Role of farmer knowledge in agro-ecosystem science: Rice farming and amphibians in the Philippines
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Rice (Oryza sativa) agriculture provides food and economic security for nearly half of the world's population. Rice agriculture is intensive in both land and agrochemical use. However, rice fields also provide aquatic resources for wildlife, including amphibians. In turn, some species may provide ecosystem services back to the farmers working in the rice agroecosystem. The foundation for understanding the complexity of agroecosystem-human relationships requires garnering information regarding human perceptions and knowledge of the role of biodiversity in these rice agroecosystems. Understanding farmer knowledge and perceptions of the ecosystem services provided by wildlife in their fields, along with their understanding of the risks to wildlife associated with agrochemical exposure, can inform biodiversity preservation efforts. In June and July 2014, we used focus groups and structured and semi-structured interviews that engaged 22 individuals involved in rice agriculture operations in Laguna, Philippines, a village close to the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, Philippines, to learn more about farmer perceptions and knowledge of amphibians in their rice fields. We found that many, though not all farm workers (managers, tenants, and laborers) noted declines in amphibian populations over time, expressed how they incorporated frogs and toads (Anura) into their daily lives, and recognized the value of amphibians as ecosystem service providers. Specifically, farmers noted that amphibians provide pest-management through consumption of rice pests, act as biomonitors for pesticiderelated health outcomes, and provide a local food and economic resource. Some farmers and farm workers noted the general cultural value of listening to the "frogs sing when it rains." Overall, our findings demonstrate that farmers have an understanding of the value of amphibians in their fields. Future efforts can support how engagement with farmers and farm workers to evaluate the value of wildlife in their fields can lead to directed education efforts to support biodiversity conservation in agroecosystems.
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