Satoyama Landscapes and Their Change in A River Basin context: Lessons for Sustainability

Shamik Chakraborty, Abhik Chakraborty


'Satoyama' denotes a mosaic of different landscape-types that has sustained agrarian societies for millennia in Japan. These landscapes have undergone degradation during the past few decades. While satoyama is a consistently referred term in landscape management in Japan, little attention is given to how such landscapes undergo change in large spatial units such as river basins. This study, based on documents and interviews, reviews how watershed level changes affect the functioning of such socioecological systems in the Kuma River Basin in Kyushu. Watershed properties of the Kuma River Basin changed during pre-modern and modern times and each phase left a lasting legacy on the landscape. The article analyzes how ecological connectivity became fragmented by identifying changes in ecosystem services, and concludes that while socio-ecological landscapes have a long history of human use; the human component cannot outgrow the fundamental biophysical processes that maintain ecosystem services and system resilience; these systems can undergo swift and irreversible degradation when ecological connectivity is fragmented. The main lesson for sustainable development is that consideration of historical changes in land use is vital for understanding the connectivity of different components in satoyama landscapes; this insight is important not only for rivers but also for the wider landscapes they connect and the associated integrity.

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Issues in Social Science  ISSN 2329-521X


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