Biocultural Diversity

Biocultural Diversity

Indigenous peoples’ and local and mobile communities’ diversity of worldviews, cultures, and ways of life are helping to conserve and sustainably use the world’s biological diversity. Biological diversity cannot be seen as separate from cultural and linguistic diversity, as the diversity of ecosystems, peoples and cultures are interrelated, and likely co-evolved, within a complex socio-ecological adaptive system. This is also referred to as ‘collective biocultural heritage’, which is the knowledge, innovations, and practices of Indigenous peoples and local and mobile communities that are “collectively held and inextricably linked to traditional resources and territories, local economies, the diversity of genes, varieties, species and ecosystems, cultural and spiritual values, and customary laws shaped within the socio-ecological context of communities” (IIED). The mutually supporting relationships between land, natural resource use, culture, and spirituality underpins communities’ dynamic worldviews and understandings of the laws of nature.

The third biodiversity outlook report highlights the exponential loss of species and critical habitat. As biodiversity is lost, the lives of communities living in the world’s most biodiversity rich areas deeply affected. In recognition of this dynamic, laws and policies are being developed at the international level and implemented at the local level to conserve biodiversity and mitigate climate change within a human rights framework. Work is being undertaken, for example, under the auspices of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity and Framework Convention on Climate Change to reverse the loss of biodiversity and mitigate climate change. Yet laws are failing to tackle the root causes of biodiversity loss and the ones enacted are, in many instances, implemented in either incoherent or inappropriate ways. Moreover, communities face challenges with the law because of crucial mismatches between state laws and the nature of communities’ biocultural heritage – as discussed in Law Across Scales and Diversity and the Law. Natural Justice is working at various levels to assist in the development of more effective laws and to ensure the integrity of the implementation of existing laws and policies.



Biocultural Diversity Conservation: A Global Sourcebook (Maffi and Woodley, 2010)
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Biocultural Diversity: Moving Beyond the Realm of ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Local’ People (Cocks, 2006)
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Protecting Community Rights Over Traditional Knowledge: Implications of Customary Law and Practices (Swiderska et al., 2009)
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Chapter 5 in Global Environment Outlook 5 (UNEP, with contributions from Natural Justice, 2012)
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Protected Planet Report (UNEP-WCMC, 2012)
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Biodiversity and Culture: Exploring community protocols, rights and consent (IIED Participatory Learning and Action 65, 2012)
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Biocultural Community Protocols: Articulating and Asserting Stewardship (Moving Images & Natural Justice, 2012)
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Recognising Customary Rights (LPP, LPPS and Moving Images, 2009)
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Maldhari Biocultural Community Protocol Photo Story (Sahjeevan & Natural Justice, 2012)
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Latest Publication

Biocultural Community Protocols: A Toolkit for Community Facilitators
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Community Protocols

Images from our work in Africa, Asia, and the Americas
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