Assessing Historical Baselines of Marine Biodiversity in Hawaiʻi using Indigenous Ancestral Knowledge


Assessing Historical Baselines of Marine Biodiversity in Hawaiʻi using Indigenous Ancestral Knowledge
James Wheeler Pexels

A strong awareness of biodiversity around the Hawaiian Islands is apparent in the rich vocabulary for terrestrial and marine life in ʿōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). Many traditions and practices are aligned to include a holistic concept of health between ʿāina (land, seas, and atmosphere) and akua (revered natural elements) with biodiversity - that is, the health of the land, is the health of the people, is the health of the nation. As such, native Hawaiian ancestral knowledge about ocean and coastal management is critical for informing current and future decisions. In Hawaiʻi, advocacy for co-management of land and waters between local and Indigenous communities with state natural resource agencies has grown, with an aim to restore more place-based stewardship of the land and coast. However, American imperialism dismantled the Hawaiian kingdom and its cultural systems, resulting in significant information gaps for our understanding of baseline ecosystem resiliency and biodiversity. Among other solutions, one step toward achieving co-management of resources is understanding how to include Indigenous knowledge in Western resource management systems. 

In this project, a team of researchers led by Dr. Rosie ʻAnolani Alegado, University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa, and Katy Hintzen, University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program, will center Native Hawaiian knowledge and perspectives to develop historical baselines of marine biodiversity in the nearshore ecosystems of Hawaiʻi. The researchers will use this knowledge to examine the impact of both natural and human-caused climate events throughout history which will better inform management decisions around marine biodiversity in Hawaiʻi. Results from this project will offer insight into Native Hawaiian resource management and facilitate critical conversations with state and federal agencies for how to broaden what forms of monitoring data can be used in management decisions. 

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