Combining Local and Scientific Knowledge to Study Karstic Water Bodies at the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

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Karstic or lime-stone based water bodies contain approximately 25% of the world’s freshwater. In Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula is a flat landform of karstic origin wherein the sources of freshwater are primarily the karstic water-filled sinkholes (‘cenotes’), caves and non-permanent ponds. This study was undertaken in eight common holdings of Quintana Roo state, one of the three states of the Yucatan Peninsula, and was aimed at: i) recording the uses that indigenous and non-indigenous rural people made of karstic water bodies; ii) determining whether people pursuing freshwater fishing have noticed any change over time related to this activity, and iii) determining the fish diversity in 19 remote and rainforest-interspersed water bodies.The study used a mixed methods approach relying on biological and social surveys that were complemented with local people’s knowledge. The results showed that there were a total of 7 local uses of water bodies, with five direct uses and two indirect ones. From a sample of n= 58 interviews to practitioners of fishing, 68.4% of them responded that had perceived changes related to fishing at their traditional fishing sites; and from this, the response “currently there is less fish abundance than in the past” obtained the largest percentage (66.7%). Moreover, local people’s knowledge complemented the biological surveys on fish richness (fish species). In particular, there were three water bodies in which, because of fish behavior, only 2, 11 and 8 fish species were collected during biological surveys. However, for the same three sites, local people were able to describe a total of 5, 12 and 10 fish species, respectively. The study’s results bring the attention for a need to devise conservation guidelines to local inland fisheries and demonstrate the importance of combining scientific assessment with local people’s knowledge in studying remote water bodies.


Keywords: Social Surveys, Biological Surveys, Mixed Methods Approach, Yucatan Peninsula, Maya People, Local Knowledge, Inland Fisheries
Stream: Research Methodologies, Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Ana Minerva Arce-Ibarra

Researcher/ Scientist, Alternative Productive Systems Area, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur
Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Dr. Arce- Ibarra was formerly trained in the natural sciences but in 2007 completed a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies at Dalhousie University. In particular, from 2000 to 2006, she got formal training in the social sciences to be able to address natural resource conservation and management, socio-economic assessments and interdisciplinary studies.

Dr. Anthony T. Charles

Full time Professor, Management Science/ Environmental Studies, Saint Mary's University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Dr. Anthony Charles is a professor of Management Science and Environmental Studies at Saint Mary's University, in Halifax, Canada.
His expertise lies in policy and management approaches for
sustainable natural resource use, as well as use of indicator
frameworks, bio-economic models and socio-economic analysis to assess natural resource industries.

Dr. Erin I.J. Estrada-Lugo

Titular Researcher, Systems for Alternative Production Area, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur- San Cristóbal Campus
San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

Dr. Estrada-Lugo is biologist with specialisation in ethnobotany. In 2005 she completed a Doctor of Sciences degree in Social Anthropology at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico.

Ref: I08P0962