Cognitive social capital and local forest governance: community ethnomycology grounding a mushroom picking permit design
Aim of study: The local ecological knowledge shared in rural communities shapes their norms for using their nearby open-access natural resources. We suggest a method to analyse this form of cognitive social capital with an application to a mushroom picking permit.
Area of study: Poblet forest in Catalonia (NE Spain).
Material and methods: We applied semi-structured questionnaires to pickers in four municipalities and to the governing body of the protected area. Our methodology assesses cognitive social capital combining three instruments: (i) inter-quartile ratio indexes for community cohesion, (ii) pair-wise comparisons across social groups: pickers and decision-makers (DM), and (iii) correlations for mental models linking perceived ecological, social and economic challenges with foreseen solutions.
Main results: Analogous perceptions between DM and local pickers were found in most mushroom-related problems, which align with most picking permit design features. The perceived dissimilar behaviour between local and foreign pickers, the need for forest tending –addressing the wildfire risk–, and trash left in the forest are shared among pickers and DM. Moreover, some mental models of the DM showed statistically consistence. At the individual picker level, mushroom eco-literacy relates to family learning and proximity to DM, while links between pickers and DM correlate with increased forest profitability expectations.
Research highlights: Strong convergence in cognitive indicators aggregated at the town level indicate a single hermeneutic community among local pickers, which seems to underlie the large permit acceptance but did not explain the differential permit uptake –thus, structural social capital emerges as complementary predictor.
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