(TOPIC)CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY ~ Case studies from reforestation sites in Japan ~

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May 22 is the International Day for Biological Diversity stipulated by the United Nations. In line with this year’s theme “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity”, events such as seminars and conferences to popularize and raise awareness among the public are held throughout the world. OISCA’s afforestation projects have also led to the preservation of biodiversity in many cases. Here we introduce a case study of the “Coastal Forest Restoration Project” underway along the coast of Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture.

Conservation of Biodiversity in Coastal Forest Restoration

   The “Coastal Forest Restoration Project” (hereafter referred to as the “Project”), which is underway on the coast of Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is an effort to restore coastal forests washed away by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Some 370,000 black pines have been planted and are still being tended. 

   This is a disaster area where the government has decided to restore coastal forests by creating the largest growth base fill in history in order to restore the coastal forests that suffered the greatest damage in Japan’s forest history. OISCA has also launched a project to support this movement. The decision to plant black pine trees was made in line with the policy of the Sendai Forest Office of the Tohoku Forest Management Bureau, which is working to restore coastal forests in Sendai Bay, but at first, some people said, “We should plant trees other than black pine from the perspective of biodiversity. However, the policy set forth by the Forestry Agency’s “Study Group on the Restoration of Coastal Disaster Prevention Forests in the Wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake” also states that the planting of pine trees is the basic policy for the front line, and since this area was planted with black pine trees for about 400 years, OISCA has used this policy as a reference to this day, and has continued to carry out its activities in this area.

   The Study Group decided to create an embankment for the coastal forest so that it would have a stronger function in disaster prevention, and the Sendai Forest Office proceeded with the construction. In doing so, from the viewpoint of biodiversity conservation, we established two zones: a “biodiversity-conscious zone” in which the original coastal environment was preserved, and a “disaster prevention function priority zone” that was quickly restored with fill, each with its own biodiversity conservation goals. An “Environmental Impact Study” is also being conducted to evaluate the project.

Creatures living in the black pine forest

   In the project, the trees are planted in a single species, with only black pines, except for the broad-leaved trees (about 600 trees) planted in the area. Nevertheless, surveys conducted through 2019 have shown that the number of plants identified in the “disaster prevention function priority zone” as well as the “biodiversity consideration zone” is increasing every year.

Whereas 123 plant species were identified in 2013, 277 species were confirmed in 2015. The “Environmental Impact Study” report also states that the biota is likely to continue to change as the coastal forest grows. 

   The same results apply to animals. In particular, Birds are regularly surveyed by Mr. Takashi Miura, a local volunteer affiliated with the Wild Bird Society of Japan, and new bird species have been confirmed in 2023. 

   Mr. Miura said, “The results do not cover all birds that inhabit coastal forests, but only those that happen to be there at the time of the survey, and that the growth of black pine, conversely, reduces the grasslands. The impact of this change is a decrease in grassland birds (e.g., larks) and an increase in forest birds (e.g., titmice and other birds). We believe that this change is still underway, and we will continue to monitor it in the future.”

A home for diverse living creatures

   All photos shown here are of flora and fauna identified in the project. And for the volunteers sweating in the field, “I saw a fox!” ”There’s an egg in the bird’s nest!” It is also a moment when they realize that the coastal forest is growing into a lush forest inhabited by living creatures. However, it is not enough to have a large variety of plants and animals. For the project, kudzu, which affects the growth of black pine, and false acacia, which is listed as an invasive alien species, need to be eliminated as much as possible, and pine bark beetles, which carry pinewood nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus) that cause pine wilt, are also organisms that should be prevented from invading the area.

   In March of this year, the Forestry Agency released “Guidelines for Forestry Management to Enhance Forest Biodiversity”. The guidelines state that “forest management aimed at fulfilling the multifunctional role of forests also contributes to the conservation of biodiversity in forests.

   While the primary goal of the project is to nurture coastal forests that will provide a high level of disaster prevention functionality, we will continue to promote our activities with the recognition that our efforts will also contribute to the conservation of biodiversity.

*1,272 species of plants and animals identified in the project 

(Total number of plants, insects, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish and benthic animals identified during the 2013-2016 and 2019 surveys.)

*69 bird species identified in the project

(Birds identified during the 2013-2016 and 2019 surveys plus those identified in 2023