A-1/18 Traditional Ecological Knowledge from the internet? The case of hay meadows in Europe

Within Europe concerns are rising for the loss of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as agricultural communities continue to abandon traditional practices. TEK consists of a cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief concerning environmental management (specifically agricultural management in Europe) that supposedly developed through generations of interaction between local communities and their environment. However, being based on largely oral accounts concern has arisen about the availability and reliability of TEK data − with some studies reporting inaccurate or contradictory information. In this paper we assess the potential of mainly pre-1800 agricultural texts to contribute knowledge to TEK studies. Since 2000, projects to digitise and make freely available out-of-copyright books from the world’s libraries have made many of these pre-industrial agricultural texts easily accessible. These sources, we argue, provide a rich source of information. Specifically, we observe that knowledge emanating from contemporary TEK research can be found within this historical literature and question, therefore, whether contemporary European agricultural TEK is endogenously developed or represents vestiges of a wider pre-industrial agricultural knowledge system. Drawing on the English-language literature and using the case of hay meadow management, we provide examples of the types of information available, as well as detailing three examples of hay meadow management systems that are no longer associated with communities of practice − “fogging” of meadows, ant-hill management, and open-field, common or Lammas management. We conclude that while it may not be possible to reconstruct entire agricultural systems from literature-based knowledge, these sources can play an important role in complimenting and validating our understanding of traditional management systems. Land Use Policy, Volume 70, January 2018, Pages 334-346

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