Hokkaido University Research Profiles


Ecosystem Restoration of Disturbed Areas

Promoting eco-friendly restoration of ecosystems that have been disturbed by natural or human activities through facilitation.

Facilitation refers to a phenomenon whereby the establishment of a certain plant prompts the invasion and establishment of another species. In ecosystems that have suffered catastrophic damage due to a major disturbance such as a volcanic eruption, fire, tsunami or mining, the detection and introduction of such facilitators will help rapid and eco-friendly ecosystem restoration.

Content of research

Ecosystem restoration after large-scale disturbance is often an urgent task, but it has often been difficult to establish a target plant species in a disturbed environment. A facilitator is a plant species that prompts the establishment of other species once it has been established. If we can detect and establish a facilitator in the respective disturbed areas to prompt the invasion and establishment of the target species there, it will be possible to quickly restore ecosystems in a cost-effective manner with minimal human effort. Therefore, this is an ecofriendly technology for ecosystem restoration.
So far, we have found that the white beak-sedge (Rhynchospora) is functioning as a facilitator in the post-mined peatland of Sarobetsu Mire, and the Mineyanagi willow in Mt. Komagatake in Oshima, Hokkaido. Microtopography modification has also been found effective as a means of introducing facilitators.

  • Fig. Platanthera metabifolia, which has taken root in a patch of Mineyanagi willow on Mt. Komagatake in Oshima after its major eruption in 1920.
    The Mineyanagi willow promotes the colonization by many species and thereby enhances ecological diversity .

  • Fig. Relationship between coverage of M. sinensis, a facilitator, and the number/density of woody plants on a ski slope in Sapporo (plot size: 4 m2).
    The colonization of M. sinensis prompts an increase in the number of woody plants, so the creation of M. sinensis grasslands will lead to the growth of natural forests without afforestation efforts.

Potential for social implementation

  • ・Preservation and restoration of ecosystems in areas disturbed by volcanic eruptions, forest fires, peat mining, ski resort development, etc.
  • ・Can be applied to other areas that have been extensively disturbed by tsunamis and landslides.

Appealing points to industry and local governments

Ecosystem restoration is often aimed to return the ecosystem to its pre-disturbance state, but in reality, the goal is often not fully achieved because the environment has already been altered considerably. Facilitators can create an environment that prompts the invasion of subsequent species. This mechanism can be applied to ecosystem restoration, greening, disaster mitigation/prevention and erosion control in an eco-friendly manner.

2022/6/24Update ,2022/5/27Released