Biogeochemistry and Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Practices in Japan

  • Hideaki ShibataEmail author
Part of the Ecology and Ethics book series (ECET, volume 2)


Analysis of biogeochemical dynamics between biotic and abiotic processes through Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) is essential for understanding relations between humans and nature. Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and practices also relate to nutrient and material flows across human and ecological systems. Here, I present current developments in biogeochemical research programs with special attention to recent findings in Japan on human-ecological interactions. I also provide examples of Japanese TEK and practices, and discuss their current problems and future directions. Japanese LTER encompasses a number of ecosystems: 20 core and 36 associate-sites, and uses multiple monitoring and experimental techniques to assess long-term and large-scale dynamics of ecosystem structures, functioning, and biodiversity. In comparison, the scope of TEK in assessing socio-ecological interactions is still limited. However, two examples are introduced in this chapter. The traditional Japanese agricultural landscape, or Satoyama, is representative of the application of traditional ecological knowledge and practices for both food production and providing a critical habitat for diverse wildlife through the sustainable use of natural resources and nutrients. The practices of the Ainu, who are indigenous to northern Japan, also exemplify an environmental ethics and belief system that respects nature and can be a guiding reference to develop a sustainable future. Evolving more interdisciplinary approaches and recognizing regional and local differences in traditions and cultures will be key challenges for our stewardship of sustainable environments, locally, regionally, and globally.


Biogeochemical processes Coupled human and environmental systems Nitrogen cycling Satoyama 



I gratefully acknowledge financial support obtained from the Environmental Research and Technology Development Fund (S-9-3) of the Ministry of the Environment, Japan. I thank technical staff of Wakayama Experimental Forest, Hokkaido University for providing the photo in Fig. 4.2. This chapter contributes to the synthesis of the Global Land Project (IGBP/IHDP) and the Nitrogen Initiative of International Long-Term Ecological Research Network (ILTER).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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