We currently own around 14,000 hectares of forestland in Japan, mainly in Hokkaido, making us one of the largest owners of forestland in the country. We originally began acquiring forests for the purpose of supplying wooden supports for our own mines and coal mining activities. As we no longer operate domestic mines or engage in coal mining however, our forests now fulfill different roles and are subject to different expectations.
We are managing the forests for the purpose of harnessing their ecosystem services in a high level. Those services include not only the production of lumber as a renewable resource but also the provision of public recreational spaces, the prevention of global warming through CO2 fixation, and the conservation of biodiversity. Not all company-owned forests are the same as their location and environmental conditions vary by area, as do the functions they are hoped to fulfill. As such, we divide the forests we manage into four categories (zoning): water and ecosystem conservation zones, health and cultural usage zones, selective natural forest cutting zones, and timber resource recycling zones. We specify what functions need to be developed and what management methods apply for each zone type. While steadily conducting this kind of meticulous forest management, we will pursue beautiful forests that are rich in function, under the slogan: “Mitsubishi Materials’ forests will lead the way for forests throughout Japan.”
By way of outside recognition for sustainable forest management initiatives such as these, on 1st October 1, 2012, we obtained certification from the Sustainable Green Ecosystem Council (SGEC) at Hayakita Forest in Hokkaido. Since then, the SGEC has revised and introduced certification standards outlining transitional procedures for mutual certification with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), an international forest certification scheme. With that in mind, we simultaneously obtained forest certification under the SGEC’s new standards for a total of nine forests in Hokkaido on September 1, 2015, including Hayakita Forest.
|Water and ecosystem conservation zones||Improve conditions by thinning or other activities necessary to improve water and soil conservation or to protect biodiversity, especially in forests by water, while keeping them free from human intervention as the general rule|
|Health and cultural usage zones||Improve the condition of forests to enable local people and others to use them safely and comfortably for recreational or nature activities|
|Selective natural forest cutting zones||Repeat appropriate thinning and selective cutting to produce wooden materials, including broad-leaf tree materials, and to harness ecosystem services at a high level|
|Timber resource recycling zones||Use forest resources in a sustainable, recycling-oriented manner to produce wooden materials, including ones from needle-leaved trees, and to nurture them to develop into forests with tremendous vitality, especially for improving their ability to fix CO2.|
|31 locations nationwide|
|Total area||14,513 hectares|
|SGEC certified area||11,541 hectares *9 forests in Hokkaido|
|Natural forest||6,976 hectares|
|Manmade forest||7,467 hectares|
Distribution and scale of company-owned forests
Timber is an outstanding sustainable resource. We produce approximately 10,000 m³ of timber every year, mainly in timber resource recycling zones and selective natural forest cutting zones, and supply them to society as raw materials for a variety of products, from building materials to woody biomass fuels. We thus contribute to building a recycling-oriented society.
To enable a sustainable lumber supply, we appropriately maintain and regenerate forest resources by following the management policy formulated for each zone. In timber resource recycling zones where we manage artificial forests, we maintain the cycle of felling, planting, and growing trees, thereby ensuring a sustainable, stable supply of lumber from needle-leaved trees such as cedar and Japanese larch. In addition, in selective natural forest cutting zones, we keep forests vital and sound by promoting thinning and selective cutting (lumbering selected trees) within a range not exceeding their growth, as well as appropriate natural regeneration (sprouting young trees from seeds which fall to the ground naturally). Thus, we aim to achieve sustainable supply of timber from broad-leaf trees. In natural forests, a wider variety of tree species coexist than in artificial forests. Accordingly, a high level of knowledge and skill is necessary when managing natural forests. We therefore strive to improve our knowledge and skill through initiatives such as inviting a Swiss forester with a wealth of knowledge on the management of natural forests to teach.
In Japan, many natural forests were replaced with artificial forests in the post-war period. Therefore, the depletion of forest resources, particularly the depletion of broad-leaf trees growing in natural forests, has been a chronic problem. Accordingly, furniture manufacturers have been forced to rely on imported timber, which constitutes the majority of the raw materials they use, because many of their products are made of timber from broad-leaf trees. We are attempting to convert parts of artificial forests into natural ones in our efforts to restore broad-leaf tree resources. In addition, we are advancing a model project to introduce corporate cafeteria tables and office furniture made of timber from broad-leaf trees produced in our company-owned forests at the head office, to promote the cyclical use of timber from broad-leaf trees produced in Japan.
Supplying timber from forest thinning to society
Forest management training taught by a forester from Switzerland
Our Head Office was relocated in March 2019. We took this as an opportunity to introduce tables and other furniture made of timber from broad-leaf trees produced in our company-owned forests to the new Head Office and Sapporo Office, where the forest management division is located. We have thus chosen our own offices as the places to begin implementing the model of cyclical use of timber from our company-owned forests.
