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Indigenous-led Restoration and Stewardship of Culturally Significant Plants for Climate Change Adaptation in the Northeast

Project Leader:
Project Investigators:
Stewart Diemont
Neil Patterson
Colin Beier
New Hampshire
New York
Rhode Island
New Jersey
West Virginia
+11 more


Indigenous Nations are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, due in part to their reliance on healthy ecosystems to provide culturally significant plants that are used for traditional foods, medicines, and materials. Further, many Indigenous communities have an under-resourced capacity for climate adaptation, resulting in significant environmental justice impacts that range from health disparities to heightened disaster risks.  

There is growing recognition across the globe of the important role of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) in climate change resilience and the innovative solutions that lie at the intersection of Indigenous and western knowledge. However, Indigenous knowledge has not been widely integrated into climate adaptation science. The goal of this project is to engage Indigenous Nations to improve our understanding of the threats facing culturally significant plant species and to collaboratively develop a research plan to address these concerns.  

To complete this work, the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment (CNPE) at SUNY ESF will partner with Indigenous Nations in the Northeast to identify the plants of greatest concern and create maps documenting their occurrence and vulnerability to climate change. They will also convene an Indigenous Women’s Climate Summit to bring together traditional plant knowledge holders and allied scientists to educate one another on possible approaches to cultural plant protection, such as restoration, assisted migration, and revitalization of traditional land care practices. The Summit will yield a working group of collaborators who will create an Indigenous-led research agenda. Lastly, the project team will initiate community-based pilot projects that prioritize collaboration among Indigenous Nations for the protection of cultural plants in the face of climate change. 

The results of this project will enhance awareness of the threats to culturally significant plants posed by climate change and support the development of climate adaptation plans that are designed to protect and maintain these plant species, which are essential to cultural thriving in Indigenous communities.