Dean of Arts & Sciences; Vice Provost for Research & Sponsored Programs Arts and Sciences, Juneau campus

Recent Submissions

  • Indigenous uses of wild and tended plant biodiversity maintain ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes of the Terai Plains of Nepal.

    Thorn, J.P.; Thornton, T. F.; Helfgott, A.; Willis, K. J. (BMC, 2020-06-08)
    Background: Despite a rapidly accumulating evidence base quantifying ecosystem services, the role of biodiversity in the maintenance of ecosystem services in shared human-nature environments is still understudied, as is how indigenous and agriculturally dependent communities perceive, use, and manage biodiversity. The present study aims to document traditional ethnobotanical knowledge of the ecosystem service benefits derived from wild and tended plants in rice-cultivated agroecosystems, compare this to botanical surveys, and analyze the extent to which ecosystem services contribute social-ecological resilience in the Terai Plains of Nepal. Method: Sampling was carried out in four landscapes, 22 Village District Committees, and 40 wards in the monsoon season. Data collection was based on transects walks to collect plant specimens, structured and semi structured interviews, and participatory fieldwork in and around home gardens, farms, and production landscapes. We asked 180 farmers to free-list vernacular names and describe use-value of wild and tended plants in rice cultivated agroecosystems. Uses were categorized into eight broad groupings, and 61 biomedical ailment classifications. We assessed if knowledge of plant species diversity and abundance differed with regard to caste, age, and gender. Results: Nepalese farmers have a deep knowledge of the use and management of the 391 vascular plant specimens identified, which provide key provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural ecosystem services. Altogether, plants belong to 76 distinct plant species from 49 phylogenetic families: 56 are used to cure 61 ailments, 27 for rituals, 25 for food, 20 for timber, 17 for fuel, 17 for fodder, 11 for soil enhancement, and eight for pesticides. Four caste groups have statistically different knowledge, and younger informants report a lower average number of useful plants. Conclusion: Agricultural landscapes in Nepal are reservoirs of biodiversity. The knowledge of the use of wild and tended plant species in and around these farms differs by the caste and age group of land manager. Conducting research on agroecosystems will contribute to a deeper understanding of how nature is perceived by locals, to more efficient management and conservation of the breadbasket of Nepal, and to the conservation of valuable, but disappearing traditional knowledge and practice.
  • Farming along desire lines: Collective action and food systems adaptation to climate change.

    Thornton, Thomas F.; Soubry, B.; Sherren, K. (British Ecological Society, 2020-03-03)
    1. We examine collective action in the food system of the Canadian Maritimes to determine its effect on the resilience and adaptive capacity of food producers, distributors, retailers and governance institutions. 2. Our data suggest that beyond their immediate benefits for their participants, expressions of collective action generate higher-level impacts which often translate into drivers of adaptive capacity. 3. Drawing on a metaphor from urban design, we suggest that collective action should be considered a desire line for food systems adaptation: rather than building adaptation strategies based on top-down design, collective action emerges from farmers’ needs and capacities to build financial resilience, enhance human and social capital and strengthen institutional agency within the system.
  • Using traditional ecological knowledge to understand and adapt to climate and biodiversity change on the Pacific coast of North America

    de Echeverria, V. R. W.; Thornton, Thomas F. (Springer Netherlands, 2019-10-09)
    We investigate the perceptions and impacts of climate change on 11 Indigenous communities in Northern British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. This coastal region constitutes an extremely dynamic and resilient social-ecological system where Indigenous Peoples have been adjusting to changing climate and biodiversity for millennia. The region is a bellwether for biodiversity changes in coastal, forest, and montane environments that link the arctic to more southerly latitudes on the Pacific coast. Ninety-six Elders and resource users were interviewed to record Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and observations regarding weather, landscape, and resource changes, especially as concerns what we term Cultural Keystone Indicator Species (CKIS), which provide a unique lens into the effects of environmental change. Our findings show that Indigenous residents of these communities are aware of significant environmental changes over their lifetimes, and an acceleration in changes over the last 15–20 years, not only in weather patterns, but also in the behaviour, distributions, and availability of important plants and animals. Within a broader ecological and social context of dwelling, we suggest ways this knowledge can assist communities in responding to future environmental changes using a range of place-based adaptation modes.
  • Raven’s Work in Tlingit Ethno-geography

    Thornton, Thomas F.; Deur, Douglas; Adams, Bert (University of Hawaii Press, 2019-01-01)
  • A multidisciplinary approach for generating globally consistent data on mesophotic, deep-pelagic, and bathyal biological communities.

    Woodall, L.C.; Andradi-Brown, D.A.; Brierley, A.S.; Clark, M.R.; Connelly, D.; Hall, R.A.; Howell, K.L.; Huvenne, V.A.I.; Linse, K.; Ross, R.E.; et al. (The Oceanography Society, 2018-04-02)
    Approaches to measuring marine biological parameters remain almost as diverse as the researchers who measure them. However, understanding the patterns of diversity in ocean life over different temporal and geographic scales requires consistent data and information on the potential environmental drivers. As a group of marine scientists from different disciplines, we suggest a formalized, consistent framework of 20 biological, chemical, physical, and socioeconomic parameters that we consider the most important for describing environmental and biological variability. We call our proposed framework the General Ocean Survey and Sampling Iterative Protocol (GOSSIP). We hope that this framework will establish a consistent approach to data collection, enabling further collaboration between marine scientists from different disciplines to advance knowledge of the ocean (deep-sea and mesophotic coral ecosystems).
  • The UN local communities and Indigenous peoples' platform: A traditional ecological knowledge-based evaluation

    Shawoo, Zoha; Thornton, Thomas F. (Wiley, 2019-01-02)
    This review evaluates the potential of the proposed local communities and Indigenous peoples’ platform to effectively engage traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) for climate policy. Specifically, we assess the platform's potential to enable greater representation and participation of Indigenous peoples (IPs) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). An analytical framework based on the extensive TEK and environmental management literature is developed, with a set of criteria identified against which to evaluate the platform. We find that although the process of designing the platform appears to be inclusive of Indigenous views, the structure itself does not recognize the roles that unequal power relations and colonialism play in marginalizing IPs. Limited attention is paid to the institutional barriers within the UNFCCC and the drawbacks of pursuing knowledge “integration” as an end in itself. Based on this, recommendations for improving the platform structure are put forward including using a rights based framing, giving greater decision-making power to IPs, and developing mechanisms to ensure the holistic integrity of TEK and build the overall resilience of climate mitigation and adaptation systems.