The University of Tokyo owns 32,000 hectares of land, which is nearly 1/1000th of Japan’s total land area. Most of this land is used by the Faculty of Agriculture as “training forests” for research and education.
It’s a big place, isn’t it? The Chiba Experiment Forest, established in 1894, is the oldest in Japan.
Dr. Keisuke Toyama, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences of the University of Tokyo and a forest instructor, is proud of the Chiba Experiment Forest. The forest is home to about 1,000 plant species, 20 mammal species, 100 bird species, insects, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, and a wide variety of other “living creatures.
Four researchers in a 2,200-hectare forest
Two and a half hours from Tokyo Station on the JR Sotobo Line. The University of Tokyo Chiba Experiment Forest is located on the Boso Peninsula in Chiba. Even if you were told that the forest covers an area of 2,200 hectares, it would be hard to imagine.
It is about 1/3 of the area inside the Yamanote Line. 1/3 of the inside of the Yamanote Line. It is about 1/3 the size of the inside of the Yamanote Line. There are seven University of Tokyo Experiment Forests in Japan, including those in Hokkaido and Chichibu, and the total area of these forests is about five times the size of the inside of the Yamanote Line. The University of Tokyo is about one third of the land area of Japan.0.1 The University of Tokyo has an area that occupies nearly 1% of Japan’s land area, but most of it is used as training forests,” says Dr. Toyama.
Dr. Touyama says, “Most of them are training forests. He wears a hand towel on his head, giving him the air of a “mountain worker. Far from the image of a researcher.
I like big trees. I am also interested in the people who manage the forests.
Dr. Toyama specializes in forest planning. He researches forestry techniques such as the cultivation of artificial forests and logging operations. He is indeed a great man of the University of Tokyo, occupying 0.1% of the country’s land. But what kind of research is being conducted in such a large forest?
The University of Tokyo’s forestry research center conducts a variety of forestry-related research. We conduct industrial education and research on artificial forests such as cedar and cypress, as well as ecological and environmental research on forest-dwelling creatures at the same time. In the Chiba Experiment Forest, there are about 20 researchers, including the forest manager, Professor Naoto Kamata, three of us faculty members, and about and three faculty members, plus about 20 staff members. There are about 20 staff members in the Chiba Experiment Forest.
Undiscovered species in natural forests
I hear that the Chiba Experiment Forest is home to a wide variety of creatures. Do you also conduct research on them?
Yes, we do. For example, we are conducting a distribution survey of living creatures in cooperation with the Chiba Prefectural Museum.
One of the faculty members, Assistant Professor Yoko Hisamoto, answered, “Yes. She is slender and does not look like she would be walking around in the forest wearing boots, but like Dr. Toyama, she has been working at the Chiba Experiment Forest for more than 10 years.
He has been working at the Chiba Experiment Forest for more than 10 years. “Forty percent of the forest in the Chiba Experiment Forest is planted forest, and the rest is natural forest. This natural forest is a treasure house of living things. Our research so far has revealed that there are more than 1,000 species of plants and more than 10 species of insects. species of plants and 2,700 species of insects. 2700 species have been identified, of which more than 280 species of insects, of which more than 280 species of insects were found for the first time in Chiba Prefecture. 2017 In 2017, a new species of insect called Kiyosumichibishiidea, named after Mt. Kiyosumi, where the Chiba Experiment Forest is located, was discovered, and it is believed that there may be more creatures yet to be discovered.”
Dr. Hisamoto gets excited talking about living creatures.
When we held an event for high school students to search for living creatures, some of them were so moved by the fact that there were so many living creatures that they started to cry. There are many mammals, such as deer and wild boars, as well as squirrels and rats. There are about 20 species. There are about 20 species.”
There is such an abundance of life here that even the high school students began to cry.
There are so many species that we can’t possibly know them all.
What is your specialty, Dr. Hisamoto, who is passionate about living things?
Molecular ecology of living things. I like the microscopic world, and my research aims to elucidate interesting phenomena of living organisms at the genetic level.
To find out how plants in cold regions are affected by global warming, he transplants Abies sachalinensis from Hokkaido and Birch birch from mountainous regions to the Chiba Experiment Forest, observes their growth, and studies them at the genetic level. Among his research themes is the “flowering cycle of bamboo.
It is said that bamboo trees bloom in cycles of tens to hundreds of years, and at the Chiba Experimental Forest, the flowering cycle of bamboo trees is estimated to be The Chiba Experiment Forest is also conducting a 300-year research project to determine the flowering cycle of the bamboo. “It is said that bamboo blooms in cycles of tens to hundreds of years. The ability to conduct such long-term observation tests is another attraction of the forest.
The study is very deep.
Pine trees grown in the training forests, which are resistant to pine dieback, are being sent to areas hit by the tsunami.
Dr. Toyama loves big things, and Dr. Hisamoto loves the microscopic world. Another faculty member, Dr. Dai Kusumoto, a lecturer…
There is a phenomenon called ‘natural disturbance. This is when trees in a forest fall down due to heavy rain or snow. When a road collapses near a house due to a typhoon, it becomes a disaster, but when this ‘disturbance’ occurs in a natural forest and a tree falls down, the forest becomes brighter and the next sapling grows up. When a disturbance occurs, the forest is metabolized. We are studying the mechanism of what kind of seeds sprout when a disturbance occurs. We are studying the big mechanism of nature. It’s interesting!
I see…Three years ago, there was a big typhoon on the Boso Peninsula, wasn’t there?
Yes. Especially a typhoon. Typhoon No. 15 Typhoon No. 15 in particular caused a lot of damage, including collapsed roads. But academically, there was no excitement. It may be that the impact on the human world was large, but not large enough to have a major effect on the natural world.
Nature is a tough bird, isn’t it?
Dr. Kusumoto specializes in “tree medicine. He studies tree diseases such as oak wilt, which kills oak trees, and pine wilt, which kills pine trees.
There is a reason why oak wilt is increasing. There is a reason for the increase in oak wilt: people no longer use the forests. In the past, satoyama was managed by humans who cut and planted trees to obtain fuel for firewood and charcoal. This is because oak trees were utilized as raw materials for firewood and charcoal. Most of the time, the trees were about the diameter of 10 cm in diameter, the trees were cut down. However, since the trees are no longer used as fuel, they are no longer cut down. Oak wilt is caused by insects digging holes in the wood and many insects enter the wood. The diameter is 30 cm in diameter or more. The trunks with a diameter of 30 cm or more are the most susceptible to insect infestation. In the past, this was not a problem because trees were cut down before they became that thick. Nowadays, there are many trees in Japan that are of a “thickness that is easy for insects to breed in.
There are oak trees in natural forests, not in satoyama, aren’t there?
Yes, there are. But a natural forest is made up of trees of various types and ages. Satoyama is not like that. Where there are many oak trees, insects move in one after another and kill them. The situation in which trees have grown significantly in satoyama is a recent phenomenon, so it has not been fully investigated how forests are metabolized there. It is our job to investigate this.
More serious than the oak withering is the pine withering.
If nothing is done, 80 to 90% of Japanese pine trees in the affected areas will die. The pine nematode is an invasive species. Its virulence is incredibly strong.
The Chiba Experiment Forest has been working to improve pine trees to make them more resistant to pine dieback. They have even sent 2,000 seedlings of this pine tree to Miyagi Prefecture, which was hit by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake. Research at the Chiba Experiment Forest is protecting Japan’s forests and trees in various ways.
Creating a prosperous society
While listening to what kind of research is being conducted at the training forest, we proceeded through the forest.
Chiba has mountains close to the sea. The Chiba Experiment Forest is also located at an elevation of 400m above sea level. but it is very steep.
As steep as it is, there are many places where the road is immediately flanked by cliffs, and there are almost no flat areas. Natural forests spread out in the valley-like areas, and artificial forests of cedar and cypress are planted on the mountain slopes. Mr. Toyama was able to climb up the steep slopes with ease in his boots. He is a master at what he does.
As a result of the artificial forestation that has been carried out since the establishment of the institute, the Chiba Experiment Forest now has 80 As a result, the Chiba Experiment Forest now has about 40% of trees that are 80 years old or older and About 10% of the trees are over 100 years old. trees that are more than 80 years old, and another 10% that are more than 100 years old. Look at this one.
He began to count the annual rings on the stump. They were indeed 100 years old.
The cedar trees here is about 50 about 50 It is rare to see a cedar this tall in Japan. It is rare to find a tree this tall in Japan.
Dr. Toyama looks somewhat proud as he introduces the tree to us. It takes nearly two hours just to drive around the forest while listening to his explanation. The people in the training forest remember every tree in such a large area.
Japanese cedar and cypress. As the price of imported timber has skyrocketed due to the weak yen, the demand for domestic timber has increased, and domestic timber now accounts for about 40% of the total. The demand for domestic lumber is expected to increase further in the future.
Lumber is essential for human beings, but in Japan, where the forestry industry is unprofitable, we must think about improving its profitability. We also have to consider practical issues such as how to plant trees at what interval after harvesting and what kind of care should be taken to ensure the growth of quality trees.
The ultimate goal of Dr. Toyama and his team is to contribute to the creation of “a society in which people and nature are in harmony with each other in a self-sustaining manner by devising forestry techniques. Beyond the study of trees and living creatures in this spacious training forest lies “an essentially rich life” for people.
Interview and text by Izumi Nakagawa： Izumi Nakagawa