Sado's satoyama in harmony with Japanese crested ibis
Traversed by two mountain ranges with a broad plain in the middle, the Sado Island located off the shore of Niigata Prefecture is characterized by a variety of landforms and altitudes, which have been ingeniously harnessed to create the satoyama landscape, a dynamic mosaic of various socio-ecological systems comprising secondary woodlands, plantations, grasslands, paddy fields, wetlands, irrigation ponds and canals. These exist in close proximity and interdependence with the marine-coastal ecosystems of satoumi landscapes, comprised of seashore, rocky shore, tidal flats and seaweed/eelgrass beds1 . With their ecosystem complexity, the satoyama and the satoumi landscapes in Sado Island harbor a variety of agricultural biodiversity, such as rice, beans, vegetables, potatoes, soba, fruit, grown in paddy fields and other fields, livestock, wild plants and mushrooms in forests, and many seafood in the coastal areas. Rice, beef and persimmon from the Sado are among the best in Japan. The satoyama in Sado was also the last habitat of the wild Japanese crested ibis, a culturally valued bird in Japan that feeds on paddy fields and roost on the tall trees. The history of rice cultivation and other agricultural practices in Sado can be traced back to the Yayoi period, 1700 years ago. Over the centuries, a diversified landscape has been produced and maintained by the communities inhabiting the island, that have developed locally adapted practices for resource use and management. For example, ingenious water management practices with over 1000 irrigation ponds to cope with a scarcity of water resources coupled with rapid drainage of rainwater into the sea, while creating a rich local culture of rice farming, such as Kuruma Rice Planting listed as national important intangible cultural heritage. Pressures on food production during the gold rush of the Edo period (1603-1868) led to the development of rice terraces on hill slopes, which contribute to the landscape‟s aesthetic appeal as well as to the feeding ground of Japanese crested ibis. After a period of systematic promotion of conventional agriculture in Sado similar to the rest of Japan, the island is witnessing a revival of traditional practices, catalyzed by its efforts to reintroduce the crested ibis to the wild. Traditional ecological knowledge associated with satoyama is being combined with applications of modern technology and governmental policy to restore the mosaic of ecosystems on which the ibis depends for its survival while promoting environmentally-sound agricultural practices. Communities on the island are collaborating with researchers and governments in exploring further measures towards a more sustainable agriculture.