Environmental Narratives and the Need for Multiple Perspectives to Restore Degraded Landscapes in Australia


Address correspondence to: Pierre Horwitz, Centre for Ecosystem Management, Edith Cowan University, 100 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Western Australia 6027; E-mail p.horwitz@cowan.edu.au.


ABSTRACT This article examines environmental narratives for their potential to contribute to the restoration of ecosystem health in areas recently degraded by agricultural activities, including Australian rural landscapes. Environmental narratives encompass oral environmental histories and other anecdotal sources of knowledge and perceptions that are bounded by the narrator's experiences, observations, and attachment to place. They are analogous to indigenous knowledge. Environmental narratives can make a significant contribution to ecological restoration. We argue that restoration ecologists should acknowledge the rigor of ecological knowledge gained through detailed observation of landscapes over lengthy time periods by nonscientists. Accordingly, we advocate a view of knowledge that permits multiple perspectives: local, indigenous, and scientific. Ecological restoration in fragmented agricultural landscapes is as much a cultural as a biophysical process. It requires an understanding of and respect for cultural attributes of landscapes, including the beliefs, values, and perceptions people hold about their local environment, such as a sense of loss felt for particular landscape components, features, or functions. Recent work in Australia shows environmental narratives emerging as a practical means of integrating these biophysical and cultural aspects in ecological restoration.