Integrating Biocultural Functional Traits as Indicators of Heritage in Wetlands of International Importance in Southern Chile

Integrating Biocultural Functional Traits as Indicators of Heritage in Wetlands of International Importance in Southern Chile
Photo (c) Paola Araneda

Habits and habitats of species can constitute distinctive biocultural traits, which transcend their purely ecological function and represent sociocultural constructions linked to local knowledge and practices. In wetlands especially, many of these bird species are migratory, making them key species connecting geographically distinct territories and cultural experiences. Indigenous and local people have been accumulating knowledge intergenerationally through their experiences with the material and immaterial world. These experiences are collectively shared by people as local knowledge, allowing people to cope with the change and complexities of the world. This knowledge is also constantly build, re-build, and transmitted across individuals and generations, deeply rooted in specific places and their biodiversity.

In this talk I will explore the diversity of bird Biocultural Functional Traits (BTRs) present in the biocultural heritage of human communities around the Río Cruces Nature Sanctuary and identify how they are composed and distributed through functional diversity metrics. Río Cruces wetland is in the Valdivian Temperate Rain Forest Hotspot from southern Chile and the first Ramsar site declared in the country. In addition, a long cultural history has produced a social ecosystem of diverse communities that remember and draw upon deep biocultural heritage for their livelihoods, identity, recreation, and wellbeing.

The results suggest that biocultural heritage around birds is constructed through the interaction of people and birds co-inhabiting within cultural landscapes that include spatial knowledge and everyday experiences associated with productive practices. Our work can serve as a valuable method for incorporating cultural experiences into policy-making processes. By adopting this approach, we can contribute to more inclusive policies that are more responsive to the needs of local communities. This model is not only applicable to the Río Cruces Nature Sanctuary but also to other Ramsar sites, biomes, and research on the history and future of birds. By replicating this model, we can promote the integration of local knowledge and practices into conservation and management efforts, leading to more sustainable and equitable outcomes for both people and nature.

This seminar will be hosted by Paola Araneda’s local supervisor, Professor Peter Bridgewater. 


Paola Araneda
(she/her) is a biologist, Master of Sciences and PhD candidate from the School of Agriculture and Forestry Science of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Her research and publications have focused on wildlife ecology and the role of indigenous agriculture in bird conservation, but she is currently researching social-ecological systems and human-bird interactions. Her PhD thesis focuses on an interdisciplinary analysis that links birds' ecological and cultural traits as indicators of biocultural memory in globally important social-ecological wetland systems. Also, she has participated in working groups to design plans and public policies for the conservation of threatened bird species led by the Chilean Ministry of Environment. And finally, she is a member of the board of the Chilean Socioecological and Etnoecological Society (SOSOET-Chile). 



Date & time

Thu 27 Apr 2023, 12.30–1.30pm


Sir Roland Wilson Building, 2.02 Theatrette & Online (via Zoom)


Paola Araneda, PhD candidate, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


Zach Karpinellison


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