Peter Palmiotto, PhD
Department of Environmental Studies
Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is receiving increased recognition as a source of information about ecosystem integrity and processes. In northern New Mexico, as in many parts of the American Southwest, the harvest of pinyon pine seeds for food has been an important human activity for thousands of years. The ecological knowledge associated with the pinyon harvest, as well as the variation in harvest methods and ideology among different groups has not been studied to a great degree. This thesis applies the knowledge of Mexican, Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo New Mexicans to the question of the effects of pinyon harvesting on the pinyon pine population and the biodiversity of pinyon-juniper woodlands. To test the knowledge of local people and to quantify the effects of the harvest within a woodland ecosystem, vegetation and wildlife surveys were conducted in neighboring natural communities near Santa Fe, New Mexico, which were either heavily harvested for several weeks during the fall of 2005, or were not harvested by humans. Increased pinyon regeneration was found in harvested woodland sites which did not correlated clearly with any variation between habitats. It is unclear whether harvesting by humans increases pinyon germination rates due to soil influences or other means. It is apparent that although human harvesting, as it is practiced by local people in northern New Mexico, reduces the number of pinyon seeds in the woodland ecosystem, it may not negatively effect pinyon regeneration and growth, at least in roadside harvesting sites, such as the ones studied in this thesis, and it may not be a threat to the biodiversity of pinyon-juniper woodlands. The results of the scientific investigations also directly confirm the knowledge of local people, establishing that the age-old practice of harvesting pinyon in northern New Mexico may have evolved to some extent along with the resource.