The value of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) for informing resource management has long been recognized; however, its incorporation into ecosystem services (ES) assessments remains uncommon. Often “top-down” approaches are utilized, depending on “expert knowledge”, that are not relevant to local resource users. Here we propose an approach for combining participatory methods with remote sensing to provide a more holistic understanding of ES change. Participatory mapping in focus group discussions identified TEK regarding what ES were present, where, and their value to communities. TEK was then integrated with satellite imagery to extrapolate to the landscape-scale. We demonstrate our method for Nyangatom communities in the Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia, showing for the first time the ES impacts of regional environmental change, including the Gibe III dam, for communities in the Omo River basin. Results confirmed the collapse of flood-retreat cultivation associated with the loss of the annual Omo flood. Communities reported declines in many other provisioning ES, and these results were supported by satellite mapping, which showed substantial reductions in land covers with high ES value (shrubland and wetland), leading to consequent ES declines. Our mixed-methods approach has potential to be applied in other regions to generate locally relevant information for evaluating ES dynamics and improving management of natural resources.
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Land (ISSN 2073-445X) is an international, scholarly, open access journal of land use and land management published quarterly online by MDPI.