In Japan, forests associated with shrines and temples are recognized as important components of urban green space, which can potentially function as centers for ecosystem conservation in rapidly urbanizing Japanese cities. In addition to their ecological value, shrine/temple forests have social value, providing recreational and aesthetic needs to residents of urban areas. We review the historical development of shrine/temple forests in Japan and discuss current conservation issues from both ecological and sociological perspectives. Generally, shrine forests are minimally managed and public access is discouraged, whereas temple forests are intensively managed for public display. Shrines tend to be spatially scattered across the landscape but associated with specific geographical features, whereas temples tend to be clustered. Their wide and random distribution in urban areas suggests that shrine forests can potentially be used as stepping stones in the urban green space network, whereas spatially clustered temple forests can be integrated to form large areas of green space. Species diversity of shrine/temple forests declines with decreasing area. The distribution pattern of species is not completely nested, indicating that although conservation of large forest fragments may be effective for maintaining landscape-level biodiversity, smaller forest fragments and adjacent precincts are sometimes significant because rare species occasionally inhabit them. Active management and ecological restoration, such as removal of invasive species, are also important to maintain the desirable near-natural forest conditions. A working group including the owner, community, regional government, and ecologists should be involved in creating an effective, long-term management plan. Because social and cultural values are diverse, basic ecological studies of shrine/temple forests would contribute a scientific basis that fosters public confidence in the process.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law