The adaptive nature of culture (LEK)


This project collected real world data to test a pathway through which cultural knowledge might enhance human adaptive strategy: the individual returns to culturally evolved and environment-specific knowledge. The project was based on six sets of comparable panel data collected in three foraging societies: the Tsimane' (Amazonia), the Baka (Congo Basin), and the Punan Tubu (Borneo). The project used a culturally-specific but cross-culturally comparative method to assess individual local knowledge related to 1) wild edibles; 2) medicine; 3) agriculture; and 4) weather forecast. The strategy of data analysis estimated the returns to knowledge on a) own and offspring's health, b) nutritional status, and c) farming and foraging productivity.

Key findings from this study are;

  1. Local environmental knowledge systems are dynamic, a characteristic that guides indigenous peoples’ adaptive strategy.
  2. Although local environmental knowledge is not evenly distributed among members of a society, the benefits obtained by applying such knowledge are largely shared.



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Research area


  • Baka
  • Ethnoecology
  • Indigenous and Local Knowledge
  • Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities
  • Punan
  • Tsimane’

Team members

Postdoctoral Researcher
ICREA Research Professor
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