Research and Social Implementation of Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction as Climate Change Adaptation in Shrinking Societies

  1. FS①
  2. PR
  3. FR①
  4. FR②
  5. FR③
  6. FR④
  7. FR⑤

2019

PL Photo Project Leader

YOSHIDA Takehito

RIHN/The University of Tokyo

Takehito Yoshida is an ecologist and limnologist who studies diversity and complexity of organisms and ecosystems from the viewpoints of adaptation and system dynamics, and explores human-nature interactions and sustainability in local communities in Japan. Trained in Kyoto University (PhD) and Cornell University (postdoc), he was a member of the faculty at the University of Tokyo at Komaba before assuming joint appointments at RIHN and the University of Tokyo.

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Researchers at RIHN
AIBA MASAHIROSpecially Assistant Professor
HUANG, WanhuiResearcher
NAKAI MinamiResearch Associate
SENDA MasakoResearch Associate
SHIMAUCHI RisaResearch Associate
Main Members
AKIYAMA YukiThe University of Tokyo
FUKAMACHI KatsueKyoto University
FURUTA NaoyaTaisho University / IUCN
HASHIMOTO ShizukaThe University of Tokyo
ICHINOSE TomohiroKeio University
MIYOSHI IwaoKyoto Prefectural University
NISHIDA TakaakiKyoto Sangyo University
NISHIHIRO JunNational Institute for Environmental Studies
SAITO OsamuUnited Nations University
SHIBASAKI RyosukeThe University of Tokyo
SHOUJI TarouToho University
TAKI KentaroThe University of Shiga Prefecture
UEHARA MisatoShinshu University
URASHIMA HirokoMS&AD Insurance Group Holdings, Inc.

Outline of the project

Globally, the rate of natural disaster occurrence has been increasing, partly due to contemporary climate change, and adaptation to natural disaster risks is increasingly important to the sustainability of human societies. At the same time, many societies are experiencing shrinking populations. Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco-DRR) takes advantage of the multi-functionality of ecosystems and biodiversity, including their capacity to mitigate natural disasters while providing multiple ecosystem services, and population decline provides ample opportunity for implementing Eco-DRR. Our project will develop practical solutions for implementation of Eco-DRR by visualizing natural disaster risks, evaluating multi-functionality of Eco-DRR solutions, conducting transdisciplinary scenario analysis, examining traditional and local knowledge of disaster risk reduction, and collaborating with the insurance industry and other sectors.

Background and goals

Figure 1 Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction not only lowers disaster risks but also enhances benefits of ecosystem services by reducing the exposure of human activities in high-hazard locations and supporting human activities in low-hazard locations.

Figure 1 Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction not only lowers disaster risks but also enhances benefits of ecosystem services by reducing the exposure of human activities in high-hazard locations and supporting human activities in low-hazard locations.

Climate change impacts natural and human systems, and is projected to intensify in the future. Our project focuses on reducing risk and developing management strategies related to natural disasters. The risk of natural disasters results from the interaction between a climate-related hazard, and the exposure and vulnerability of human activities (Fig. 1), so that adaptation to natural disaster risk can be realized by reducing exposure (e.g. by improving land use) and vulnerability to hazards.

Hard-engineering natural disaster countermeasures have target safety levels, below which natural disasters can be prevented. Although these countermeasures are effective if the hazard level of natural disaster is below the target safety level, we are increasingly faced with situations in which hazard levels exceed safety levels, resulting in devastating natural disasters. Eco-DRR approaches focus on lowering the exposure of human activities to natural hazards, so reducing, if not preventing, associated losses and damages. Eco-DRR approaches, meanwhile, take advantage of the multi-functionality of ecosystems, so complementing conventional approaches to natural disaster management, although the effectiveness and multi-functionality of Eco-DRR is not yet clearly and quantitatively understood.

Japan’s population is aging and shrinking, leading to the abandonment of farmlands, houses and decreases in other intensive land uses, a challenging circumstance that nevertheless provides an opportunity for improving land use. The population of Japan increased substantially over the last century, increasing the risk of and public exposure to natural disasters. Evaluating past natural disaster risks therefore provides valuable information of adaptation strategies considered in Japan as well as in other countries.

Given this background, the ECO-DRR project sets two main goals: first, it develops methodologies to evaluate Eco-DRR multi-functionality and assess Eco-DRR by comparing multi-functionality in the past, present and future. Secondly, the project supports Eco-DRR implementation through transdisciplinary collaborations with local communities, governments, insurance industry and other stakeholders.

Research objectives

Three research components contribute to achieve the above two goals.

  1. (1) Visualizing the risks of natural disasters in the present and the pastt
  2. The exposure and vulnerability associated with different natural disasters will be analyzed, and the risks evaluated and visualized as risk maps of the present and past. Modeling risk for the different exposure scenarios will contribute to future Eco-DRR assessments and plans.

  3. (2) Evaluating and modeling multi-functionality of Eco-DRR
  4. Provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services will be evaluated, and their spatial distribution will be modeled in relation to population and land use. The model will be used to evaluate the ecosystem services for different land use scenarios.

  5. (3) Transdisciplinary scenario analysis and developing social and economic incentives of Eco-DRR
  6. Together with local communities and governments, transdisciplinary platforms will be formed at research sites to deepen understanding of, discuss future options of, and build consensus around Eco-DRR approaches. Transdisciplinary scenario analysis under the conditions of climate change and declining population will be conducted. In addition, traditional and local knowledge of disaster risk reduction will be inventoried and evaluated for multi-functionalities shared in the platform.

In collaboration with the insurance industry, a research forum will be formed to discuss the possibility and feasibility of industry-led contributions to and economic incentives for Eco-DRR. The research forum will also assess various laws and institutions in national and local governments related to disaster risk reduction and land use.

Photo 1 Mikatagoko area in Fukui Prefecture, one of the research sites.

Photo 1 Mikatagoko area in Fukui Prefecture, one of the research sites.

Photo 2 Hira mountains and their base area in Shiga Prefecture, one of the research sites. Photo courtesy of MATSUI Kimiaki.

Photo 2 Hira mountains and their base area in Shiga Prefecture, one of the research sites. Photo courtesy of MATSUI Kimiaki.

Recent results

Figure 2 Map of the potential habitat of oriental white stork (green area) in central Japan.

Figure 2 Map of the potential habitat of oriental white stork (green area) in central Japan.

The oriental white stork is an endangered bird species that once went extinct in Japan, and the reintroduction of this species has been progressed in Toyooka city and other places in Japan, emphasizing the need of conservation and restoration of its habitat. We explored the characteristics of the habitat by tracking individual birds by satellite, and found that paddy fields and adjacent forests are important component of the habitat. Comparing the habitat of oriental white stork with flood-prone areas demonstrated significant overlap between the two areas, suggesting that conservation and restoration of the habitat can lead to the reduction of flood disaster risk as well.

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