National Action Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Socio-ecological Production Landscapes (Satochi-satoyama)



  • Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan


  • 20/02/2012

  • REGION :

  • Eastern Asia


  • Japan


  • In the Jomon Era, the Japanese Archipelago was covered with virgin forests and wetlands, where people’s lives were integrated with hunting and fishing. With the introduction of agricultural civilization, they converted the wetlands into paddies and built ditches and irrigation ponds. Harvested for firewood, charcoal and fertilizer, the dark primeval forests were transformed into open, light-filled woodlands. Grasslands and fields were created through grazing and grass harvesting. Over 3,000 years of such human-nature relationships, Satochi-satoyama areas have been formed and maintained, where people have enjoyed the blessings of nature in a sustainable manner, with cyclic use of natural resources around the villages. However the natural environments of Satochi-satoyama are currently going through a crisis. Owing to changes in socio-economic conditions, Satochi-satoyama areas have been used less and less in farming, forestry and other daily activities, which has caused an increase in abandoned farmlands and forests due to insufficient care. Thickets and bamboo forest have expanded, and ditches and irrigation ponds have been increasingly devastated. As a result, numerous plants and animals inhabiting Satochi-satoyama environments are now disappearing. Thus, it has been a crucial issue to conserve Satochi-satoyama for the conservation of biodiversity in Japan. Therefore, we formulated the National Action Plan for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Socio-ecological Production Landscapes (Satochi-satoyama) as the practical action plan for the policies and measures of regional approaches prescribed in the National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan 2010. The purpose of this plan is to initiate a nationwide movement by presenting the key principles and direction of the national policies and measures for the conservation and sustainable use of Satochi-satoyama, to various stakeholders such as farmers and foresters, local communities, private organizations, enterprises, governments and experts.


  • Satochi-satoyama, Action plan, vision, national measures

  • LINK:

  • Satochi Satoyama Leaflet (Japanese)
    Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

1. Background

(1)   Definition and characteristics of Satochi-satoyama

Satochi-satoyama refers to an area consisting of farmlands, irrigation ponds, secondary forest, plantation forest, and grasslands around human settlements. It is located between more natural, deep mountainous areas and urban areas with intensive human activities. The environments of Satochi-satoyama have been formed through various human interventions over a long history. People in Satochi-satoyama areas have practiced both land use in a dynamic mosaic-like pattern and cyclic resource use, developing ecosystems and biota therein unique to the secondary environments as well as creating a rich culture of life in which people live in harmony with the environment while enjoying various ecosystem services.

(2)   Current status of Satochi-satoyama

The total Satochi-satoyama area accounts for about 40% of the national land. However, along with modernization of lifestyles and agriculture since the 1950’s, some secondary forests have not been managed or utilized, and have been left abandoned. Secondary grasslands have substantially decreased. Since around the 1970’s cultivated lands have also been increasingly abandoned. With these changes in human intervention in Satochi-satoyama, various problems are emerging around the country such as, degraded quality of plant and animal habitats; conflicts between humans and wild animals; illegal dumping; and reduced functions in conserving traditional landscapes and national land.

(3)   Importance of Satochi-satoyama

Satochi-satoyama areas have been formed as a result of repeated human activities with agriculture, forestry and other practices in a sustainable and stable manner, which were aligned with local natural conditions by using locally developed knowledge and technologies. Satochi-satoyama originally served as places of agricultural and forestry production and community livelihood. Today, in addition to these roles, Satochi-satoyama fulfill various implications and functions, such as biodiversity conservation; sustenance of biomass resources and conservation of indigenous landscapes representing images of hometowns and traditional living culture; provision of opportunities for environmental education and experiences; and prevention of global warming.

2. Objectives of the National Action Plan and its relation to other policies and measures

The objectives of the National Action Plan for Conservation and Sustainable use of Satochi-satoyama are: to present the importance of Satochi-satoyama areas, the vision, direction, principles and procedures of their conservation and sustainable use to a variety of stakeholders, such as national and regional governments, enterprises, NPOs, and agricultural and forestry sectors; and to specify the national measures for Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use, in order to stimulate public understanding of the significance of Satochi-satoyama and to expand efforts by various entities to develop a nationwide movement.

Though conservation and sustainable use of Satochi-satoyama should be implemented through agriculture, forestry and local daily life activities, the Plan precludes measures with the purpose of stimulating primary industries and revitalizing rural lifestyles. Instead, the Plan focuses on the conservation of biodiversity and better relationships between humans and the natural world.

The Plan is based upon recognition of the second crisis determined in the National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan 2010 and on the matters regarding Satochi-satoyama and countryside areas stated in the Grand Design of the National Land. We positioned the Plan as an implementation plan to put forth concrete actions concerning Satochi-satoyama as called for in the National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan 2010.

When regional governments carry out planning and implementation of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use, the Plan will play a role as a guideline to stimulate and assist these efforts. We also expect the Plan to be translated into a regional biodiversity strategy that is formulated by individual regional governments in accordance with characteristics of their localities.

Figure: Objectives of the National Action Plan and its relations with related policies and measures

3. Vision of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

Satochi-satoyama areas are important in conserving the biodiversity of Japan. They also serve as a basis for citizens’ livelihood and spiritual culture, providing food, water and natural disaster prevention, and preserving living conditions, landscapes and cultures. At the same time, they are important as a place for learning, experiencing and continuing Japanese lifestyles that have been harmonized with the natural environments.

For the stable sustenance of Satochi-satoyama ecosystems, which offer such varied functions, we will promote management compatible with environmental capacity and resilience, and cyclic use of natural resources. Such efforts should be pursued based on scientific knowledge while learning from traditional wisdom.

Moreover, we strive for Satochi-satoyama, with its multi-dimensional values, to be sustained through participation and cooperation of citizens in all positions as a common natural resource that they share (i.e., new “commons”), to be handed down to future generations.

4. Direction of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

“The Grand Design of the National Land from the perspective of biodiversity”, stated in the National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan 2010, illustrates images of the national land to be pursued for the next 100 years in each land category, including natural mountain areas, urban areas, and coastal areas.

In accordance with the long-term goals of the National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan 2010, we hereby set the following three basic directions for the next 10 years that are to be pursued by all measures and implementation activities conducted by various bodies. The period targeted by the Plan is about 10 years, from now until 2020.

(1)   Promotion of nationwide movement

While a wide range of the public increasingly understands the values of Satochi-satoyama, we strive for farmers, foresters and local communities as well as various people in different positions to voluntarily participate and cooperate in efforts of Satochi -satoyama conservation and sustainable use, viewing Satochi-satoyama as their common resources. Namely, a large number of people, including urban residents, receive natural benefits from Satochi-satoyama, and at the same time, part of the management costs is supported by public and private funding and volunteer work. Through these collaborative efforts, relationships among the people of the region will be enriched, sustaining efforts towards Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use.

(2)   National-level biodiversity conservation through the conservation and sustainable use of locally typical Satochi-satoyama

Considering the large extent of Satochi-satoyama in the national land area (approx. 40%), implementation of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use should be focused on some areas selected at a regional scale (e.g., prefecture). We aim to ensure that Satochi-satoyama targeted for conservation activities represent socio-ecological features of each region of the country. Regional scale conservation and sustainable use will be undertaken with consideration of a larger-scale ecosystem network, to realize the conservation of Satochi-satoyama biodiversity at the entire country level.

Considering the multi-dimensional values of Satochi-satoyama, aspects and criteria for selecting representative Satochi-satoyama areas of a given region should be determined by the regional governments (e.g., prefecture government). Examples of representative Satochi-satoyama might be areas with particularly rich biodiversity, active engagement with agriculture and forestry in harmony with wild creatures, or of traditional living culture and landscapes symbolizing the image of hometowns. Satochi-satoyama particularly important for biodiversity may be areas with high concentrations of endangered species that depend on Satochi-satoyama environments, or areas providing major habitats for nationally listed or endemic species.

(3)   Enhancement of various ecosystem services and revitalization of regional societies

Through diversified utilization of land and resources, we will ensure that a mixture of various types of ecosystems is sustained in Satochi-satoyama in a given region. We then aim for the fulfillment of multi-dimensional benefits of Satochi-satoyama (i.e., ecosystem services), such as provision of water, food, fuel and other various resources needed for living (supplying service); habitat provision for wildlife, soil erosion control, headwater conservation and carbon assimilation (regulatory service); provision of social, cultural, religious and spiritual basis (cultural service); and others.

Through these actions, we strive to contribute to revitalizing the livelihood and economy of the regional society.

5. Principles of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

(1)   Role assignment among implementing bodies

Satochi-satoyama have been created and maintained by local communities including farmers, foresters and village people. They are, therefore, an artifact of the natural and social conditions, history and culture of each locality. Therefore, the fundamentals of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use are voluntary efforts by local communities.

However, Satochi-satoyama management solely by local sectors has been difficult while benefits of the natural resources extend over a wider area of the locality because of the diverse values and functions of Satochi-satoyama.

The conservation and sustainable use of Satochi-satoyama therefore requires support from a broader range of the public or from the entire country. For this purpose, the national government itself needs to conduct initiatives in collaboration with related ministries and agencies, which stimulate regional efforts and then develop these into a nationwide movement.

A role needs to be played by the national and regional governments, enterprises, farmers and foresters, local communities, citizens or NPOs, experts and researchers.

(2)   Promotion of collaboration and cooperation among participating entities

While it is becoming difficult to manage Satochi-satoyama solely with traditional workforces, such as local farmers, foresters and village communities, this is required for ensuring sustainable labor and financial resources in order to continue the maintenance and management of Satochi-satoyama. Therefore, it becomes important to promote activities with collaboration and cooperation among diverse entities, from urban residents, NPOs, enterprises, universities, and other new partners, to administrative bodies.