A big table at the corporate cafeteria of the new Head Office
Internal stairs as the symbol of the “office where we connect with each other”
Work desks at Sapporo Office
As well as being company’s assets, our company-owned forests are also an important element of the environment, in terms of shaping the local area. We contribute to local communities through appropriate forest management, which improves the quality of ecosystem services, including watershed protection, prevention of soil loss and recreation.
Company-owned forests located on the outskirts of urban areas meanwhile are positioned as “environmental forests,” parts of which are open to local people to enjoy the natural environment up close. Located in the Teine area of Sapporo, Teine Forest is blessed with a slice of rich forestland that also has excellent transport access from the city center. We open up part of the forest to the people of Sapporo as a public forest, for purposes such as nature walks and camping ground. We also provide access to fields for nature activities organized by a local NPO, as a practice slope for local elementary school children to improve their skiing, and for research by universities and other institutions. That is why it is important to maintain an environment that is suitable for each of these purposes, so that everyone in the local community is able to use our company-owned forests in a meaningful way. In addition, we are proactive in activities such as thinning trees to add light to the interior of our forests, removing dangerous trees, and creating and maintaining paths in the forests.
Instead of just offering our company-owned forests for use by local residents, we hold tree planting festivals, tree growing festivals, and other environmental events in our forests to teach people about the value and fun that forests provide, including their biodiversity. Through these and other activities, we proactively reach out to local residents. In addition, we worked on the recovery of a forest owned by Mori Town, Hokkaido, which was damaged by the typhoon in 2016. We also produced Christmas trees using trees from our company-owned forests and sent them to local nurseries in Atsuma Town, which were affected by the Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake in 2018. We continue to engage in activities like this.
We continue to contribute to local communities through these kinds of active initiatives and increase our efforts to make the forests of Mitsubishi Materials into valuable features of their local areas.
An environmental event making tree name plates in a company-owned forest
A Christmas tree sent to a nursery in Atsuma Town , which was affected by the Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake
One important ecosystem services of forests is CO2 fixation. As one of the largest owners of forestland in Japan, we dedicate ourselves to the steady promotion of necessary forest maintenance, and do our level best to enhance the CO2 fixation capabilities of the trees in our forests, so that we can do our bit to prevent global warming. The CO2 fixation capabilities of our forests is estimated* to be 54,000 tons per year (equivalent to the annual amount of CO2 emitted by approximately 26,000 people).
The ability of trees to fix CO2 peaks during the period when they are young or middle-aged. When they age beyond that point, their fixation capabilities start to decline. That is why we make every effort to regenerate our forests, by felling and planting new trees at the right time, or through natural regeneration, in order to maintain CO2 fixation capabilities over the long term.
We also strive to fix CO2 in forests by promoting the use of usable timber from forest thinning, which is a forest maintenance measure, instead of leaving this timber in forests. In addition, we have made it our primary objective to produce high-quality, large-diameter timber to be used over long time frames, as building materials or for furniture for instance. This is another of our initiatives for effective CO2 fixation.
* Method of calculation
Growth (m3) x material volume weight (t/m3) x carbon conversion efficiency x tree/trunk ratio x CO2 molecular weight / carbon molecular weight
Relationship between tree age and carbon absorption/emissions
Our company-owned forests are extremely important as a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife. We therefore take the utmost care to ensure that our various activities, including timber production, do not have a detrimental impact on living organisms.
Forest ridge and riverside areas are migration pathways for creatures. They are called green corridors because those forests are extremely important for expanding the habitat of wild animals and allowing their interactions. We therefore prohibit clearcutting these forests, in principle. We also refrain from clearcutting large areas of land even in artificial forests, where we proactively produce timber, because it may reduce biodiversity in those forests. Instead, we clearcut small, dispersed areas. In addition, we are planning not to clearcut artificial forests which are judged difficult to manage efficiently. We aim to nurture these forests into natural forests with richer biodiversity. We are also introducing trial forest maintenance methods in selected areas, aimed at conserving biodiversity. These include managing felling so that we leave underlayer trees after cutting down upper layer trees, rather than bare earth, and actively mixing coniferous and broad leaf trees in certain areas, in order to give the forest a more diverse structure. By developing various types of forests in this way, we are striving to increase the diversity of the overall forest environment, thereby contributing to conserving biodiversity.
We also proactively monitor wildlife. As well as recording wildlife sightings while on daily patrol around our forests, we have positioned a large number of wildlife survey sites in our forests, where we regularly inspect the animals and plants living there and confirm the positive or negative impact of our forest maintenance. In particular, when we do forest maintenance involving felling, we separately carry out monitoring surveys before and after, to confirm that wildlife has not been affected. If any rare species are found in an area in a monitoring survey before felling, we change the time or method to one that will not affect those species, or consider the postponement of the planned maintenance.
Rare species that have been confirmed to be living in the area (most endangered species included on red lists published by the Ministry of the Environment and Hokkaido Government) are included in our own red list of rare species living in Mitsubishi Materials company-owned forests. We issue warnings to all involved parties with access to the relevant forests to conserve biodiversity, such as by holding regular training sessions for them.
(Excerpt from a company forest management and administration plan)