Human-Environmental Security in Asia-Pacific Ring of Fire: Water-Energy-Food Nexus

  1. R-08
  2. FS
  3. FR①
  4. FR②
  5. FR③
  6. FR④
  7. FR⑤


PL Photo Project Leader



Associate professor Aiko Endo studies the economics of fisheries as well as coastal and marine policy. She has taken interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches to Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) in coastal areas in Japan and has experience in projects generating national policy proposals. Her research theme is to find the proper governance structure linking local, national, regional, and global to solve the environmental issues through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research with co-design and co-production.

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Project Researchers at RIHN
OH TomohiroProject Researcher
YAMADA MakotoProject Researcher
MASUHARA NaokiProject Researcher
OKAMOTO TakakoProject Research Associate
HONDA HisamiProject Research Associate
TERAMOTO ShunProject Research Associate
Main Project Members
FUJII MasahikoHokkaido University
SHOJI JunHiroshima University
BABA Kenshi Tokyo City University
OHSAWA ShinjiKyoto University
TAHARA DaisukeFukui Prefectural University
KAWAMURA TomohikoThe University of Tokyo
DELINOM, Robert M.Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Indonesia
ALLEN, Diana M.Simon Fraser University, Canada
SIRINGAN, Fernando P.University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
GURDAK, JasonSan Francisco State University, USA

Research objectives and background

Target research sites

Target research sites

Dynamics of the WEF nexus under RIHN WEFN project

Dynamics of the WEF nexus under RIHN WEFN project

Climate change and economic development are causing increased pressure on water, energy and food resources, presenting communities with increased levels of tradeoffs and potential conflicts among these resources. Therefore, the water-energy-food nexus is one of the most important and fundamental global environmental issues facing the world. As water is the central matter within this cluster, we will focus on the inherent tradeoffs between water and food, and water and energy. For the purposes of this project, we define human-environmental security as the joint optimization between human and environmental security as well as the water-energy and water-food connections. To optimize the governance and management within these inter-connected needs, it is desirable to increase human-environmental security by improving social management for the water-energy-food nexus. In this research project, we intend to establish a method to manage and optimize the human-environmental security of the water-energy-food nexus. We base our approach on the viewpoint that it is important for a sustainable society to increase human-environmental security and decrease vulnerability by optimizing the connections within the critical water-energy and water-food clusters.

We will take a regional perspective to address these global environmental problems. The geological and geomorphological conditions in our proposed study area are heavily influenced by the so-called “Ring of Fire,” around the Pacific Ocean. Within this area, including Japan and Southeast Asia, the hydro-meteorological conditions are dominated by the Asia monsoon. The populations that live under these natural conditions face elevated risk and potential disaster as negative impacts, while also benefitting from positive ecological goods and services. There are therefore tradeoffs and conflicts within the water-energy-food nexus, as well as among various stakeholders in the region.

The objective of this project is to maximize human-environmental security (ie. minimize vulnerability) by choosing management structures and policies that optimize both the water-food and water-energy connections in Asia-Pacific coastal regions. We define a joint security approach as optimized policy for both critical water clusters. Optimal policies will develop joint security approaches for human-environmental security in the coastal region of the Ring of Fire, including stakeholders and decision-makers.

Research methods and structures

Dynamics of the WEF nexus under RIHN WEFN project

Population of fish in Hiya & Hirata River

Five different interdisciplinary approaches, scales and clusters will be used in this investigation: (1) Environmental governance, science in/for society, and co-design/co-production approaches, in particular those emphasizing integration of local-national scale stakeholders, and regional scale stakeholders such as GEC (Global Environmental Change) Asia/ Future Earth in Asia-Pacific Platform; (2) Biophysical measurements/ analyses of the water-energy nexus by using state-of-the-art space satellite, geothermic, and hydrogeological techniques to evaluate linkages between water and energy; (3) Biophysical measurements/analyses within the water-food (e.g., fisheries resources) nexus by using state-of-the-art geochemical, coastal oceanographic, geophysical, hydrologic, and ecological techniques including isotopic tracers to evaluate the linkages between land and ocean; (4) Social measurements/analyses of water-energy-food relationships by use of stakeholder analyses, social network analyses, and community surveys, based on sociology, economics, anthropology, psychology, and behaviour science methodologies; and (5) Development of methods for interdisciplinary approaches, such as integrated indices and indicators determined by feedback from stakeholder meeting/workshops, integrated physical models including water, nutrients for fishery resources, and temperature related to energy and food developments for understanding the complexity of nexus systems, integrated maps for sharing actual conditions at a spatial scale among stakeholders, ontology engineering for designing the common platform among stakeholders, and benefit-cost analysis and optimization management models for identifying tradeoffs and making policy options.


Research activities and findings

Questionnaire survey in Otsuchi

Questionnaire survey in Otsuchi

At the local level of the water-energy nexus, as a result of collecting groundwater samples by depth, it turns out that aquifer levels declined following construction of seawalls and a water gate in Otsuchi, which is a tsunami-affected area. Installing observation wells and long-term monitoring groundwater level would be needed. Regarding the ground heat exchange system, soil temperature readings in Obama and Otsuchi revealed that the soil temperature in Obama is higher than in Otsuchi. As previous studies show ground warming, further research of the interaction between soil temperature and potential energy of soil is needed. In Beppu, examination of the water-energy nexus show that changes in the heat environment caused by drainage water from hot spring resorts and hot spring power generation affect river ecosystems, including Tilapia habitat. We will continue our research into the potential for producing energy, water consumption, and diversification of renewable energy sources.

Questionnaire survey in Otsuchi

3rd WEFN meeting in Kyoto

As for the water-food nexus, physical, chemical and biological surveys were conducted at four sites in Japan. The ratio of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) to fresh water inflow, and the amount of nutrient supply derived from SGD along the coast of Hiji town in Beppu Bay were estimated. Furthermore, it turns out that the ratio of SGD to freshwater inflow is higher in Otsuchi Bay. We will examine the interlinkages between groundwater and fishery production in light of the hypothesis that the flow of nutrients from the land to the ocean affects the coastal ecosystem.

At regional scale, an online survey of perceptions of developing geothermal energy in Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia, revealed that Japanese are not familiar with geothermal energy power plants and are not so interested in promoting local economies through the use of geothermal energy, and that Japanese prefer political referenda rather than trusting scientific evidence.

Further project research will develop understanding of the complexity of the water-energy-food nexus and contribute to policies intended to mitigate tradeoffs among water-energy-resources and reduce the conflicts between resources users through co-design and co-production with stakeholders based on scientific knowledge we discovered.

Expected results

  1. Suggested guidelines to increase environmental security and reduce conflicts related to the water-energy-food nexus.
  2. Recommendations for decreasing coastal vulnerability related to the separate governance of land and oceans.
  3. Policy and governance structure recommendations for improved water management.
  4. Suggestions for sustainable environmental management of the water-energy-food nexus in the Asia-Pacific region.