Local Ecosystem Assessment of the Higher and Middle Chirripó River Sub-basins, Cabécar Indigenous Territory, Costa Rica.

Evaluación del Ecosistema Local de la Sub-Cuenca del Río Chirripó Alto y Medio. Territorio Indígena Cabécar de Chirripó, Costa Rica

Geographical coverage

Geographical scale of the assessment Single site
Country or countries covered Costa Rica
Any other necessary information or explanation for identifying the location of the assessment, including site or region name

The Cabécars are the indigenous ethnic group who lives in Bajo Chirripó. Among the cultural heriachy of the indigenous of Costa Rica, the Cabécars have always occupied the position of the most spiritual people and the greatest protectors of wisdom. Bajo Chirripó is populated by around 700 people. It's area is around 19,620 Ha, of wich approximately 92.68% is forest.
Geographic Location: 9° 48'50" Latitude North, 9° 59'20" Longitude West.

Conceptual framework, methodology and scope

Assessment objectives

  • To contribute to conceptual and methodological MA project, in terms of local ecosystem investigations, developing an evaluation of the middle and lower basin of the Rio Chirripó; an enrichment of the notion of goods and services and human well-being from the Cabécar reality and cosmovision.

  • To contribute to the achievement of autochthonous territorial management, which would permit cultural development and human well-being through an evaluation with the support of an interdisciplinary team.

  • Using traditional knowledge and information about the territory, also considering socio-cultural aspects, scenarios, responses, driving forces, goods, and services.

  • Improve of autonomy and food security.

  • To create a programme of Ecosystems restoration in the community.

  • Strengthening Siwa (traditional) knowledge at an inter-generational level.

  • Involve local and national government, stakeholders and other institutions to work with the community, in the future projects that may involve them.

Mandate for the assessment

To assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being, involving the indigenous people as a part of the ecosystem. Restore the relationship concept between ecosystems and human well-being from the indigenous cosmovision.

Conceptual framework and/or methodology used for the assessment

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA)

URL or copy of conceptual framework developed or adapted

System(s) assessed

  • Inland water
  • Forest and woodland
  • Cultivated/Agricultural land
  • Mountain
  • Urban

Species groups assessed

Ecosystem services/functions assessed


  • Food
  • Water
  • Timber/fibres
  • Genetic resources
  • Medicinal resources
  • Ornamental resources
  • Energy/fuel
  • Raw materials


  • Air quality
  • Climate regulation
  • Moderation of extreme events
  • Regulation of water flows
  • Regulation of water quality
  • Erosion prevention
  • Pollination
  • Biological control
  • Food security

Supporting Services/Functions

  • Nutrient cycling
  • Soil formation and fertility
  • Primary production
  • Life cycle maintenance
  • Maintenance of genetic diversity

Cultural Services

  • Recreation and tourism
  • Inspiration for culture
  • Art and design
  • Spiritual experience
  • Health
  • Aesthetic Enjoyment
  • Maintenance of traditional knowledge

Scope of assessment includes

Drivers of change in systems and services


Impacts of change in services on human well-being


Options for responding/interventions to the trends observed


Explicit consideration of the role of biodiversity in the systems and services covered by the assessment


Timing of the assessment

Year assessment started


Year assessment finished

If ongoing, year assessment is anticipated to finish


Periodicity of assessment


If repeated, how frequently

We work by Stages. Actually, we are starting the third and final stage.

Assessment outputs



Communication materials (e.g. brochure, presentations, posters, audio-visual media)

Journal publications

Training materials

Other documents/outputs

The Cabécar Agro-ecosystem (Spanish)

Tools and processes

Tools and approaches used in the assessment

  • Indicators
  • Scenarios
  • Social (non-monetary) valuation
  • Ecosystem mapping
  • Stakeholder consultations
  • Response options
  • Cultural valuation

Process used for stakeholder engagement in the assessment process and which component

We work developing an information system matrices and charts to collect opinions and general information; interviewing, making analysis of stories and legends, participative construction of local maps, applying scenarios methodology. All this work was conducted according the concept of Siwá House.

Key stakeholder groups engaged

The cabécars are organized in matrilineal clans, and they also have Jawás who are older people with great knowledge of traditional medicine. So, we started at first, working and involving this local leaders.

The number of people directly involved in the assessment process


Incorporation of scientific and other types of knowledge

  • Scientific information only
  • Resource experts (e.g. foresters etc)
  • Traditional/local knowledge

Supporting documentation for specific approaches, methodology or criteria developed and/or used to integrate knowledge systems into the assessment

Assessment reports peer reviewed



Accessibility of data used in assessment

Policy impact

Impacts the assessment has had on policy and/or decision making, as evidenced through policy references and actions

Independent or other review on policy impact of the assessment


Lessons learnt for future assessments from these reviews

Emphasize the importance of doing a local assesment, involving people as part of the ecosystem from the beginning and not as agents of change, taking into account socio-economic and cultural aspects.

Capacity building

Capacity building needs identified during the assessment

We identified the lack of total understood of the MA methodology, specially in scenario building. Maybe we need more workshop to generate an accurate information.

Actions taken by the assessment to build capacity

Fellowships/exchanges/secondments/mentoring programmes, Network and sharing experiences, Access to funding, Sharing of data/repatriation of data, Workshops, Developing/promoting and providing access to support tools, Formal training, Communication and awareness raising

How have gaps in capacity been communicated to the different stakeholders

Knowledge generation

Gaps in knowledge identified from the assessment

There is a general lack of scientific information in indigenous communities, specially on the GIS area and climate change.

How gaps in knowledge have been communicated to the different stakeholders

Additional relevant information