Projecting population distribution under depopulation conditions in Japan: scenario analysis for future socio-ecological systems

In Sustainability Science
Volume (Issue): 15
Peer-reviewed Article
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This study develops a projection model of future population distribution on the basis of Japan’s current depopulation trend and applies this model to scenario analyses that assume population compactification and dispersion. The model enables a description of population migration at two levels. First, municipal populations are projected using the cohort-component method, and second, the spatial distribution of populations within municipalities is projected at a 500 m grid resolution with the use of the gravity model. Based on the Japanese depopulation context and the country’s National Spatial Strategy, the compact scenario predicts the formation of medium-scale regional urban areas (population centers located across Japan) and the concentration of people on high-density population areas within municipalities. Meanwhile, the dispersed scenario predicts the formation of more but smaller regional urban areas and the dispersion of the population to low-density areas. The simulated population distribution for 2050 reveals spatial change in population density and age structure, as well as an abundance of areas that were inhabited in 2015 but will be zero population areas by 2050. Overlay analysis of future land use maps and the simulated population distribution maps can contribute toward identifying areas where natural capital such as farmland and forest plantation should be managed but where there will be significant population loss by 2050.