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Coconstruction of Ecosystem Services Management in Tribal Lands: Elicit Expert Opinion Approach

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  • 1 School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona
  • 2 Division of Resource Management and Protection, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Mescalero, New Mexico
  • 3 School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona
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Abstract

The Mescalero Apache Tribal Lands (MATL) provide a diverse range of ecosystem services, many of which are of fundamental importance for the Mescalero Apache Tribe’s well-being. Managing forests on MATL, especially under climate change, involves prioritizing certain ecosystem services. We used an iterative survey of experts’ opinions to identify those ecosystem services that 1) have high utility—services that the Tribe uses, or could use, and are obtained directly or indirectly from the MATL; 2) are irreplaceable—services that cannot be provided by any other natural resource; and 3) are under a high level of threat—services at risk of declining or being lost directly or indirectly by climate change and thus are critical for management. Both scientists and practitioners identified water and cultural services as management priorities. Management recommendations to mitigate and adapt to climate change effects include reintroduction of fire in the landscape, assisted migration, creation of age/size mosaics across the landscape, and incorporation of green energy. Incorporating human perspectives into natural resource management is a critical component to maintain and adapt social–ecological systems to climate change, especially for Indigenous communities with inherent rights of sovereignty who are deeply connected to natural resources. This study demonstrates how knowledge systems are complementary: diverse perspectives related to values and threats of ecosystems can be incorporated to coconstruct ecosystem management decisions.

Corresponding author: Alicia Azpeleta Tarancón, alicia.azpeleta-tarancon@nau.edu

Abstract

The Mescalero Apache Tribal Lands (MATL) provide a diverse range of ecosystem services, many of which are of fundamental importance for the Mescalero Apache Tribe’s well-being. Managing forests on MATL, especially under climate change, involves prioritizing certain ecosystem services. We used an iterative survey of experts’ opinions to identify those ecosystem services that 1) have high utility—services that the Tribe uses, or could use, and are obtained directly or indirectly from the MATL; 2) are irreplaceable—services that cannot be provided by any other natural resource; and 3) are under a high level of threat—services at risk of declining or being lost directly or indirectly by climate change and thus are critical for management. Both scientists and practitioners identified water and cultural services as management priorities. Management recommendations to mitigate and adapt to climate change effects include reintroduction of fire in the landscape, assisted migration, creation of age/size mosaics across the landscape, and incorporation of green energy. Incorporating human perspectives into natural resource management is a critical component to maintain and adapt social–ecological systems to climate change, especially for Indigenous communities with inherent rights of sovereignty who are deeply connected to natural resources. This study demonstrates how knowledge systems are complementary: diverse perspectives related to values and threats of ecosystems can be incorporated to coconstruct ecosystem management decisions.

Corresponding author: Alicia Azpeleta Tarancón, alicia.azpeleta-tarancon@nau.edu
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