, Volume 47, Issue 6, pp 721–734 | Cite as

Ecosystem changes following the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes in Japan: Future perspectives

  • Roy C. SidleEmail author
  • Takashi Gomi
  • Munemitsu Akasaka
  • Kenta Koyanagi


Major earthquakes cause widespread environmental and socioeconomic disruptions that persist for decades. Extensive ground disturbances that occurred during the shallow-focus Kumamoto earthquakes will affect future sustainability of ecosystem services west of Aso volcano. Numbers of earthquake-initiated landslides per unit area were higher in grasslands than forests, likely owing to greater root reinforcement of trees, and mostly initiated on ridgelines and/or convex/planar hillslopes. Most landslides traveled short distances and did not initially evolve into debris flows; resultant sediments and wood accumulating in headwater channels can be mobilized into debris flows during future storms. Fissures along ridgelines may promote water ingress and induce future landslides and debris flows that affect residents downstream. Native grasses are at risk because of habitat fragmentation caused by ground disturbances, extensive damage to rural roads, and abandonment of traditional pasture management practices. Sustainable management of affected areas needs to consider future risk of cascading hazards and long-term socioeconomic impacts.


Cascading disasters Ecosystem resetting Landslides Natural hazards Semi-natural grasslands Tipping points 



Support from Institute of Global Innovation Research, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology for two field trips to the Kumamoto site for RCS is gratefully acknowledged. The latter part of the study was supported in part by an International Collaborative Research Grant from Kyoto University, Disaster Prevention Research Institute.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roy C. Sidle
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Takashi Gomi
    • 2
    • 5
  • Munemitsu Akasaka
    • 3
  • Kenta Koyanagi
    • 4
    • 6
  1. 1.Sustainability Research CentreUniversity of the Sunshine CoastSippy DownsAustralia
  2. 2.Department of International Environmental and Agricultural ScienceTokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyFuchuJapan
  3. 3.Institute of AgricultureTokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyFuchuJapan
  4. 4.Faculty of Science and ForestryUniversity of Eastern FinlandJoensuuFinland
  5. 5.Institute of Global Innovation ResearchTokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyFuchuJapan
  6. 6.Tokyo University of Agriculture and TechnologyFuchuJapan

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