Satoyama is a traditional rural landscape in Japan, where secondary forests often play an essential role and traditional ecological knowledge has been important in sustaining this human-natural system. However, the definitions of satoyama are multiple and its typical forms have changed over time. This paper reviews the satoyama concept, with special reference to its evolving environmental and social significance, and its implications for sustainability of human-natural systems. The satoyama concept is characterized by multi-functionality, in which social and economic dimensions rather than ecological dimensions, dominate. Considering that the usage and management priorities of satoyama have been shaped by the evolving needs of the times, the contemporary needs of society should be accounted for in their continued management. Today satoyama have the potential to supply important ecosystem services, including the preservation of important cultural heritage, biodiversity conservation, and education. However, recognition and parameterization of potential trade-offs between these services is necessary and will require diverse site-specific strategies for sustaining satoyamas that foster new relevance, economic options and innovative management. As a socio-ecological construct, the quality and maintenance of satoyama systems will depend on the existence of adequate ecological knowledge to support the management decisions fitted to respond to current social needs. For many satoyama systems, such knowledge is inadequate. Ultimately, there is hope that the satoyama concept can be replicated elsewhere, so that land management can be tailored to the needs and capacities of the ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes