, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 288–296 | Cite as

Local Perceptions of Changes in Traditional Ecological Knowledge: A Case Study from Malekula Island, Vanuatu

  • Joe McCarterEmail author
  • Michael C. Gavin


Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is a critical global resource that may be eroding amid social and environmental change. Here, we present data on local perceptions of TEK change from three communities on Malekula Island in Vanuatu. Utilizing a structured interview (n = 120), we find a common perception of TEK loss. Participants defined two key periods of TEK erosion (roughly 1940–1960 and 1980–present), and noted that TEK decline was driven both external (e.g., church) and internal (e.g., shifting values) processes. Erosion was perceived to more comprehensive in the worldview domain than in aspects of ethnobiological knowledge and practice. These data indicate the perceived fragility of TEK systems and the complexity of TEK change. TEK systems are critical to natural resource management, and data such as these will assist in designing nuanced responses to the ongoing loss of cultural knowledge and practice.


Traditional ecological knowledge Cultural change Trend analysis Vanuatu Malekula 



We wish to acknowledge the generous assistance of collaborators and friends on Malekula. JM is grateful for financial backing from NZAID, Education New Zealand, the JL Stewart Foundation, and the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leader’s Fellowship between 2008 and 2012. This work was completed while both authors were based at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Warner College of Natural ResourcesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.School of Geography, Environment and Earth SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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