Biodiversity-driven Nutrient Cycling and Human Well-being in Social-Ecological Systems

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

2017

PL Photo Project Leader

OKUDA Noboru

RIHN

My specialty is ecology, the field of study concerned with the relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. One of ecology’s central questions is why humankind should conserve biodiversity. As a member of the Center for Ecological Research at Kyoto University, I have approached this question by integrating different research fields related to biodiversity from gene to ecosystem. At present, I am developing methods for adaptive watershed governance which allow new environmental knowledge to reconcile global, regional, and local ecological issues. I also should say that I love nature and humanity and how they come together very much!

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Project Researchers at RIHN
IKEYA TohruProject Researcher
ISHIDA TakuyaProject Researcher
UEHARA YoshitoshiProject Researcher
LAMBINO,Ria Adoracion ApostolProject Researcher
WATANABE KirieProject Research Associate
Main Project Members
YACHI ShigeoKyoto University
IWATA TomoyaUniversity of Yamanashi
BAN SyuheiThe University of Shiga Prefecture
OSONO TakashiDoshisha University
TAYASU IchiroRIHN
WAKITA KenichiRyukoku University
SANTOS-BORJA, Adelina C.Laguna Lake Development Authority, Philippines

Research background and objectives

Figure 1 A conceptual schema of adaptive watershed governance

Figure 1 A conceptual schema of adaptive watershed governance

Technological innovations in the use of nutrients for food production, in particular nitrogen and phosphorus, have allowed global increases in population and economic prosperity in the twentieth century. Overexploitation of nutrient resources, however, affects biogeochemical cycles and can lead to nutrient imbalances, eutrophication and loss of biodiversity. It is now recognized that nutrient imbalances and biodiversity loss are prevalent in watersheds around the world, and pose a risk to sustainable human development.

In spite of such risk, most citizens are not so interested in global environmental issues but are rather concerned about local issues related to their lives and livelihoods. Considering this dissonance in environmental consciousness, we aim to develop a framework for adaptive governance of sustainable watershed systems (Fig. 1).

Research methods

Figure 2 A working hypothesis of how biodiversity, nutrient cycling and human well-being are enhanced through multi-level and multi-scale governance

Figure 2 A working hypothesis of how biodiversity, nutrient cycling and human well-being are enhanced through multi-level and multi-scale governance

We facilitate stakeholder engagement in multi-level and multi-scale governance in order to enhance biodiversity, nutrient cycling and human well-being, according to our hypothesis that these are the three primary components for sustainability of social-ecological system and, like gears, also interdependently linked in community activities (Fig. 2). We begin with action research to empower members of each community within a watershed to conserve indigenous environmental icon, defined as indigenous nature with special significance to local life and livelihood (Process A in Fig. 2). As the value of engaging in such conservation efforts is shared among community members, community-based well-being is altered and reinforced through bonding social capitals in a positive feedback of biodiversity conservation and biodiversity-driven nutrient cycling.

If such community activities enhance nutrient cycling at the watershed scale, they can stimulate strong collective public interest in ecosystem services. In disseminating our scientific understanding of the community dimensions of nutrient cycling in watershed-based societies, our project will facilitate social involvement in conservation activities as well as “green consumption” of local products by non-community members who appreciate the public interests. Such links accumulate bridging social capital and increase economic incentives (Process B in Fig. 2). With increased public interest in conservation activities, community members may also gain institutional support from local governments. Such integration of local and scientific knowledge further enhances community-based well-being, and leads to empowerment of community activities.

To test this hypothesis, we apply our governance approach to two extreme systems in Asia: the Lake Biwa Watershed (Japan) and the Laguna de Bay Watershed (Philippines). The former is an infrastructure-oriented society and the latter a high-nutrient loading society.

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Research progress

Figure 3 A map of biodiversity in the Silang-Santa Rosa sub-watershed. Circle size and color pattern indicate abundance and species richness, respectively

Figure 3 A map of biodiversity in the Silang-Santa Rosa sub-watershed. Circle size and color pattern indicate abundance and species richness, respectively

For the Lake Biwa Watershed, we practiced action research in the mid-stream community of the Yasu River sub-watershed. Based on our exercises to explore the cultural significance of indigenous nature, we identified a brown frog as an indigenous environmental icon and began to work to conserve its habitat. Monitoring revealed that the brown frog prefers to spawn in paddy fields with wetland biotopes (Photos 1). This observation facilitated farmer engagement in conservation activities, as they shifted from the modern to traditional paddy field irrigation system. We have been able to observe how farmer engagement in the conservation activities has altered environmental consciousness, improving their sense of how their wellbeing is closely linked to natural capitals. In FR3, we will conduct field experiments to demonstrate how traditional irrigation techniques are effective in reducing nutrient loadings from paddy fields.

In the Laguna de Bay Watershed, in contrast, recent economic development has led to expansion of residential areas into the mid-stream area of the Silan-Santa Rosa sub-watershed. In downstream urban areas, nutrient loadings and eutrophication have led to serious loss of biodiversity (Fig. 3). At present, people within the watershed are dependent on groundwater resources for drinking and irrigation and therefore highly concerned about groundwater overexploitation and pollution. In FR3, we will disseminate the results of our research to discuss the solution strategy for these groundwater issues with a variety of stakeholders within this watershed. We will also conduct the action research to empower the midstream community to conserve a communal spring as an indigenous environmental icon (Photos 2).


Photos 1 Social engagement in biodiversity monitoring (left) and a map of indigenous environmental icons (right) in the mid-stream community Kosaji

Photos 1 Social engagement in biodiversity monitoring (left) and a map of indigenous environmental icons (right) in the mid-stream community Kosaji

Photos 2 Eco-tourism in a communal spring (left) and a women’s association engaged in conservation (right) in the mid-stream community Carmen

Photos 2 Eco-tourism in a communal spring (left) and a women’s association engaged in conservation (right) in the mid-stream community Carmen

Perspectives

In developed societies, sewage treatment and tap water infrastructure systems have reduced eutrophication and led to greater comfort and convenience. Environmental consciousness, however, has receded from the nature of wetlands. What enhances our well-being? Is it enhanced by infrastructure? We want to seek answers to these questions together with a variety of stakeholders.

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