Lead organization: University of Georgia, Department of Geography, Neotropical Montology Collaboratory

Participating organizations (IPSI members):
University of Santiago de Compostela

Participating organizations (non-IPSI members): International Geographical Union (IGU), Commission of Mountain Studies, Institute of Geography, National Autonomous University of Mexico; Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences; Mountain Research Center, University of Tsukuba; and Department of Geography, University of Istanbul

Activity Proposal


The Satoyama approach for mountain conservation has been developed successfully to instill the notion of socioecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS) in the sustainability of mountain communities not only in Japan, Spain and the USA, but also worldwide, following the Japanese concept of the mountain-village system.  The University of the United Nations (UNU) in Tokyo has implemented an International Program of the Satoyama Initiative (IPSI) to apply the typical Japanese approach of mountain villagers to protect their lifestyle and traditions. 

From our perspective, mountain systems are the intrinsic archetype to understand space and place with the predicament of the third dimension. The mountainscape is also the meta-geographical cognitive frontier of ancestral, historical and modern societies that have delved notions of national identity, regional specificities and global provision of ecosystem services, including food hubs, art nodes and the domestication of wild products, and other nature benefits to people for societal wellbeing. Prime examples of sacred mountains and ancestral practices are still observable in Japan, Spain, the United States of America and elsewhere.  As mountains are conceived as socio-ecological production landscapes, their dynamic and complex presses and pulses exert both permanent and ephemeral influences on the outcome of sustainability scenarios through different drivers. Therefore, adaptation and resilience to global environmental change is better understood with insights from the transdisciplinary science of Montology. As a crosscutting theme, we need to offer to the larger scientific community, with special emphasis to montologists the international forum to discuss new ways of looking at mountain studies in its different forms with distinct emphases under the umbrella notion of the Satoyama.

Activities (including site locations if applicable)

This successful model should be communicated to the general public and shared among mountain scholars and conservation practitioners that are represented in the Commission of Mountain Studies of the International Geographical Union (IGU) and in the Mountain Specialists of the World Commission of Protected Areas (WCPA) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). We are suggesting three core activities that could reinforce academic interest and scholarly production of the socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS) and bring to the fore of scientific communication in relation to sustainable and regenerative development: An international symposium on mountain studies; a distinguished annual lecture series on Montology, and a virtual platform of experiential exchange or conversatory on Satoyama Mountainscapes.

  1. The International Symposium on Mountain Studies: Satoyama Mountainscapes will take place in Istanbul, Turkey at the Istanbul University campus, in August 17-21, 2021at the 34th International Geography Conference.
    1. With the revamped Commission of Mountain Studies (CMS) recently created within IGU, there is a new thrust towards making mountain sustainable development and biocultural heritage preservation present in the policy agenda and the geographical priorities for education and research. The CMS Steering Committee decided to organize an International Symposium of Mountain Studies: Satoyama Mountainscapes to underscore the importance of a better understanding of these socioecological systems around the world and to establish the research horizon needed to cope with global issues, such as climate change, risk reduction and hazards management, lifescape transformation in the rural-urban conundrum, and responses of mountains for food security and sovereignty, poverty alleviation and generational equity futures, including educational attainment, environmentally-friendly employment and responsible markets. 
  2. In the second week of October every year, at the UNU campus, at the USC campus and at UGA campus.
    1. With the coordination of the Neotropical Montology Collaboratory of UGA, we would like to institute a distinguished annual lecture on Satoyama Mountainscapes to be held on a rotating basis in Tokyo, in Santiago de Compostela and in Atlanta, on to allow diversity inclusion of scientific disciplines of mountain studies and sharing of academic experiences and research methodologies.
  3. On a continuous basis, with “virtual coffees” every other month
    1. Open forum with organized videoconferences to discuss case-studies experiences and methodological innovations that could reinforce the Satoyama approach

Expected outcomes

-With the realization of the International Symposium we will increase international knowledge and understanding of SEPLS via presentations at the IGU’s 34th International Congress of Geography, and address the causation of decline or loss of biocultural diversity as well as ecological and socio-economic benefits from SEPLS

-With the distinguished annual lecture, we plan to enhance the human, institutional and sustainable financial capacities for the implementation of the Satoyama Initiative in the long term

-With the bimonthly “virtual coffee” we will gain understanding of the current state of research and methodological innovations needed to reaffirm the Satoyama approach not only from theoretical frameworks or elders’ knowledge, but also from practitioners’ input and young researchers’ findings.

-The editor-in-chief of the Journal of Mountain Science has agreed to include the selected papers presented at the International Symposium on Mountain Studies: Satoyama Mountainscapes as an special issue, and has committed her participation in Istanbul.  We are also considering approaching to Pirineos, the Journal of Mountain Ecology to request for the same special outcome as Special Issue.

–The Distinguished Annual Lecture will complement the selected annual lectures previously held at the University of Georgia by the Neotropical Montology Collaboratory. The requested funds will cover airfare and hotel/meals, and we expect the local universities to contribute with travel arrangements, local venue, publicity and dissemination materials.

–The Satoyama Mountainscape network will favor the integration of scholars working on the topics of SEPLS and will be joined by the members of the Commission of Mountain Studies as well as the recently formed Latin American and Caribbean Mountains Research Network, thus increasing the reach of the Satoyama Initiative to mountain scholars and researchers.

Actors and task sharing

The realization of the International Symposium of Mountain Studies: Satoyama Mountainscapes will bring the collaborative effort of the scientific units of several universities (i.e., UNU, USC, UGA, Tsukuba, UNAM, UTJ, and UIT) in the preparation, recruitment, execution and dissemination of results.  F. Sarmiento (UGA) will be the co-PI to coordinate the International Symposium via de IGU’s CMS and the programming of the Annual Distinguished Lecture.  E. Díaz (USC) will be the co-PI to coordinate the bimonthly “virtual coffee” networking activity.  The Neotropical Montology Collaboratory will serve as the contact point for the IPSI Secretariat.

How the activity relates to the IPSI Strategy and IPSI Plan of Action

This awareness-raising, networking and capacity building on the research front of mountain studies under the umbrella framework of Satoyama Mountainscapes fits very well into the IPSI Strategy, but adhering to at least 3 of the 4 most important strategic objectives, namely increasing the understanding of SEPLS, addressing the causality of biocultural diversity loss, and enhancing the existing capacities for the implementation of the Satoyama Initiative at large.   One of the sectors that have not adequately been represented in IPSI thus far, other than NGOs, local think-tanks, community groups or local government officials, is the scientists.  With this proposal, we plan to energize the scientific front of the Satoyama Initiative.

Monitoring and reporting

Monitoring of the project will be coordinated by the Commission of Mountain Studies of the International Geographic Union and the IPSI Secretariat as needed.

As requested by the guidelines, we will provide a Progress Report by December 31st 2020, and will provide a Final Report at the end of the project at the end of October 2021.