Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Shinshu and the Research Project on Integrated Management of Forests, Rivers and the Sea

Shinshu and the research project on integrated management of forests, rivers and the sea

I spent ‘Golden Week’, a period of consecutive Japanese public holidays in May, at my country house in Shinshu, an inland district in the mountainous middle of Japan, the furthest point in the country from the ocean. On the first day it was chilly, so by night I was building a fire in the fire place. Getting up the next morning, I found the cherry trees were in full bloom, though hastening to shed their petals, while the larch trees were just beginning to show buds and a deep and vivid green. It seems the seasons are following one upon another more rapidly this year.

Still, the countryside was filled with new green foliage and adorned by colorful flowers. Having enjoyed the serenity, I planted seeds of vegetables (potato, cucumber, aubergine, etc.) in my garden, where butterflies, bees, ants, and other insects were busy taking advantage of the warm days of late spring.

Gazing at the sky and mountains of Shinshu, my thoughts began to turn to our research project, the "Integrated Management of the Sky, Forests, Rivers, and Sea." After a few years of holding provisional working group discussions, the project, under the name of the 'Forest, River and Sea project'(FRS project) finally got under way from this fiscal year.

The 'Forest, River and Sea project' is a three year long research project based on the concept that those three natural components are closely linked, as their ecosystems are connected through the flow of water from watersheds to the sea and also through the flow of organic substances in the water and connections among habitats. Although many of these linkages and the mechanisms of their flows are not yet fully understood, we believe that the best management scheme for these natural components, and eventually the marine/coastal environment, should take into account their undeniable linkages and be treated in a holistic manner. However, the administrative authorities dealing with the management of these natural components remain separated in Japan, and only some NGOs and local communities are applying the integrated approach, albeit on a small scale. Our project is thus to develop this approach by investigating the linkages scientifically and searching for concrete management schemes, including the development of stakeholder networks. Eventually, we are hoping to come up with policy suggestions. To start, we are now looking for a few model cases from among those community/NGO projects.

In addition to this project, OPRF is also carrying out ‘Integrated Coastal Management’ and ‘Health Assessment of the Marine Environment’ projects, and will be organically linking them as they develop.

As I was leaving Shinshu, the view of the late spring snow at the top of the Japanese Alps reminded me again of the natural cycle created through the continuous flow of water between the sky, the inland forests, and the sea.

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