What is biocultural diversity?

What is biocultural diversity?

Biocultural diversity is the relation between the diversity of nature and culture in a complex socio-ecological adaptive system. The nature component refers to the flora and fauna in their natural habitat (biodiversity), and the culture component refers to the human lifestyle developments influenced by the surrounding ecosystems, including food, clothing, housing, language, religion and arts (cultural diversity).

Examples of this integration of nature with human intervention are rice paddies and waterways maintained by local communities. The cultural norm of rice paddy upkeep provides the locals with food resources and at the same time creates ideal conditions for various creatures in the local ecosystem to thrive.

In Japan, such examples of cultural lifestyle blending with nature are more commonly found in rural villages, however due to numerous factors this harmonious link between nature and culture is under threat.


To maintain and counteract the loss of biodiversity and cultural diversity, a number of measures have been established by the global community such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural heritage.

Why is Biocultural Diversity Important?

Humankind’s coexistence with nature helps provide natural resource sustainability and contributes to regional development. Without factoring in the environmental costs from production and consumption patterns that focus on economic gain, there is a great danger that there will be detrimental effects to human welfare.

Thus, it is necessary to promote biocultural diversity through regional developments that encompass local industries, planning, and environmental education, placing an importance on the link between nature and culture, and the balance between utilization and conservation.

Local Issues on Biocultural Diversity

The loss of biocultural diversity is evident even in areas where there has been a firm relationship between nature and traditional culture.

In rural areas in Japan, continuous depopulation makes it harder for local industries and heritages to be passed on to subsequent generations. Furthermore, changes in lifestyles have created problems in the maintenance of traditional way of life and local culture, which consequently have caused changes to the ecosystems. A combination of these factors result in a loss of biocultural resources inherited for generations with some facing extinction.

In order to reverse this negative cycle, a new regional development model needs to be created which will be commercially attractive and at the same time, enhances the conservation and effective use of natural and cultural local resources through human intervention.

Leaflet:What is biocaltural diversity?(PDF:531KB)