How We Cultivate Forests at Mitsui
Thinking about the relationship between forests and people to discover important lessons for how to cultivate our forests.
For Brighter Forests
Approximately 70% of Japan's land area is covered by forests, 40% of which
are Forests for Regeneration and Harvest, or forests created and tended by
human hands. When considering the benefits of forests in Japan, working out
how to maximize the benefits of Forests for Regeneration and Harvest is
Forests for Regeneration and Harvest need to be constantly tended by human hands. Forests for Regeneration and Harvest when not managed properly become dark and overgrown. When managed well, Forests for Regeneration and Harvest are bright and open to sunlight.
In such forests, which are bright because they are well-managed, underbrush grows, animals thrive, and new soil is created. The new soil means that water is purified and nutrients are carried to the sea. They also store water, thus preventing floods and other natural disasters. The economic benefit of this is that trees grow well and provide lumber.
When forests are not properly managed and therefore are dark, they not only fail to provide these benefits but end up actively contributing to regional environmental degradation.
Cultivating Different Types of Forests: Forest Management Zoning
Mitsui's forests are divided into Forests for Regeneration and Harvest
(approximately 40%) and Natural Forests and Naturally Regenerated
Forests (approximately 60%).
Forests for Regeneration and Harvest are forests that have been planted and cultivated by human hands, and follow a repeated cycle of planting, cultivating, harvesting, and utilization for the production and supply of lumber resources.
Natural Forest are forests that have been cultivated through natural action, while Naturally Regenerated Forests are forests that have grown back mainly through natural action following deforestation due for instance to a natural disaster or tree-harvesting. Forests in these categories are maintained in their natural state.
Areas within these forests which are particularly important from the viewpoint of biodiversity are designated as Biodiversity Conservation Forests (approximately 10% of all Mitsui's forests). Appropriate management is applied to each different category of forest.
Management zoning categories of Mitsui's Forests
|Forests for the production and supply of lumber resources through the repeated cycle of harvesting, planting, and cultivating.|
|Natural Restoration Forests||Forests to be restored as Naturally Regenerated Forests consisting of coniferous and broad-leaved trees.|
|Special Conservation Forests||Forests judged to have irreplaceable biodiversity value at the regional and national level and requiring stringent protection.|
|Environmental Conservation Forests||Forests confirmed to support a large number of rare creatures whose habitat requires protection.|
|Water and Soil Conservation Forests||Forests with plentiful water stocks that form a water resource, reduce the risk of natural disasters, or have other major socially beneficial functions that contribute to the safeguarding of the water supply and the preservation of ecosystems.|
|Cultural Conservation Forests||Forests requiring protection due to the particularly high value of their “cultural services”̶functions that nurture traditions and culture and form part of the “ecosystem services” that are dependent on biodiversity.|
|Naturally occurring forests||Forests to be cultivated for increased social value.|
Cultivating Forests for Social, Economic, and Environmental Benefits
Protecting and nurturing forests require the investment of large amounts
of time, financial resources, and human resources. Because of this, it
is important for the forest industry to create a structure which can
secure profitability. This can be seen as the key to deciding the future
of Japanese forests.
If Forests for Regeneration and Harvest can be made economically viable, the profits generated could also be used for the preservation of Natural Forests and Naturally Regenerated Forests and help to facilitate appropriate management.
Natural Forests and Naturally Regenerated Forests likewise cannot simply be left to look after themselves; human intervention is required to recreate the original conditions matching the distinctive character of the region. We believe that initiatives of this kind will increase the level of biodiversity of our forests as a whole.
To ensure appropriate management on a continuous basis, it is also important to build up a good relationship with local communities.
To cultivate healthy forests, it is important to maintain a balance between the interests of society, the economy, and the environment, and for these to form an ongoing virtuous circle. The way we cultivate forests at Mitsui is based on these insights.