Local knowledge of the history and ecology of wetland ecosystems can be a valuable resource in wetland rehabilitation projects. This is especially the case when other historical ecological information is unavailable. As well as providing a source of historical information, time spent acquiring local knowledge can enhance public participation in environmental management and facilitate early conflict resolution between stakeholders and the community. This paper investigates the use of oral history as a tool to collate a history of the flooding, ecology and management of Kanyapella Basin, a 2581 ha wetland on the floodplain of the Murray and Goulburn Rivers, Australia. Interviews were held with nine local residents and 11 natural resource managers. Oral history proved an effective way to obtain information about changes in the frequency and distribution of flood events over the last 60 years. Observations of rare and threatened fauna, and comments regarding the success of past management were also recorded. Results from the oral history have been used to direct ecological research and develop alternative management options at Kanyapella Basin. In addition to its use in gathering ecological information, oral history also proved effective in enabling the values and concerns of local community and stakeholders to be articulated, increasing managers' understanding of the social context of the particular locality, which is fundamental to sound environmental decision-making.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 2003
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