Published: 10 February 2021 at 08:59
Research involving farmers in Brazilian Amazon is first of its kind in Global South
A common belief in nature conservation is that people need to “know nature” in order to care about it. However, new research has found that farmers in the Brazilian Amazon can develop strong connections with nature despite having little knowledge of local biodiversity – in this case local bird species.
The study, led by researchers at UK and Brazilian institutions, and published in the journal People and Nature, examined the psychological attachment to nature amongst non-indigenous farmers who have settled in the Transamazon Highway region, an area of the Amazon that is experiencing deforestation.
The majority of farmers expressed views that indicated a strong connection with nature, despite recognising fewer than half of the species in the survey. The research, which involved interviews with 227 farmers, found that knowledge of birds and nature connection were not correlated, and they did not have any predictors in common.
Many farmers recognised bird species that have adapted to farmland and are widespread in Brazil, but most struggled to identify birds that only live in the Amazon forest.
The study is the first of its kind to be carried out in the “Global South” and is significant because previous, similar studies in the US and Europe indicated that knowledge of biodiversity enhances connection with nature.
The Amazon rainforest is under threat from deforestation and climate change, and its farm-forest frontiers are suffering from intense habitat and biodiversity loss. Therefore, understanding the feelings and motivations of its farmers is vital as studies have shown that farmers who care strongly about nature are more likely to engage in conservation.
Dr Katarzyna Mikolajczak, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and lead author of the study, said:
The study, which involved academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), Lancaster University and the Federal University of Para in Belem, Brazil, is published in the journal People and Nature. The paper is open access and is available at https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/pan3.10183
Photograph by Alexander C Lees