Chapter 13: The economic value of ecosystem services from agricultural and rural landscapes in Japan
Since the early 1970s, Japanese policymakers and researchers have tried to identify and evaluate ecosystem services from farmland and forests in order to demonstrate the importance of the agricultural and forestry sectors. Japan experienced a post-war economic miracle from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s. This led to the rapid increase in the income levels of the industrial and service sectors, and purchasing power of Japanese consumers. In addition, large areas of farmlands were converted for commercial and residential purposes. Considerable drift of labour from rural to urban areas has occurred to meet the growing demands of the industrial sector. As shown in Figure 13.1, cultivated land area has decreased by 20 per cent during the past 40 years. Agricultural and rural landscapes provide a variety of ecosystem services. More than half of the cultivated land in Japan is comprised of paddy fields, which play a similar role to wetlands during the crop season. As the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands indicates, the benefits people obtain from wetland ecosystems are as follows: flood control, groundwater replenishment, shoreline stabilization and storm protection, sediment and nutrient retention and export, water purification, reservoirs of biodiversity, wetland products, cultural values, recreation and tourism, climate change mitigation and adaptation. These benefits of wetlands are attributable to artificially constructed wetland, i.e. irrigated rice fields. A lot of similarity can be found in the characteristics of ecosystem services both from wetlands and paddy fields.
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