Preservation of the value of rice paddy fields: Investigating how to prevent farmers from abandoning the fields by means of evolutionary game theory

Joung Hun Lee, Ryo Yamaguchi, Hiroyuki Yokomizo, Mayuko Nakamaru

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The evolution of group cooperation is still an evolutionary puzzle and has been studied from the perspective of not only evolutionary ecology but also social sciences. Some socio-ecological problems are caused by collapse of group cooperation. By applying theoretical studies about the evolution of cooperation, we can elucidate what causes the problems and find solutions. One of the appropriate examples is maintaining rice paddy field landscapes, which are a grand spectacle in Asia, and some are UNESCO world heritage sites. These magnificent landscapes and the associated biodiversity are at risk of abandonment for social and financial reasons. Rice paddy fields can be preserved not only by regular cultivation, which requires farmers to invest effort in cultivation, but also by the maintenance of common facilities such as irrigation canals. To investigate how this landscape might be preserved, we developed an agent-based model in which each farmer makes two types of efforts: an effort for land cultivation and an effort for collective action such as common facility maintenance. Additionally, we consider the side effects of rice production such as field deterioration from abandonment and water use competition. These factors determine the utility of each player who imitates the level of efforts necessary to invest in land cultivation and common facility maintenance of one with higher utility. This decision-making of each player can be described by the evolutionary game theory. We find that maintenance effort promotes cultivation effort, but not vice versa, even though we usually consider that each farmer's cultivation effort makes rice field landscape sustainable. We also find that if players and their near neighbors are responsible for maintaining their common facilities together, they continue to maintain them and cultivate, but if all players are responsible for maintaining all facilities in the whole farmland, players are likely to quit facility maintenance and stop cultivation. Competition for water use among all players, however, promotes cultivation more than competition among neighbors only. Therefore, rice paddy field landscapes can be sustainable if neighbors, but not the whole players, are responsible for maintaining their common facilities and cooperate together, and if the water usage of all players, but not neighbors, influences the productivity of each rice field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110247
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 21 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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