Environmental Management

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 155–170 | Cite as

Analysis of the Governance Structures in Japan’s Biosphere Reserves: Perspectives from Bottom–Up and Multilevel Characteristics



This paper analyzes the governance structures of Biosphere Reserves (BRs) in Japan by focusing on six criteria that elucidate the main characteristics therein: general information (nomination process, year of designation, size, and population), legal frameworks, stakeholder identification, and decision-making processes (number of municipalities and role of consociation), administrative institutions (human resources, budgetary situation, and expense distribution), executed BR implementation activities, and participatory/collaborative frameworks. This research consists of a literature review, a questionnaire administered to the secretariats of seven existing BRs and follow-up interviews. Three main characteristics of BRs were identified. First, a responsible local government(s) is nominated to manage the BR rather than the central government. Consequently, BR implementation in Japan is led by those municipalities that have strong motivations for regional development using the BR concept. Second, two types of BR governance structures exist in Japan: the single municipality type and the multi-municipality type. All BRs have so called Kyougikai, a consociation for decision-making, consultation and/or collaboration among stakeholders. In the single municipality structure, the consociation includes diverse actors from private and community sectors, while in the multi-municipality structure, consociations are based in more diplomatic settings and only include members of the public sector. Third, gaps between pre/post-Seville BR implementation sites were identified. The motivations for the formation of pre-Seville BRs, which were designated in 1980 in a top–down fashion prior to an awareness of BRs, varied greatly from those BRs nominated by municipalities after 2010. The authors identified fewer administrative resources and activities associated with the pre-Seville sites.


UNESCO MAB Program Implementation of international environmental agreements Transaction cost Local government Regional development 



The authors would like to express their gratitude to the respondents of the questionnaire and the follow-up interviews. In particular, the authors would like to thank Prof Matsuda, the chair of the Japanese Coordinating Committee for MAB and a member of the MAB National Committee, for his valuable advice and support of this research. This paper is supported by KAKENHI Grant Number 15K16159, The Mitsui & Co., Ltd. Environment Fund, and a grant from the ILEK Project of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, University of TokyoKashiwaJapan
  2. 2.Graduate School of Environment and Information Sciences, Yokohama National UniversityYokohamaJapan

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