Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Forests, Fire, and Food: Integrating Indigenous and Western Sciences to Revitalize Evergreen Huckleberries (Vaccinium ovatum) and Enhance Socio-Ecological Resilience in Collaboration with Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa People
by Rossier, Colleen Elizabeth, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2019, 568; 27540433
Abstract (Summary)

Does integrating Western and Indigenous science and management have the potential to both 1) enhance the culture and health of local Indigenous communities, and 2) enhance the functionality, productivity, and resilience of a forest/agroforest ecosystem as a whole?

Is partnership with Indigenous communities in their aboriginal homeland a key missing ingredient in forest ecosystem management as it is practiced in the U.S. – and around the world?

Huckleberry Case Study: I explore these questions by focusing on 1) a specific place (the Western Klamath region of Northern California); 2) a specific species (evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum); 3) ecosystem services provided by this species (quality and quantity berries produced); and 4) collaborations with Indigenous scientists and managers: Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa practitioners.

Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa people have lived in the Klamath and Trinity River valleys in Northern California for thousands of years. Today, parts of the Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests are concurrent with some of this aboriginal territory. These territories span a wide variety of habitats from coastal prairies to oak woodlands to wetlands to high country meadows. The focus of this case study is on revitalizing evergreen huckleberries and their habitat within mixed evergreen forests of Karuk and upper Yurok aboriginal territories.

In Chapter 1, I (we) integrate Western and Indigenous sciences to quantitatively model and characterize habitat for evergreen huckleberry fruiting. This is based on both Indigenous science about quality attributes and important habitat characteristics for fruiting evergreen huckleberries as well as data from 105 17-m radius plots.

In Chapter 2, I (we) describe and demonstrate the value of Indigenous science and management (ISM) systems based on interviews with 17 Indigenous practitioners of Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa descent that focus on evergreen huckleberry and associated species, from monitoring to management to species interactions to climate impacts. The goal of this chapter is to demonstrate the breadth and depth of ISM systems and to examine their importance for socio-ecological resilience, and for evergreen huckleberry revitalization, specifically.

In Chapter 3, I propose Indigenous-Directed Research (IDR) as an approach to Indigenous/Western Science Integration that builds off of participatory action research, but is more specific and goes deeper in order to understand and support Indigenous management goals. I describe my experience with IDR, its 7 main steps, and the value of it in both identifying and addressing a gap in existing United States Forest Service (USFS) forest ecosystem management.

With regards to evergreen huckleberry (V. ovatum), our research led us to the following key findings:

• Evergreen huckleberry is a culturally, ceremonially, and nutritionally important food for the Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa people.

• Huckleberry management is an important component of ecosystem management because: Indigenous management for huckleberry production is not for people alone, but also contributes significantly as a “human service to the ecosystem,” by providing food and habitat for wildlife, including migratory birds, pollinators, and prey species of the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) and Pacific fisher (Pekania pennanti).

• Present-day Indigenous practitioners manage evergreen huckleberry bushes to promote berry production through annual tip-pruning and restorative pruning, which stimulate new growth, and can create open branching patterns that facilitate fruit development.

• Present-day Indigenous practitioners coppice and burn to rejuvenate huckleberry bushes once they become tall and unproductive.

• Indigenous practitioners report a decline in huckleberry production over the last several decades (roughly 30-50 years) due to fire suppression policies and a lack of Indigenous management. This impacts not only people, but also wildlife species that consume the berries.

• Indigenous practitioners associate warmer temperatures in recent years with evergreen huckleberries ripening 1-2 months earlier. They also note that in some cases, the berries never ripen – which they attribute to both hotter, drier conditions as well as a lack of proactive management to reduce competition for water and nutrients. Some also associate a shortened harvesting season in some places with drought and warmer temperatures.

• Present-day Indigenous practitioners monitor and/or manage over 60 plant, animal, and fungal species in mixed evergreen forest habitats where evergreen huckleberry is a major component , and in association with their management of huckleberry.

• Indigenous management for evergreen huckleberries is part of an overall effort to manage heterogeneous patchy mosaics of habitats across the landscape, utilizing fire and other tools to foster resilience to fire, pests, disease, and climate change.

These findings align with goals of USFS forest managers for managing ecological integrity and resilience, and demonstrate potential for partnership and mutual benefit.

Additionally, I describe how Indigenous people are essential for resilient forest ecosystem management by showing how present-day ISM: 1) defines important ecosystem services to manage for (in this case: huckleberry quality and quantity); 2) identifies habitat characteristics to manage to enhance these ecosystem services; 3) preserves and develops knowledge through socio-ecological interactions including monitoring and adaptive management; and 4) integrates such experiential learning and knowledge to create place- and systems- based holistic management recommendations for enhancing ecosystem services and resilience.

I conclude that there is great potential for the integration of Western and Indigenous sciences, practices, and management systems in support of healthy people and resilient ecosystems.

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Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rizzo, David M.
Commitee: Ballard, Heidi L., Anderson, M. Kat, Laca, Emilio A.
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Ecology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 81/8(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ecology, Forestry, Native American studies
Keywords: Agroforestry, Ecosystem services, Indigenous science, Natural resources management, Participatory action research, Traditional ecological knowledge
Publication Number: 27540433
ISBN: 9781658412902
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