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 6,000 ha in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture. The total area now stands at 5,812 ha.

2. Location

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

3. Geography and climate

The University of Tokyo Chichibu Forest is located in the upstream area of the Arakawa river in the western side of Saitama Prefecture, and is surrounded by mountains over 2,000 m high which belong to the Oku-Chichibu Mountains, the most notable being Mt.Kobushi (2,475 m). The typical slope is very steep, especially in the lower parts of 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 11.2°C, and the annual precipitation amounts to 1,498 mm. The maximum snow depth is usually 20-30 cm.

4. Forest Condition

At the establishment of UTCF, about 2,000 ha were secondary forest or coppice for making charcoal and fuel wood. The remaining 3,800 ha or so were occupied by various types of natural primary forest, while planted forest occupied only a small area. At present, about 13% (767 ha) of the whole area is covered by various types of planted forest, among which forests of Chamaecyparis obtusa, Larix kaempferi and Cryptomeria japonica occupy 39%, 27% and 22% of the total planted area respectively. The rest of the planted forest is made up of Chamaecyparis pisifera plantations and other species. The area of natural forest, consisting of deciduous hardwoods, occupies 86% of the total area. It includes primary forests and secondary forests which occupy 37% (1,848 ha) and 63% (3,123 ha) of the natural forest area. Because the forest covers a wide range of elevations, from montane to sub-alpine vegetation zones, the forest has diverse tree flora consisting of 264 species, 8 subspecies and 35 varieties, belonging to 122 genera and 56 families. In particular, maples (Acer) are quite rich in number of species; there are 20 out of the 28 species present in Japan. The montane vegetation zone occupies elevations ranging from 600 m to 1,600 m and is mainly composed of three different types of forest in accordance with topographic conditions; Tsuga sieboldii mixed with Abies firma and Abies homolepis occupies the habitats on ridges; Fagus crenata and Fagus japonica occupy mesic habitats on middle slopes; Fraxinus spaethiana mixed with Pterocarya rhoifolia occupies wet habitats on concave slopes or along valleys. Furthermore, natural stands dominated by Chamaecyparis obtusa can be found on narrow ridges or rocky places where the habitat is drier than that where T.sieboldii dominates. The forests at elevations above 1,600 m are represented by sub-alpine conifers mainly dominated by Tsuga diversiforia and Abies veitchii, the latter occurs above 1,800 m, mixed with Picea jezoensis var. hondoensisi and Betula ermanii. Natural populations of Larix kaempferi and Pinus parviflora are also sparsely distributed.

5. Education

Fast and easy accessibility to various types of natural forest stands, ranging from sub-alpine 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 maintained for the basic curriculums of Forest Science Courses. UTCF provides advice for planning field courses, lectures, safety training programs, and transportation services. In UTCF, many field training courses have been conducted for students of the Forest Science Course, Faculty of Agriculture, the University of Tokyo (UTokyo) as well as for those of the Ecosystem Study Course, other faculties of UTokyo and other universities. We have also provided outdoor education programs for students at the Junior Division (the first two years in the under graduate school of UTokyo) by taking advantage of the location, such as the nature of Oku-Chichibu mountains and culture of mountain village.

6. Research

UTCF has three critical themes for research.

(1) Research 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
We have accumulated long-term data for various types of forest stands. By using the data, studies of forest dynamics in response to disturbances and mechanisms for development of forest structure have been undertaken. In 1994, a permanent plot of about 7 hectares 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 (a typical beech forest stand located on Pacific Ocean side of Japan with extremely dry winter). This research site was registered with various research networks, such as Japan LTER and the Monitoring Sites 1000, and contributes to projects monitoring global environmental changes.

B. Biodiversity
Based on basic information on species diversity, which has been accumulated in UTCF, research in biodiversity maintenance mechanisms and ecological functions in forest ecosystems has been in process. By taking advantage of the vast area of primary forest in UTCF, we have also studied for conservation of the genetic diversity of rare species and of habitats for higher-order predators, aiming to develop forest management strategies for biodiversity conservation.

C. Adaptive management of biological damage
Adaptive management of wildlife, especially overpopulated sika deer, has been studied with a view to maintain forest ecosystems by promoting regeneration of plants. We have conducted various types of researches such as monitoring of deer populations and vegetation survey in deer-exclosures to understand the ecosystem processes in forests with a high deer density. We also cooperate with the local community in the population management of deer.

(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

As rapid depopulation has been in progress in Tochimoto village, where UTCF is located, the traditional life style as well as traditional technology of silviculture are disappearing. Because UTCF has had a strong relationship with the society there, UTCF strives to maintain the 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 extension lectures about the forest ecosystem and forestry, as an outreach activity for the public. Guided tours for the public are also held to provide opportunities to feel the brilliance of nature of UTCF. These activities are supported by 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.