To this end, it is required to develop a platform at the local scale of Satochi-satoyama area for stakeholders to work together on establishing councils, form agreements, and so on. While making the best use of existing systems and frameworks, rules and coordinating organizations will be developed as the basis for collaborative activities, in accordance with socio-ecological characteristics of the locality. When considering the efforts of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use as larger-scale collaborative work beyond the locality, it is also important to gain support from enterprises and each Japanese citizen.

Thus, we will promote development and take advantage of the use of organizations, funding and other frameworks to gain volunteers and financial support from a wide range of enterprises and the Japanese citizens.

(3)   Actions in accordance with regional characteristics

Because Satochi-satoyama areas vary in its socio-ecological conditions for different regions, it is necessary to pay attention to determining a strategy of conservation and sustainable use depending upon the conditions of a given region.

For conservation and sustainable use near urban areas, it is effective to promote collaboration with entities outside of the Satochi-satoyama community. New partners can be found outside of the community, such as NPOs, enterprises and schools, who wish to engage in volunteer work and environmental learning and experience.

In semi-mountainous regions, local farmers and foresters are the main implementing bodies. The stability of their conservation activities may be assured by focusing on local business activities using ecotourism and local products, and on other activities that are linked to the development of the region.

In coastal regions, Satochi-satoyama areas and the ocean are proximate. Considering the regional continuity and integrity of the two areas, cooperation between the two communities on conservation and sustainable use will be effective.

For these types of Satochi-satoyama activities, the national government will implement conservation and sustainable use of typical Satochi-satoyama areas that are selected for each of the ecologically and socially distinctive regions. Building on leading efforts at the scale of a selected area, the conservation practice and sustainable use of Satochi-satoyama will be promoted throughout the region.

Satochi-satoyama areas in semi-mountainous regions contain forests near mountainous areas. In addition, because of declining populations and aging, human resources in the communities are becoming limited. Therefore, while some woodland areas should be managed partly as secondary or artificial forests, others will be properly managed depending on local socio-ecological conditions. For other woodland areas located close to mountainous areas that are normally transformed into natural forest without human care, the basic approach will be to leave them for natural succession. In these cases, vegetation restoration may be carried out where necessary.

(4) Reflection of biodiversity perspectives on Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

Activities of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use may be implemented by diverse entities and for various purposes, reflecting the multi-dimensional values of Satochi-satoyama. These activities should also be effective in terms of conservation of biodiversity. For this purpose, it is important to create an inventory of basic ecological information, including distribution of wildlife species that depend on the habitats of Satochi-satoyama. Drawing on such basic information, the conservation and sustainable use efforts should be prioritized according to areas of high importance for the conservation of biodiversity. It is also vital to apply adaptive management, in which we can flexibly revise actions and expected outcomes in light of new data obtained from continuous monitoring. To ensure understanding of the biological information, setting proper goals, and implementing management that translates the ecological responses, we will promote participation by experts who have knowledge in the field of biodiversity.

6. Procedure for Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

This section, in accordance with sections 4 and 5, describes the procedure of Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use, addressing cross-sectional tasks that are common to all measures and efforts implemented with various purposes by diverse entities, from national and regional governments, private organizations and enterprises, to universities.

(1)   Establishing a basis for nationwide activities

(2)   Introducing economic instruments for Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

(3)   Preserving traditional technologies for sustainable resource use and developing new technologies to promote cyclic use

(4)   Understanding the current status of Satochi-satoyama and promoting monitoring

(5)   Characterizing Satochi-satoyama and implementing its conservation and sustainable use based on these characteristics

(6)   Preparing a regional-level basis for implementing Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

7.      National measures for Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use

Sections 3 to 6 described the vision, direction and basic principles for Satochi-satoyama conservation and sustainable use carried out with coordination and collaboration of various bodies, such as the national and local governments, enterprises, agriculture and forestry operators, citizens and private organizations. Based on the vision, direction, principles and upper level strategies and plans, the following categorized measures should be carried out by the national government in an integrated, comprehensive manner.

(1)   Raising interest and awareness of citizens in Satochi-satoyama

(2)   Developing a scientific basis for understanding and evaluating biodiversity

(3)   Preserving wildlife species, protected areas and other designated areas

(4)   Conservation and sustainable use through sustaining and stimulating agricultural and forestry activities and rural villages

(5)   Revitalizing landscape, tradition and culture through conservation and community exchange

(6)   Re-evaluating traditional technologies and sustainable use of Satochi-satoyama as new resources

(7)   Utilizing Satochi-satoyama as places for environmental experience and education

(8)   Promoting and assisting locally-based efforts through the engagement and cooperation of diverse groups