Landscape Design for Urban Biodiversity and Ecological Education in Japan: Approach from Process Planning and Multifunctional Landscape Planning

Keitaro Ito, Ingunn Fj0rtoft, Tohru Manabe, and Mahito Kamada

Abstract The design of open and seminatural spaces in urban areas for urban biodiversity and ecological education is an important issue. There has been rapid decrease in the amount of open or natural space, in especially in urban areas in Japan, because of the development of housing areas. Thus, preserving these areas as wildlife habitats and spaces where children can play is a very important issue nowadays. This project, to design a park in Kitakyushu-City in the south of Japan, started in 2008. The aim of this project is to create an area for children’s play and ecological education that can simultaneously form part of an ecological network in an urban area. The present projects have illustrated the importance of introducing natural environments into an urban park and thus enriching the learning environment for the children. Process planning and multifunctional landscape planning (MFLP) has been used for this project. Process planning would appear to be well suited for a long-term project such as a city park and school biotope. MFLP is thus considered suitable for the planning of a project such as a children’s playground, which takes a long time to become established. The project mutually will serve as an example for future planning and development of children’s

K. Ito (*)

Laboratory of Environmental Design, Department of Civil Engineering, Kyushu Institute of Technology, 1-1 Sensui, Tobata, Kitakyushu 804-8550, Japan e-mail: keitaro. ito. webmail@me. com

I. Fj0rtoft

Telemark University College, 3679 Notodden, Norway e-mail: Ingunn. Fjortoft@hit. no

T. Manabe

Kitakyushu Museum of Natural History and Human History,

2-4-1 Higashida yahatahigashi, Kitakyushu, Japan e-mail: manabe@kmnh. jp

M. Kamada

Tokushima University, 2-24 Niikura, Tokushima, Japan e-mail: kamada@ce. tokushima-u. ac. jp

N. Nakagoshi and J. A. Mabuhay (eds.), Designing Low Carbon Societies in Landscapes, Ecological Research Monographs, DOI 10.1007/978-4-431-54819-5_5, © Springer Japan 2014

environment in urban areas. Furthermore, the children learned about the existence of various ecosystems through playing there and their participation in 60 workshops related to the park for 3 years. They have also actively participated in the develop­ment of an accessible environment and have proposed their own ideas for the management of that place.

Keywords Accessible environment • Ecological education • Ecosystems • Natural space • Park design • Urban area

5.1 Introduction

There has been a rapid decrease in the amount of open or natural space, in especially in urban Japan, as a result of the development of housing areas. Preserv­ing these areas as wildlife habitats and spaces where children can play is a very important issue.

A generation ago, children had access to wild lands and used them for exploring, challenging, and exercising the skills needed to master a challenging landscape and unforeseen situations. Focus has been directed on learning effects from the natural environment and its impact on children’s development. For example, some Scan­dinavian studies have described and analyzed how natural environments affect learning qualities in children such as play behavior and motor skills (Fj0rtoft 2000a,b, 2001; Fj0rtoft and Sageie 2000; Grahn et al. 1997).

These days, children’s physical play environments and facilities for play are changing, and the opportunities for free play in stimulating environments seems to be declining. Early studies by Hart (1979), Moore (1986), Moore and Wong (1997), Rivkin (1990, 1995), Titman (1994), and others described the value of complex environments and wild lands for children and how children perceive and experience wild lands as places of their own domain. Physical activity is the number one recommendation for a healthy lifestyle throughout the lifespan, and giving children healthy habits in early years may give a positive payoff in adulthood (Baranowski et al. 1993; Frost Andersen et al. 2005; Fulton et al. 2001; Strong et al. 2005). It is generally accepted that diversity increases activity. The better equipped schoolyards and playgrounds offer a variety of play forms that challenge physical activity. Lindholm (1995) has documented how activities in schoolyards increased with the presence of green structures. Stratton (2000) reports that simple initiatives such as marking the schoolyard with colours have a positive effect on children’s physical activity and Zask et al. (2001) found potentials (such as marking hopscotch areas or ball game fields) for increasing physical activity in the schoolyard, partic­ularly for self-organized activities.

In urban areas in Japan in particular, there has been a rapid decrease in the amount of open or natural space in recent years, in particular in urban areas following the development of housing. Preserving these areas as wildlife habitats and spaces where children can play is currently a very important issue: “children’s play” is an important experience in learning about the structure of nature, and “environmental education” has been afforded much greater importance in primary and secondary school education in Japan since 2002. Forman (1995) discussed habitat fragmentation and how it occurs naturally as well as being a result of human activity. At this study site, habitat fragmentation has already been caused by the development of housing projects.

If we create a green space such as the park in an urban area, it will serve as a stepping stone for species dispersal (Forman 1995). And even if the site is not large, it can contribute to ecological education in the urban area. Fj0rtoft and Sageie (2000) have discussed the natural environment as a playground and learning arena as a way of rediscovering nature’s way of teaching or “learning from nature.” They also mentioned that landscape diversity was related to different structures in the topography and the vegetation, which were important for children’s spontaneous play and activities. It is thus becoming very important to preserve open spaces as biotopes for urban biodiversity these days (Muller et al. 2010; Ito et al. 2010).

On the other hand, public demand for the conservation of cultural landscapes in Japan has increased (e. g., Nakagoshi and Ohta 1992; Kamada and Nakagoshi 1996; Fukamachi et al. 2001). One of the multiple functions of cultural landscapes is their inherent cultural value. The perspectives of cultural properties and heritage have been recognized by the recently established ad hoc committee on cultural land­scapes (Nakagoshi 2010). Thus, it is very important to consider the methods of planning the landscape from the point of view of multifunctional use.

Previous studies have focused on children’s experience of a place, their partic­ular liking of an unstructured environment that has not yet been developed, and how they interpret a place and space (Hart 1979; Moor 1986; Fj0rtoft and Sageie 2000). Consequently, this project started by creating the place for children to play in help restore nature to a small part of Kitakyushu City in the south of Japan. The aim of this project is to create an area for children’s play and ecological education that can simultaneously form part of an ecological network in an urban area. Additionally, we discuss how to plan and manage the existing open spaces from a landscape planner’s point of view, focusing on the methods used to plan it, the planning process as a whole, and how the schoolchildren participated in this process.