2. Our Forests
  3. The University of Tokyo Chichibu Forest (UTCF)

Our Forests

The University of Tokyo Chichibu Forest (UTCF)

1. History and Summary

The University of Tokyo Chichibu Forest (UTCF) is in the cool temperate region. It was established as a University Forest in 1916 by the purchase of a private forest of about 6,000ha in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture. The total area now stands at 5,812ha.

2. Location

The UTCF is composed of two sections, Ohchigawa and Tochimoto. The Ohchigawa Section is 22km to the west of Chichibu city and Tochimoto Section 40km. The forest area of the former is 932ha and that of the latter is 4,875ha. The elevation of UTCF ranges from 530m to 1,980m and it lies within the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National park.

3. Land Conditions

The University of Tokyo Chichibu Forest is located in the western side of Saitama Prefecture and is surrounded by the Chichibu Mountains which are in the 2,000m class, the most notable being Mt.Kobushi (2,465m). It forms the watershed of three rivers, the Arakawa, Fuefukigawa and Chikumagawa. The typical slope is very steep especially in the lower portions along the valleys. This is the result of deep erosion and the formation of a V-shaped valley by the Arakawa River. The underlying rocks in the major part of the forest consist mainly of slate, sandstone and shale from the Mesozoic era. The mean annual temperature is 11.0°C, and the annual precipitation amounts to 1,514mm. The snow fall is usually less than half a meter.

4. Forest Condition

At the establishment of UTCF, about 2,000ha were cutover land or coppice. These had been used mainly for making charcoal and fuel wood. The remaining 3,800ha or so were occupied by various types of natural forest, while man-made forest occupied only a small area. At present, about 13% (767ha) of the whole area is covered by various types of man-made forest, among which forests of Chamaecyparis obtusa, Larix kaempferi and Cryptomeria japonica occupy 39%, 27% and 22% of the total man-made area respectively. The rest of the man-made forest is made up of Chamaecyparis pisifera plantations and other species. The area of natural forest consists of deciduous hardwoods occupy 86% of the total area. It includes primeval forests and secondary forest which occupy 37% (1,848ha) and 63% (3,123 ha) of the total area. Because the forest covers a wide range of elevations, the tree species representative of each natural forest type vary greatly according to changes in climatic and topographic conditions. The forest has diverse tree flora consisting of 260 species and 64 varieties, belonging to 140 genera and 63 families. The montane vegetation zone occupies elevations ranging from 600m to 1,600m and is mainly composed of three different types of forest in accordance with topographic conditions. Among these Tsuga sieboldii mixed with Abies firma and Abies homolepis, occupies the habitats on ridges, Fagus crenata and Fagus japonica, occupies mesic habitats on middle slopes and Fraxinus spaethiana mixed with Pterocarya rhoifolia, occupies wet habitats on concave slopes or along valleys. Furthermore, excellent natural stands dominated by Chamaecyparis obtusa can be found on narrow ridges or rocky places where the habitat is drier than that where Tsuga sieboldii dominates. The forests at elevations above 1,600m are represented by sub-alpine conifers in which the lower elevations are mainly dominated by Tsuga diversiforia mixed with Thuja standishii, Larix kaempferi and Pinus pentaphylla while the higher elevations are occupied by Abies veitchii and Abies mariesii mixed with Picea jezoensis var.hondoensisi and Betula ermanii.

5. Education

Fast and easy accessibility to various types of natural forest stands, ranging from subalpine to cool temperate forests with diverse elevation and landform, is a great advantage of UTCF. Therefore, there are strong demands to use UTCF as an educational resource in the field of ecology. Artificial experimental forest stands and nursery are arranged for the basic curriculums of Forest Science Courses. UTCF provides advice for planning field courses, lectures, safety and extension services. In UTCF, many field training courses (Forest Botany, Forest Soil Science, Forest Engineering etc.) have been conducted in UTCF for students of the Forest Science Course, Faculty of Agriculture, the University of Tokyo (UT) as well as for those of the Ecosystem Study Course, other faculties of UT and other universities. In recent years, we have increased outdoor education courses for freshmen and sophomores in UT and field educational activities for younger students (first, secondary school).

6. Research

UTCF has three critical themes for research.

(1) Research and Education on cool temperate forest ecosystems.

Since UTCF is dominated by vast areas of natural forest in a good condition, three major themes relevant to cool temperate forest ecosystems are promoted.

A. Forest dynamics
Studies of forest community response to disturbance and mechanisms for creating forest community structure by means of analysis of long-term data accumulated for various types of forest stands has been undertakne. In 1994, the seven hectare permanent plot located in a natural broad-leaved forest stand was established on the south-facing slope of Mt. Hakutai, in which two Fagus species are predominant mixed with conifers (typical beech forest stand located in Pacific Ocean side of Japan with extremely dry winter). This research site was registered with various research networks, such as Japan LTER under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the Monitoring Site 1000 under the Ministry of Environment, and contributes to national projects monitoring global environmental change.

B. Biodiversity
Based on basic information on species diversity, which have been accumulated in UTCF, research in biodiversity maintenance mechanisms and ecological functions in forest ecosystems have been in process. One of major aims of this research is to clarify mechanisms prescribing species richness and community composition of three trophic levels (plants, herbivores, and predators). Forest management frameworks effective for biodiversity conservation through are hoped to be the outcome of this research.

C. Adaptive management of biological damage
Adaptive management of wildlife, especially overpopulated sika deer, has been studied with a view to maintain natural forest ecosystems by promoting natural regeneration of plants. Japanese oak wilt (JOW) that was caused by a pathogenic fungus carried by the ambrosia beetle has been prevalent and expanding its range in Japan. In anticipation of a JOW increase in the near future, research on this disease have been in process to establish a management strategy at a landscape level in cooperation with local communities.

(2) Research and education using 'information engineering'

Recently, internet accessibility has been improved even in remote areas. A so-called "Cyberforest Project" has established internet connections in some forest stands of UTCF to share information in the forest with people in remote locations. Automatic data acquisition system has been furnished to record climatic data and videos of tree phenology and sounds of creatures living in UTCF. These records have been digitized, archived, and been made available for educational programs and research. A part of these archives have been uploaded and are open to public via the internet. The system also enables simultaneous remote lectures via internet between UTCF and the class room.

(3) Research and education in relation to society in mountainous areas

Rapid depopulation has been in progress in Tochimoto village, a terminal village of Saitama Prefecture through Yamanashi Pref. Traditional life style as well as traditional technology of silviculture is disappearing. Because UTCF, located besides the village, has had a strong relationship with the society there, UTCF strives to maintain disappearing technologies and cultural traditions of the mountain villages, and promotes archival records in various ways.

7. Contribution to Society

Recently, public awareness of nature has been increasing. Even though UTCF is located in the metropolitan area within a 100km radius of Tokyo, abundant natural forest is found there and transportation to UTCF has also been improved. In this situation, since 1997, we have held public lectures about the structure of forest ecology and involvement of forest and forestry with people, as an enlightenment activity for the public. Since 2004, UTCF has opened some areas to hiking for the public for two days every spring and every fall, which is part of a public relations campaign. These activities get support from a volunteer organization called 'Shioji-no-Kai'. The 'Shioji-no-Kai' works on improving skills of members by group study and plays an important part in the contribution of UTCF to society in general.