Zsolt Molnár

Zsolt Molnár

MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Hungary

Zsolt Molnár, botanist, ethnoecologist, Doctor of Science, scientific advisor, MTA Centre for Ecological Research, Head of the „Traditional Ecological Knowledge” Research Group, member of the IPBES Indigenous and Local Knowledge Task Force, Coordinating Lead Author in the IPBES Global Assessment, born in 1966 in Hungary, married, two children. Main interests: traditional,  indigenous and local ecological knowledge of herders and farmers in Hungary, Romania, Mongolia and Iran, knowledge co-production with herders to avoid and decrease conflicts with conservation, traditional land management, perception of landscape change and ecosystem services by locals; conservation management, monitoring, conservation and agri-environmental policy; land-use and vegetation history of the Hungarian Plain (1780-present); habitat classifications, actual habitat mapping, trend analysis of Natura 2000 habitats (1780-2010); teaching (e.g. field courses and research camps). 170+ publications, 2500+ citations, Hirsch index: 22. Awards: Pro Natura (2013), Best Rural Developer (2013), Boros Ádám (2008).



In 2018 the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published its European and Central Asian Regional Assessment [1]. One of the novelties of this assessment is the acknowledgement and efficient inclusion of other knowledge systems. One of these knowledge systems is the so-called Indigenous and Local Knowledge, often also refered to as Traditional Ecological Knowledge [2]. All text in italics in this abstract are quotations from the Summary for Policy Makers of this Regional Assessment.

Indigenous peoples and local communities hold distinct knowledge about nature and its contributions to people that have significant value for many local communities and for the majority of our societies, too. The relevance of Indigenous peoples and their knowledge is rarely discussed in our region. However, our region is rich in local communities such as (semi-)traditional and long-settled multi-generational farmers and herders. In Central Europe and in the Carpathians, we have a wide range of experiences how local rural communities and their traditional knowledge and traditional land-use practices contribute to the development of our natural and biocultural heritage.

There has been, however, a loss of indigenous and local knowledge about ecosystems and species. Authors of the assessment argue that seven of nature’s contributions to people are known to be declining in Europe and Central Asia, in particular regulating contributions and learning derived from indigenous and local knowledge, and there is a loss of food-related indigenous and local knowledge, too. However, many practices have survived on marginal lands, in protected areas, or as a result of socio-cultural preferences.

Agri-environmental schemes of the European Union may help some to survive. For example, mountain meadows in the Carpathians (examples of the most species rich grasslands on Earth) are mostly abandoned. However, the area under management has been increasing in past decades with the help of targeted subsidies.

Conflicts around conservation has a long history in Europe. A major factor affecting the establishment or successful management of protected areas in Europe and Central Asia relates to the manner in which they navigate local use conflicts arising as a result of protection status and management. Protected area governance and management regimes are often characterized as top-down with low levels or quality of public participation; inflexible responsible authorities and insufficient consideration of the local context; engendering negative public perceptions; and resistance amongst members of local communities.

Regulations introduced to protect such areas often apparently do not consider local world views, or the effects of local practices. This results in the restriction of local people’s activities and conflict between locals and the protected area’s authority. The adoption of a more integrated, participatory approach to the governance and management of protected areas is suggested as a potential remedy to local use conflicts, particularly in protected areas established in cultural, small-scale, or indigenous landscapes. There is a need for ‘hybrid people’ who have knowledge of traditional practices and world views, as well as of mainstream nature conservation ideas. Additionally, the introduction of agro-environmental schemes in protected areas can mitigate the loss of traditional management practices and so prevent biodiversity loss accompanying land abandonment. One approach might be for landscape- and culturally-specific agricultural regulatory frameworks and subsidy systems that include local and traditional knowledge to produce tailored local solutions that respect the strong link between natural and cultural capital.

Authors of the regional assessment conclude that the economic viability of indigenous peoples and local communities can be supported by green tourism, demand for products derived from traditional practices and subsidies for traditional land uses. Agri-environmental schemes, ecological restoration and sustainable approaches to agriculture mitigate some adverse effects of intensive agriculture.

Additionally to the summaries above, in the presentation local case studies on how traditional knowledge and the holders of this knowledge can contribute to the maintenance and development of the cultural landscapes of the Carpathians will be provided.



  1. IPBES, 2018. Regional assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany.
  2. Roué M., Molnár Z. (2017) (eds.). Knowing our Land and Resources: Indigenous and local knowledge of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe & Central Asia. Knowledges of Nature 9. UNESCO, Paris.