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Forest and Rural Communities: Examples and Hypotheses on Sustainability and Resilience

In this comprehensive conference on the sustainability and resilience of rural communities, the author would like to emphasize the importance of forest and forest resources. This will report on the lessons from the history of forest utilization in Japan and several case studies conducted by our group in Southeast Asian countries. Then, it will propose the landscape requirements for long-term sustainability. The current dense cover of Japanese forest was achieved by intensive reforestation efforts after 1950's. Serious forest degradation and associated crises occurred several times in Japan's history. The intensification of forest protection solved the most famous crisis in the mid-18th century. There was a rise in the number of plantation activities in forestry and the local commons system for forest resources. Finally, the rural areas of Japan are covered by "Satoyama" landscapes, where various croplands and forests make patch mosaics. Japanese forests were also seriously exploited for energy and wood until 1950. After the shift of energy sources to fossil fuels, dense forest cover was achieved in Japan. Current trend in promoting wood biomass energy may become the next challenge for the sustainable use of the forest in Japan. Land use or a landscape designed to maximize its productivity frequently loses the capability to adapt to changing conditions. Land-use diversity like satoyama possibly correlates to the functional diversity of the ecosystems and can secure the capability of rural communities. This kind of landscape is very common in Asian countries and applies to enhancing the sustainability of rural communities.


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