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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Symphony for the native wood(s): Global reforestation as an opportunity to develop a culture of conservation

Axelsson, E. Petter; Grady, Kevin C.


1. The stewardship of forests across multiple human generations has potential to lead to cultural innovations fostering sustainable uses. Nevertheless, positive culture-nature interactions are often disrupted due to colonial exploitation and a lack of intrinsic value ascribed to nature in capitalist economies. There is global recognition that restoring degraded ecosystems is critical to promote the welfare of people and nature by reducing the negative impacts of global climate change and diminishing biodiversity. However, with a focus on technical remedies, restoration and reforestation efforts generally fail to address the root causes of ecosystem degradation.2. In this perspective paper, we call for explicit incorporation of cultural values into global reforestation efforts. We focus on music as a cultural ecosystem service as music has been a prominent part of human history with clear sociological and psychological attributes that may invite mass interest and participation. We illustrate the value of musical linkages via three case studies from Europe, Africa and Hawaii focusing on native tree species, their wood, musical ecology and their interaction with culture.3. We show that multi-generational stewardship of native ecosystems in Europe has allowed the refinement of the violin to its current form, one that is culturally significant for millions of people and has created a multi-million dollar industry. This development stems from a 500-year tradition of craftsmanship handed down across generations and illustrates that ecocultural interactions can be a strong dynamo for development of unique commodities.4. In contrast, in regions where extirpation of native plant species was used as a deliberate colonization strategy, many ecocultural linkages face risk of extinction. Our case studies from Africa and Hawaii illustrate how native tree species of particular value for musical expression were nearly lost and along with loss of music, important cultural connections to nature.5. In the context of restoration, there is also evidence that music-based linkages can revitalize nature-culture interactions and promote restoration of native ecosystems. Incorporating native trees in global reforestation efforts is critical for ensuring that reforestation efforts capture the synergies needed for developing new ideologies that promote the well-being of co-dependent humans and all life.


cluster concept; decolonization; ecocultural restoration; ecological imperialism; ecological restoration; music-ecology; reforestation

Published in

People and Nature
2022, Volume: 4, number: 2, pages: 576-587
Publisher: WILEY

    Associated SLU-program

    SLU Forest Damage Center

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
    SDG15 Life on land

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