Skip to Main content

Traditional Ecological Knowledge

As defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity of 1992, Article 8 (j), Traditional Ecological Knowledge refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities around the world. Developed from experience gained over centuries and adapted to local culture and environment, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is transmitted orally from generation to generation. It tends to be collectively owned and takes the form of stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community laws, local language and practices.

TEK should be understood as a knowledge system including: (i) the knowledge based on empirical observations essential for survival (species taxonomy, distribution and life cycles); (ii) the understanding of ecological processes and natural resource management (practices, tools and techniques); (iii) the socio-economic organisation necessary for effective coordination and co-operation (rules and taboos) and (iv) the worldview or ‘cosmovision’ (religion, belief and ethics) (Berkes, 1999).


Berkes, F. (1999) Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Management Systems, Philadelphia and London; Taylor & Francis.

United Nations (1992) Convention on Biological Diversity [Accessed Nov 15, 2012 from].

This glossary entry is based on a contribution by Jampel Dell Angelo

EJOLT glossary editors: Hali Healy, Sylvia Lorek and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

Comments are closed.