Local Knowledge (C2)

Local Knowledge (C2)

C2) Local biodiversity knowledge and forest conservation practices

Ulrich Schraml (1), Georg Winkel (2) & Bettina Joa (3)

1) Forest Research Institute of Baden-Württemberg (FVA), Department of Forest & Society

2) European Forest Institute, Resilience Programme, EFI BONN

3) University of Freiburg, Faculty of Environment & Natural Resources, Institute of Forest Sciences, Chair of Wildlife Ecology & Management


Forest practitioners (private forest owners and their employees, forestry service staff, contractors) are the persons to implement biodiversity conservation objectives in forest management. In recent decades, social scientists have repeatedly analysed the attitudes and motivations of particularly private forest owners but also public forest service servants (1). These analyses have frequently resulted in sociological typologies of forest practitioners (e.g. commodity oriented vs. leisure oriented, urban vs. rural lifestyles).

Most of these studies, however, did not specifically focus on nature conservation. An exemption is partially the work of Bieling (2) or Schaich and Plieninger (3) who analysed the relevance of private forest ownership for close to nature forestry and related ecosystem services. Yet, a systematic analysis of the local (traditional) ecological knowledge of forest practitioners and, more specifically, related practices has not been conducted in the German and European context.

Study questions and hypotheses

  • The perceptions and the local (traditional) ecological knowledge of forest practitioners related to forest biodiversity conservation and management practices including the ways of how such knowledge is created and transformed.
  • The motivations of forest owners related to the management of their forests ranging from economic rationality to different types of ‘culturally entrenched’ beliefs.
  • The biodiversity conservation practices forest practitioners undertake.

C2 connects three distinct fields of research. It conceptually links a) socio-psychological findings of the research on (private) forest owners, their attitudes, practices and institutional integration (1) and the work on (traditional) ecological knowledge and practices in conservation (4) to the literature on forest and biodiversity conservation discourses and (professional) forest management paradigms amongst practitioners and policy makers in Europe(5). This connection is very promising as these fields of research are all relevant for the major questions in C2, but have never systematically been related to each other in an empirical research project.

Approach and methods.

Methodically, C2 progresses in three distinct phases with empirical work which each leads to peer-reviewed articles. In a first phase, a systematic literature review and exploratory interviews and document analysis is performed. In a second step, a set of qualitative interviews combined with joint visits of forest sites (participatory observation) is used in order to analyse local (traditional) ecological knowledge and related practices.

In addition to the joint visits of forest sites, we invite practitioners to make photographs of forest stands (e.g., with and without habitat trees, dead wood, wet lands) and ask interviewees to interpret their importance for biodiversity conservation and forest management. Specific emphasis is put on the prevalence of (professional) forest management paradigms at the local scale and how they connect to traditional ecological knowledge, the sources of knowledge and how it manifests in local practices. In a third step, a quantitative, representative mail survey is used in order to strive for a quantification of derived patterns.

In addition, this survey analyses the importance of social, economic and ecological gradients reflecting a) different kinds of land tenure, including legal issues (property rights, protected area status), institutional parameters and social features (e.g. gender, age, formal education) for forest management paradigms and the existence/shape of traditional ecological knowledge.


C2 uses structural data from A1, A2 and cooperate with C1, D1, D2. Furthermore, the data sampling in C2 includes the forest practitioners working on the 135 ConFoBi study plots to facilitate interdisciplinary exchange and publications.

Further reading

  • Schraml, U. 2006. The nameless counterpart: a reconstruction of the experiences of private forestry extension officers with their clients. European Journal of Forest Research, 125 (1), 79-88;
  • Bieling, C. (2004). Non-industrial private-forest owners: possibilities for increasing adoption of close-to-nature forest management. European Journal of Forest Research, 123(4), 293-303;
  • Schaich, H., Plieninger, T. 2013. Land ownership drives stand structure and carbon storage of deciduous temperate forests. Forest Ecology and Management 305, 146-157;
  • Hernández-Morcillo, M. et al. (2014): Traditional ecological knowledge in Europe: Status quo and insights for the environmental policy agenda.  Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 56(1), 3-17
  • De Koning et al. 2014. Natura 2000 and Climate Change. Polarization, uncertainty and pragmatism in discourses on forest conservation and management in Europe. Env. Science and Policy 39, 129-138.