Combining Local and Scientific Knowledge to Study Karstic Water Bodies at the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
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
Dr. Ana Minerva Arce-Ibarra
Researcher/ Scientist, Alternative Productive Systems Area, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur
Dr. Anthony T. Charles
Full time Professor, Management Science/ Environmental Studies, Saint Mary's University
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