Department of Environmental Science

A close up look at

the Department of Environmental Science

Investigating biodiversity by looking at the connections between living organisms in the local environment

Shunpei Kitamura, Associate ProfessorShunpei Kitamura, Associate Professor

Tropical rainforests are one of the most biodiverse land-based ecosystems. However currently, due to human activities such as deforestation and hunting, the various living things that have lived in the rain forests are in danger of extinction. In contrast, in Japan’s traditional agricultural system areas of satochi and satoyama, there are large numbers of endangered living things as a result of decreased human involvement in nature. This poses questions such as ‘How have ecosystems changed and how have human activities affected ecosystems?’ and ‘Fundamentally speaking, what will happen if those living things become extinct?’

As one approach to obtaining answers to these questions, the Laboratory of Plant Ecology works on research mainly focused on the connections between plants and animals in forest ecosystems. Once established, trees, which cannot move themselves, have only a couple of chances to spread with the pollen and seed seasons. Trees are essential to forest ecosystems, and their system of pollination and seed dispersal, which has important connections with insects, birds and mammals, is a good research starting point. For example, the pollen of most crops is carried by insects and birds. In addition, the fruit originally evolved to attract the birds and wild animals that would carry their seeds.

By scientifically analyzing data obtained from field research in various natural environments in Ishikawa Prefecture (the Ishikawa Prefectural University campus, Ishikawa Prefectural Forestry Experiment Station, Mt. Hakusan’s beech forest) and tropical forests in Southeast Asia (Thailand), we believe we may be able to answer the above questions by comparing the results with domestic and overseas knowledge. This is your chance to train your eyes to observe nature, and discover fascinating hidden phenomena. It is your chance to unravel the mysteries and think about biodiversity – so why not join us?

Scientifically studying the community so that the agricultural village society and natural environment can continue to thrive

Ryohei Yamashita, LecturerRyohei Yamashita, Lecturer

Protecting the natural environment at the same time as benefitting from it in order to live is the way that human society works. Looking at agricultural village societies, the lifestyle in recent years has not all been devoted to agriculture as it used to be, but these societies have been maintained through mutual cooperation (and on occasion conflicting perspectives) between the diverse range of people of different generations and positions living there. Neither the human society nor the environment can be sustained without the other.

If local residents and city residents consumed things from the natural environment as they pleased, and a sustainable society and environment was maintained even if the active management of it was neglected, there would be no problem. However, unfortunately this kind of situation would create unsolvable problems of serious depopulation and environmental destruction. If we take a look at our local agricultural village areas, a great number of issues arise, such as depopulation, an increase in derelict farmland, the internationalization of agricultural product markets, a shortage of leaders for satoyama and satoumi agricultural areas, as well as biodiversity conservation. In order to solve these problems and protect the beautiful and plentiful agricultural villages, local ‘planning’ and ‘rules (mechanisms)’ become very important.

At the laboratory where I am based, the Laboratory of Regional Planning, we focus on human activities and the environment/agriculture, as well as the relationship between cities and agricultural villages. From that we can identify issues in the local community so that we can conduct investigative research to elicit evidence-based plans and solutions. We do not rely solely on obtaining basic textbook knowledge, but accurately investigate the issues (and their causes) faced by local communities. We take care to provide a bridge between theory and real life by enabling students to confirm their way of thinking by going on-site.

Why not work with us to think of a future form for rural societies and natural environments, as well as solve problems and promote local revitalization to protect the beautiful agricultural villages?