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

2019

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 a framework for adaptive watershed governance that allow new environmental knowledge to reconcile global, regional, and local ecological issues. I should also say that I love nature and humanity and how they come together very much!

>> Annual Report
>> Project's Page
Sub Leader
YACHI ShigeoKyoto University
Researchers at RIHN
IKEYA TohruResearcher
ISHIBASHI HiroyukiResearcher
ISHIDA TakuyaResearcher
WATANABE KirieResearch Associate
Main Members
IWATA TomoyaUniversity of Yamanashi
BAN SyuheiThe University of Shiga Prefecture
OSONO TakashiDoshisha University
TAYASU IchiroRIHN
WAKITA KenichiRyukoku University
ASANO SatoshiLake Biwa Environmental Research Institute
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, in particular nitrogen and phosphorus, have allowed global increases in population and economic prosperity in the Anthropocene. Overexploitation of nutrient resources, however, affects biogeochemical cycles and can lead to nutrient imbalances, eutrophication and loss of biodiversity. It is now recognized that the nutrient imbalances and biodiversity loss are prevalent in watersheds around the world, resulting in deterioration of ecosystem services in quality and quantity. These are considered global environmental issues, while their causes and effects vary among watersheds, in which there exist a variety of social issues specific to local communities.

Here we aim to develop a framework for adaptive watershed governance with two approaches (Fig. 1): a macroscopic approach to recognize and address environmental issues at the watershed level based on scientific knowledge; a microscopic social-cultural approach to empower local communities to achieve solutions of local issues.

Research methods

In adaptive watershed governance, stakeholders are involved in enhancement of biodiversity, nutrient cycling and well-being, according to our hypothesis that these are essential to the social-ecological health of watershed system and, like gears, also interdependently linked into community activities (Fig.1). We begin with action research to empower the communities for conservation of “familiar” nature, that is, natural phenomena of special significance to local life and livelihood. As conservation activities promote community sharing of cultural values of familiar nature, community-based well-being is altered and reinforced by accumulation of bonding social capitals.

If such community activities enhance biodiversity and nutrient recycling, they may benefit stakeholders other than the community members in ways not easily registered by the local cultural values, but inspired by the social-ecological health of watershed. In disseminating such scientific knowledge to the public, our project will facilitate social involvement in conservation activities by non-community members who appreciate the value of social-ecological health. This shared awareness allows accumulation of bridging social capitals. As scientific knowledge is extensively shared among diverse stakeholders in the watershed, community members may gain institutional support from local governments. Integration of local and scientific knowledge further enhances community-based well-being, resulting in community empowerment.

To investigate this positive feedback process, we compare the consequences of watershed governance activities in two contrasting watersheds 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.

▲PAGE TOP

Research progress

Figure 2 Action research with five focal communities in the Lake Biwa Watershed. Tree planting in upstream forests of Oh-hara (a), conservation of wetland biodiversity in terraced rice paddies of Kosaji (b), rehabilitation of habitat networks between a lake basin and rice paddies to facilitate fish spawning migration in Suhara (c), Conservation of lagoon landscape and rehabilitation of habitat networks between the lake basin and lagoons in Shina (d), Formation of a new community to recycle overgrown macrophyte debris in urban coastal areas (e; photo by INOUE Yasuo)

Figure 2 Action research with five focal communities in the Lake Biwa Watershed. Tree planting in upstream forests of Oh-hara (a), conservation of wetland biodiversity in terraced rice paddies of Kosaji (b), rehabilitation of habitat networks between a lake basin and rice paddies to facilitate fish spawning migration in Suhara (c), Conservation of lagoon landscape and rehabilitation of habitat networks between the lake basin and lagoons in Shina (d), Formation of a new community to recycle overgrown macrophyte debris in urban coastal areas (e; photo by INOUE Yasuo)

Figure 3 A lab experiment to compare temporal changes in total phosphorous concentrations in rice paddy waters after paddling (pre-planting field preparations) between modern and traditional winter irrigations. Phosphorous loading was significantly lower in the winter irrigation.

Figure 3 A lab experiment to compare temporal changes in total phosphorous concentrations in rice paddy waters after paddling (pre-planting field preparations) between modern and traditional winter irrigations. Phosphorous loading was significantly lower in the winter irrigation.

We conducted synoptic research in order to visualize spatial patterns of biodiversity, nutrient cycling and subjective well-being in a whole catchment of Yasu River tributary to Lake Biwa. In parallel, action research has been practiced in five focal communities within the watershed (Fig. 2). In some communities, our socialcultural approach was effective in enhancing biodiversity, community-based well-being, and nutrient cycling (Fig. 3), whereas our action research is still in the process of building trust with other communities.

In the Silang-Santa Rosa sub-watershed of Laguna de Bay, urbanization has caused serious eutrophication and biodiversity loss in downstream areas. In this situation, it is difficult to restore stream environments through community conservation activities alone, and institutional and technological approaches to these issues may be required. We focused on groundwater as a key issue of common interest because all stakeholders depend on groundwater resources for their lives and livelihoods and are therefore highly concerned about groundwater overexploitation and pollution. Following our assessment of groundwater pollution, stakeholder workshops were held to discuss sustainable and fair use of groundwater resources (Photos 1a-b). A stakeholder assembly was co-organized with the watershed management council as a step toward formation of a watershed forum as a platform for stakeholder involvement in watershed governance (Photos 1c-d).

We are also conducting action research to empower a mid-stream agricultural community to conserve a communal spring as an environmental icon of local groundwater. Its activities have been increasing with the organization of a conservation group. Comparison of watershed cases will allow us to summarize how social and ecological properties of watershed systems can affect applicability of our governance approach.

Photo 1 Workshops for a local community (a) and National Water Resource Board (b), and roundtable discussion (c) of the 1st Stakeholder Assembly (d) in the Silang-Santa Rosa sub-watershed.

Photo 1 Workshops for a local community (a) and National Water Resource Board (b), and roundtable discussion (c) of the 1st Stakeholder Assembly (d) in the Silang-Santa Rosa sub-watershed.


Perspectives

In developed societies, sewage treatment and tap water infrastructure systems have reduced eutrophication and improved comfort and convenience. Environmental consciousness of formerly familiar nature, however, has diminished. What kind of societal interactions with nature enhances human well-being? Is it enhanced by infrastructure? Our research seeks answers to these questions together with a variety of stakeholders.

▲PAGE TOP