, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 43-52
Date: 18 Mar 2005

A hierarchical approach to ecosystem assessment of restoration planning at regional, catchment and local scales in Japan

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Abstract

A hierarchical approach to restoration planning at the regional, catchment and local scales is proposed and examined. Restoration projects limited to a local scale and focused on habitat improvement for individual species ended in failure, which has led to the recognition that there is a need for ecosystem-based management at the landscape level. The first landscape-level restoration in Japan is under way in the Kushiro and Shibetsu River Basins, in northern Japan. However, public consensus on these large-scale restoration projects has not yet matured and there are very few projects that have progressed even as far as mapping to classify intact and disturbed ecosystems. Classification of habitat quality using physical and biological indicators appears to be the core element of analysis of ecological degradation at the regional scale (100–1,000 km2). This mass-screening process is critical to identify areas in potential need of restoration. The causes and mechanisms of ecosystem degradation are then examined at the catchment scale (10–100 km2) by linking material flows and habitat conditions. Direct environmental gradient analysis is useful to determine cause and effect relationships between species and habitat quality. Finally, we recommend implementation of field experiments with a clear hypothesis at the local scale (0.01–1 km2). At this stage, key variables causing degradation of the target ecosystem are manipulated to verify the hypothesis. Based on the results of local-scale analyses, the possibility of restoration success can be evaluated, which directs us to practical schemes for future restoration projects at larger scales.