Restoration of living environment based on vegetation ecology: theory and practice, Miyawaki 2004

Compendium Volume 3 Number 1 July 2019

Natural environments have been devastated and destroyed worldwide by recent rapid development, urbanization and industrialization. It is no exaggeration to say that the basis of human life is now threatened (Miyawaki 1982a,b).

We ecologists have been giving warnings against the devastation of nature through study results, and have produced some good effects. Besides criticism, however, we should contribute to the wholesome development of human society by active concern for nature restoration and reconstruction (Miyawaki 1975, 1981) [Miyawaki 2004: 83].

As suggested in these introductory words, Akira Miyawaki is a Japanese ecologist who has dedicated decades of his life to the study and implementation of forest restoration. He emphasizes the importance of restoring barren or degraded land more quickly than the time it takes for natural forest succession to occur, which can be 150-300 years, depending on the regional climate. By contrast, the methods he recommends can yield results within 15-20 years in terms of establishing forests mature enough to protect communities against natural disasters, such as earthquakes and storms. The principles of what has become known as the “Miyawaki Method” are based on mimicking natural forest growth patterns and thus feature: high biodiversity, preference for native species, relatively high planting densities, and healthy soil.

Communities undertaking such restoration efforts must first survey the landscape to determine the “potential vegetation” for the area based on what remains of native tree communities. Next, seeds must be gathered for some 30-50 species of native trees, and then propagated in greenhouses. After a year or two, once the seedlings have strong, well-developed roots, they can be planted. Miyawaki refers to planting events as “festivals” because the community dynamic is important for increasing public understanding of the relevance of ecological restoration and igniting a collective willingness to protect the plantings well into the future.

Miyawaki concludes with these words:

These forests of complex multilayer communities have disaster-mitigation and environmental protection functions in each region. In the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which hit the Kobe district, western Japan in January 1995, there was no damage to trees in Japanese traditional temple forests, the potential natural vegetation, however, huge structures made of non-living materials collapsed, including elevated railways, highways and tall buildings (Miyawaki 1998). On a global scale, natural forests help to avoid global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide. Restoration and regeneration of ecologically diverse forests is inevitable for citizens in every region to survive in the next century, and the next millennium [Miyawaki 2004: 89].

Miyawaki, Akira, 2004, Restoration of living environment based on vegetation ecology: theory and practice, Ecological Research 19:1,  

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