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The Potential Role of Tree Diversity in Reducing Shallow Landslide Risk

Abstract

Recently, interest in utilizing ecosystems for disaster risk reduction has increased, even though there remains considerable uncertainty regarding the role of ecosystems in buffering against natural hazards. This ecosystem role can be considered an ecosystem service. Although a strong body of evidence shows that biodiversity enhances ecosystem services, there are only a few studies of the relationship between biodiversity and the role of the ecosystem in reducing the risk of natural disasters. To explore the desired state of an ecosystem for disaster risk reduction we applied the finding that biodiversity enhances ecosystem services to evaluate the role of woody vegetation in reducing the frequency and severity of shallow landslides. Using information related to shallow landslides and woody vegetation in Japan as a case study, we compared the severity of shallow landslides (i.e., landslide volume) with tree species richness. Although we provide no direct evidence that tree species richness reduces shallow landslide volume, we found that the predictability of the model, which evaluated relationships between landslide volume and environmental variables in watersheds throughout the Japanese Archipelago, increased with tree species richness. This finding suggests that biodiversity is likely associated with shallow landslide risk reduction, emphasizing a possible reduction of spatial and temporal uncertainty in the roles of woody vegetation. Our study identifies a need for socioecological systems to build new approaches found on the functionality of such ecosystems.

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Acknowledgements

This study was primarily supported by The Toyota Foundation, Japan (D14-R-0993). The authers also aknowledge the Environmental Research and Technology Development Fund (S-14) for discussing the issue of biodiversity and Eco-DRR.

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Correspondence to Yuta Kobayashi.

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Kobayashi, Y., Mori, A.S. The Potential Role of Tree Diversity in Reducing Shallow Landslide Risk. Environmental Management 59, 807–815 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-017-0820-9

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Keywords

  • Eco-DRR
  • Biodiversity
  • Landslide
  • Ecosystem services