Ecological and ethnoecological classification of a forest landscape near Smangus village in the Tayal Mrqwang territories, Taiwan

Kevan J. Berg, Yih-Ren Lin, Lahwy icyeh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Landscape is as much a cultural entity as it is biophysical, and people and place
must be jointly considered to fully understand spatial pattern. This study explores the overlapping biophysical and human dimensions of landscape in the context of an ecological and ethnoecological classification on the local landscape of the Tayal Mrqwang indigenous people in Taiwan. The goal of the ecological classification was to determine the extent to which human action accounts for landscape heterogeneity. We used multivariate tools to relate vegetation patterns to environmental gradients and human modification across 76 sites. We identified
eleven forest types, ranging from mixed coniferous forests at high elevations, to
pine, bamboo, alder, and laurel stands at low elevations. The impact of human
action was particularly evident at low elevations, where patterns of forest and soil
variation were resonant of small-scale practices (e.g., shifting cultivation, terrace
farming). The findings show that past land uses of the Tayal people play a key
role in shaping forest. The ethnoecological classification did not conform to the
ecological classification. Results of interviews and free-listing exercises revealed
an unsystematized classification that recognizes a continuum of forest variation
through the intersection of three overlapping categories: history of disturbance,
topography and substrate, vegetation. These categories are modified through land
tenure and toponyms, generating variable characterizations of variation rather
than formalized nomenclature. However, despite the lack of formalization, the
Tayal are nonetheless highly cognizant of how forest variation coincides with the environment and the activities of their ancestors. This knowledge represents
immense local expertise and must not be excluded from conservation and comanagement projects in the local area.
Translated title of the contribution臺灣泰雅族司馬庫斯部落的森林地景科學生態與民族生態分類學
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthnos, geography and development: An interdisciplinary approach to human-environmental relations
EditorsDa-wei Kuan
Publisher Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines
ISBN (Print)9789869239639
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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