Ecosystem and Social Construction: an Interdisciplinary Case Study of the Shurkul Lake Landscape in Khorezm, Uzbekistan.
Transformation of the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan from forested to agricultural landscapes resulted in the formation of hundreds of lakes, the dynamics of which are largely controlled by inputs from irrigation runoff waters. The importance of the ecological and socio-cultural dimensions of one of these lakes, Shurkul, is discussed in order to understand the connection between humans and their environment. Landscape is used as a boundary concept, and we combine quantitative methods of the natural sciences with qualitative methods of the social sciences to assess these dimensions of the lake landscape. In the ecological dimension, Shurkul performs a wide range of ecosystem services from wildlife habitat and foodweb support to the provision of fish, fodder, building material and grazing ground. In the socio-cultural dimension, the lake is part of local ecological knowledge, functions as a prestige object and recreational site, and is rooted in religious beliefs of the population as a symbol of God’s benevolence. The Shurkul landscape may thus create a feeling of environmental connectedness and the desire to act in favor of the natural environment, which could be made use of in environmental education programs.
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