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Indigenous land management

December 2019: Adopting indigenous management practices could support the long-term environmental management of land and waterways. Partnering with indigenous peoples may contribute to carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and land restoration at a global scale.


A recent paper, which investigates global land and water management practices, finds that adopting indigenous land management practices may contribute to developing climate change mitigation strategies. It proposes that First Nations’ worldview and connection to the environment provide rich sources for addressing large-scale agriculture, drought, bush-fires, and loss of biodiversity. These practices could inform long-term changes for governance and management of mainstream environmental institutions. The paper finds the highest impact when indigenous nations become equal partners in environmental management and recommends the adoption of holistic ecological economics. It draws from the understanding that society and environment are interconnected and have equal wright in influencing human well-being, cultural and environmental values.

Implications & Opportunities

Incorporating indigenous agency and governance could drive innovation in land and water management practices around the globe. Adopting such approaches could lead to more equitable and strategic approaches to restoring lands and ecosystems against the backdrop of climate change. Positive impacts can be seen in New Zealand where indigenous peoples have been recognised as sovereign partners in environmental management and nature has been given legal personhood which has led to significant improvements of water quality in rivers. Further, indigenous land management practices could contribute to emissions reductions and sequestering carbon, biodiversity conservation, and could become key players in resourcing the renewable energy sector for domestic energy use and export.


Indigenous land management practices are location specific and recommendations should be seen within the context of specific landscapes and traditions of indigenous people. Practices in locations with abundant natural resources and low population numbers may not be readily transferable to other contexts.


Mueller, S., Hemming, S., Rigney, D., (2019). Indigenous sovereignties: relational ontologies and environmental management. Geographical Research, DOI: 10.1111/1745-5871.12362

The Conversation. (2019). Remote Indigenous Australia’s ecological economies give us something to build on. Retrieved from

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.