Local knowledge reconstructs historical resource use


Information on natural resource exploitation is vital for conservation but scarce in developing nations, which encompass most of the world and often lack the capacity to produce it. A growing approach to generate information about resource use in the context of developing nations relies on surveys of resource users about their recollections (recall) of past harvests. However, the reliability of harvest recalls remains unclear. Here, we show that harvest recalls can be as accurate to data collected by standardized protocols, despite that recalls are variable and affected by the age of the recollecting person and the length of time elapsed since the event. Samples of harvest recalls permit relatively reliable reconstruction of harvests for up to 39 years in the past. Harvest recalls therefore have strong potential to inform data-poor resource systems and curb shifting baselines around the world at a fraction of the cost of conventional approaches.