A geopark involves not only a geological heritage but also geographical and ecological elements. Therefore, subjects related to geotourism are not only landforms and geology, but also ecosystems, including vegetation and animal communities, and human landscapes, such as terraced rice paddies and grasslands created by human activity. Because geotourism covers a broad range of elements, from geo- and ecosystems to human activities, it is expected that the further development of related activities will be supported and approved by an increasing number of people.
In this manuscript, I introduce some examples of geo-ecotourism as a special type of geotourism, including: vegetation at the summit area of Mount Hakusan, vegetation in a landslide scar on Mount Bandaisan, and the habitat of Dicentra peregrine
on Mount Yatsugatake. These were all very popular with the participants of excursions I conducted.
Geotours also promote regional development because they benefit residents economically by employing local workers and travel-related businesses, and encourage consumption of local services and products by visitors. A pressing issue concerning geotourism in Japan is the development of human resources such as tour guides. A geotour needs an excellent guide with a riveting interpretation. There are, however, few of such guides and there is a need to rapidly foster more. As a model for fostering guides, I introduce my “Intensive course on the natural history of mountains,” which interprets the natural history of mountains based on geo-ecology. In the long term, however, it is necessary to introduce natural history education into the school system and improve the quality of nature programs broadcast on TV.
Many participants of geotours are middle aged and older, and tend to be energetic and slow to age. This may be because the tour participants are required to do physical activity and to use their common sense. Based on this perspective, a geopark approach must gain in importance within social and lifelong education.