems to deal with crises, cope with disturbances, maintain long-term resilience, and thus respond to global environmental change,7-10 while also fostering biodiversity and human well-being in a harmonious way.11-12 Theoretical insights and empirical findings addressing the linkages between TEK and global environmental change suggest that despite the worldwide trend of TEK erosion, there is also a process of hybridization, where traditional knowledge, practices, and beliefs are merged with novel forms of knowledge and technologies to create new knowledge systems that seem to increase the resilience of social-ecological systems.Environment Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 12/2013; 56(1):3-17. DOI:10.1080/00139157.2014.861673 · 1.55 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The spatial and temporal distribution of forage quality is among the most central factors affecting herbivore habitat selection. Yet, for high latitude areas, forage quantity has been found to be more important than quality. Studies on large ungulate foraging patterns are faced with methodological challenges in both assessing animal movements at the scale of forage distribution, and in assessing forage quality with relevant metrics. Here we use first-passage time analyses to assess how reindeer movements relate to forage quality and quantity measured as the phenology and cover of growth forms along reindeer tracks. The study was conducted in a high latitude ecosystem dominated by low-palatable growth forms. We found that the scale of reindeer movement was season dependent, with more extensive area use as the summer season advanced. Small-scale movement in the early season was related to selection for younger stages of phenology and for higher abundances of generally phenologically advanced palatable growth forms (grasses and deciduous shrubs). Also there was a clear selection for later phenological stages of the most dominant, yet generally phenologically slow and low-palatable growth form (evergreen shrubs). As the summer season advanced only quantity was important, with selection for higher quantities of one palatable growth form and avoidance of a low palatable growth form. We conclude that both forage quality and quantity are significant predictors to habitat selection by a large herbivore at high latitude. The early season selectivity reflected that among dominating low palatability growth forms there were palatable phenological stages and palatable growth forms available, causing herbivores to be selective in their habitat use. The diminishing selectivity and the increasing scale of movement as the season developed suggest a response by reindeer to homogenized forage availability of low quality.PLoS ONE 06/2014; 9(6):e100780. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0100780 · 3.23 Impact Factor