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Who knows, who cares?: Untangling ecological knowledge and nature connection among Amazonian colonist farmers

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/04/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>People and Nature
Issue number2
Volume3
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)431-445
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date9/02/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Conservationists often assume that connection with and caring about nature's well-being is strongly linked to ecological knowledge. Existing evidence on the link between ecological knowledge and psychological nature connection is mixed, geographically limited to countries in the Global North, and does not scrutinise potential differences in determinants of ecological knowledge and nature connection. We investigate the relationship between psychological nature connection and ecological knowledge of local bird species, and assess their associations with potential drivers, including access to, contact with, and reliance on nature and socio-demographic characteristics. Our study is carried among a novel participant population of colonist farmers living along a major deforestation frontier in the Brazilian Amazon. Our study context has high conservation relevance and provides an ideal setting to assess the extent to which conservation psychology's insights from the Global North hold true elsewhere. Tropical farm-forest frontiers suffer from intense habitat and biodiversity loss, and farmers with migrant origins are important yet rarely studied conservation stakeholders. Importantly, farmers' experiences of nature are likely to vary considerably due to the wide range of socio-demographic, economic, geographical and cultural diversity. Interviewees scored highly on two indices of nature connection, but scores were higher among older people and those with greater contact with nature. Bird identification knowledge was generally low to moderate, and higher among men and younger people. Species more frequently recognised were regionally common, larger-bodied or associated with non-forest habitats. Ecological knowledge of birds and nature connection were not correlated, and they did not have any predictors in common. Our results indicate that colonist farmers are capable of forming strong connections with nature, even if they rarely possess detailed knowledge of local forest biodiversity. Considering the complex and apparently context-dependent relationship between knowing and caring about nature, it is unwise to assume that changing one would automatically affect the other. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.