The University of Tokyo Hokkaido Forest (UTHF)

1. History and Summary

The University of Tokyo Hokkaido Forest (UTHF) was established in 1899 when 23,597 ha of national forests were transferred from the Ministry of Home Affairs. After additional forest transfer and acquisition, the conversion of cultivated land, and land sales, the forest area in April 2019 stood at 22,717 ha. A business-scale experiment of the stand-based forest management system ('Rinbun Segyo-ho' in Japanese) has been continuously conducted for over 50 years, having started in 1958. The 13th plan for education and research (2011 - 2020) states as its main objective 'Sustainable and adaptive management of forest ecosystems in the Pan-mixed forest zone'. Diverse educational and research activities have been involved under the auspices of this plan.

2. Location and Facilities

The University of Tokyo Hokkaido Forest is located in Furano city, the center of Hokkaido Island (43º10´-21´ N, 142º 23´-41´ E). It is situated on the southwest of the Tokachidake mountain range and on the upper area of the Sorachi river within the Ishikari river system. The head office, laboratories, lodging, arboretum and nursery are located in the Yamabe area. There are seminar houses and a forest museum in the Rokugo area.

3. Geography and Climate

There are two main river basins (Nunobe and Nishitappu) in the UTHF, both of which join the broad Sorachi river. Elevation ranges from the lowest point of the Nunobe area (190m) to the highest point of Mt. Dairoku (1,459 m). During the Quaternary Period, eruptions of the Daisetsu mountain system covered the area from the north-east (Mt. Dairoku) to its center. The geology is further characterized by limestone and metamorphic rocks (e.g., hornfels) that belong to the Hidaka mountains at the southern boundary, and sedimentary rocks (e.g., chert, sandstone, mudstone and pillow lava) that belong to the Yubari mountains at the western boundary. Major stratified soils include brown forest soil, dark brown forest soil, black soil and podzol.

The mean temperature at the arboretum (230 m) during the period 2001-2010 was 6.4 ºC. The maximum and minimum temperatures were 35.1 ºC and minus 26.8 ºC, respectively, and the mean annual range was 55.2 ºC. The mean annual precipitation was 1,297 mm, and the maximum snow depth averaged 83 cm. The period of snow cover usually starts at the end of November and lasts until the beginning of April.

4. Forest Conditions

The University of Tokyo Hokkaido Forest is located in the Pan-mixed forest zone, which is a transitional area from deciduous forests in the cool-temperate zone to coniferous forests in the sub-boreal zone. The typical vegetation types are: deciduous swamp forests with Fraxinus mandshurica, Ulmus davidiana var. japonica, Alnus hirsuta, and Salix spp. on the lower elevations (below 300 m), coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forest dominated by Abies sachalinensis on middle elevations (300 - 600 m), sparse forests mixed with Picea jezoensis, Picea glehnii, and Betula ermanii on upper elevations (800 - 1,200 m), and alpine vegetation (e.g. Pinus pumila) on the upper forest limit (above 1,200 m). A total of 894 vascular plant species, 806 angiosperms, 8 gymnosperms and 80 ferns, have been identified within the UTHF. Other predominant tree species include Tilia japonica, Acer mono, Betula maximowicziana, Quercus crispula, and Kalopanax pictus.

5. Education

The University of Tokyo Hokkaido Forest is used for undergraduate studies with the Faculty of Agriculture and graduate studies of the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the University of Tokyo. It is also used in higher education with other universities, in general and secondary education with the College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo, and for field study programs with high schools.

6. Research

To achieve the objective in the 13th plan of 'Sustainable and adaptive management of forest ecosystems in the Pan-mixed forest zone', various activities are involved from the three research areas of Forest Ecology, Forest Management, and Forest Ecosystem Conservation.

The Forest Ecology research area aims to understand the structure and dynamics of forest ecosystems in the Pan-mixed forest zone. The research topics include: large-scale and long-term monitoring of forest ecosystems, reproductive ecology and regeneration regimes of major tree species, microbial, insect, and wildlife ecology, interactions between organisms, responses of forest ecosystems to natural and artificial disturbance such as strong typhoons and forest management operations, ecological genetics and genetic conservation of major tree species and the acquisition of basic information on forest ecosystems.

The Forest Management research area aims to verify and exemplify theories and methods of sustainable and adaptive forest management in the Pan-mixed forest zone in East Asia, with reference to the latest scientific knowledge on structure and functions of forest ecosystems. The research topics include: scientific and technical reinforcement of the stand-based forest management system, regeneration and nurture techniques to rehabilitate natural forests, production techniques of high-quality and large-sized hardwood, treatments for promoting regeneration in secondary forests after fire, plantation forest management to meet the needs of private landowners, nursery operations for Picea jezonensis seedlings, safe and efficient techniques of forest operations and road maintenance, and value-added strategies and marketing of forest products.

The Forest Ecosystem Conservation research area aims to show methods for conserving forest ecosystem while utilizing them. The research topics include: evaluating multiple functions of the coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forest ecosystem, habitat protection for rare plants and animals, management of alien species, afforestation of abandoned mines, management of regional forest landscape, and evaluation of carbon fixation by coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forest.

7. Social Cooperation

The University of Tokyo Hokkaido Forest is actively involvled in local exchange and social education programs. An open seminar and Mt. Dairoku hiking event are offered every year. The forest museum, arboretum and nature observatory trails are open to public. UTHF offers a range of forest and nature experiences and disseminates forest and nature information. It also helps training courses for forest engineers organized by public organizations.