The shrinking of the world's tropical forests has had a major impact on the global environment, including the effect on the conservation of natural ecosystems and the reduction in the absorption of CO2 which contributes to global warming. In addition, loss of tropical forests is also blamed for causing abnormal weather conditions. MC, in understanding the important role played by tropical forests, has been contributing to the regeneration of tropical forests since 1990. The company promotes initiatives to achieve rapid regeneration through afforestation methods which are accomplished by the dense planting of native as well as mixed plants. MC has made a long-term commitment to tropical forest regeneration, and strives to attain this goal through collaboration between industry, research institutions and government agencies.
Tropical Forest Regeneration Project
Tropical deforestation is one of the most serious environmental issues that humanity faces today. Tropical forests are treasure houses of living species, and the loss of these forests has a huge impact on biological diversity. Because these forests are also important as sinks for carbon dioxide, their loss could promote global warming, weather disturbances, and even weather-related natural disasters. Once destroyed, it is believed that old-growth forests require 300 to 500 years to return to their original condition.
In this context, Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) launched Tropical Forest Regeneration Project in Malaysia in 1990. It is based on the idea of re-creating native forests with native trees, on the concept of potential latent natural vegetation.
The Malaysian project is based on research by Dr. Akira Miyawaki, professor at Yokohama National University when the project began and presently director of the Japanese Center for International Studies in Ecology. Its aim is to demonstrate the feasibility of restoring degraded forest land to conditions that closely resemble a natural forested ecosystem within 40 to 50 years, by intensive mixed planting of native tree species. The project began with backing provided by MC for collaborative research by the Agricultural University of Malaysia and the Yokohama National University. The project site is being conducted on land remaining after being cleared, burnt, and used for agriculture near Bintulu in Sarawak, Malaysia.
Three hundred thousand seedlings were planted on about 50 hectares. Now, after just over ten years, some of the tallest trees have reached heights of more than 20 meters, and the site is taking on the appearance of a luxuriant forest. In addition, ecotours from Japan bring participants, who work with local people to continue the work of tree planting.
In 1992, we started Tropical Forest Regeneration Project in Brazil near Belem at the mouth of the Amazon, in the state of Para, Brazil. This is a collaborative project with the Para Agricultural University and other organizations. With help from local students from primary, middle, and trade schools, more than 400,000 trees of about 100 species have been planted to date.
The challenge here was to plant trees on severely degraded land that had become devoid of vegetation, due to runoff carrying away soil nutrients during the rainy season and severe aridity during the dry season. The project involved covering the ground with mounds made from waste wood and soil, and then planting a mix of fast growing tree species to promote afforestation under these harsh conditions.
Now, ten years after the project began, some of the pioneer trees are over 20 meters tall and growing at a surprising speed. As the above-ground vegetation grows, we are expecting that the ecosystem, including biological communities in the soil, will return to a state close to that of the original natural forest.
MC provides support for these projects, from planning to management and funding. It is our hope that, in the future, we can contribute to tropical forest restoration projects around the world, in close cooperation with industry, research institutions, and governmental agencies.
Another forest-related initiative is the "Greenbelt Project" around Shanghai, China. Its aim is to restore and conserve greenery by creating a 100-meter- wide belt of trees along 97 kilometers of an outer ring road around the city, where the environment has been damaged due to economic development. MC has taken on the task of tree planting in one area along the route.
From 2011 to 2015, in commemoration of the International Year of Forests, MC partnered with NGO OISCA to conduct a Tropical Forest Regeneration Project in Mt. Gede Pangrango National Park on the island of Java, Indonesia. This project, built upon the successful results of our other Tropical Forest Regeneration Experimental Projects in Malaysia, Brazil and Kenya.