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Conservationists aim to save dying forests by chopping down trees: 'These are just the first steps'

Already, the conservation society is seeing success.

Already, the conservation society is seeing success.

Photo Credit: iStock

Japanese conservationists are chopping down trees in order to save the forest, Inside Climate News reported.

In Japan, 44% of forest lands are plantations, well above the global average of 3.5%.

The country began converting deciduous forests to monoculture conifer plantations in the 1960s to supply cheap lumber. Today, these trees are rarely harvested, and densely packed plantations cause many environmental concerns, as the trees shut out sunlight and limit biodiversity.

The Nature Conservation Society of Japan (NCSJ) is trying to reverse this trend by felling patches of monoculture plantations in order to "rewild" the land, which will one day regenerate into mixed-use forest. 

Rewilding these forests can benefit humans in many ways. For one, Japan's tree plantations are often located on steep slopes and quickly lose fertile topsoil, thereby increasing the risk of landslides and flash flooding. 

This habitat regeneration will benefit a number of species as well, including endangered Japanese golden eagles, which will be able to utilize cleared meadow landscapes to swoop down and capture prey.

Already, NCSJ is seeing success in this regard, as sightings of the raptors in the area have increased since the project started. Forest experts also say that the loss of deciduous forest has affected animals like bears and other mammals, which can one day benefit from a restored landscape.

Rewilding is a conservation tactic that is gaining popularity worldwide. 

Norway recently completed its biggest rewilding project ever, which is supporting polar bears, Arctic foxes, and other imperiled wildlife. Meanwhile, farm owners in the U.K. are embarking on the largest grassland rewilding project in southern England.

You can apply the concept of rewilding to your own backyard by implementing native plants. This is not only good for pollinators and other wildlife, but it can also help save cash and important natural resources like water.

Back in Japan, Seiichi Dejima, who is with NCSJ, says it will take about a century to restore the human-made forest to its natural state. 

"It's a bit of a far-off dream," Dejima said, per the Public Relations Office of Japan. "These are just the first steps, and it is a project with many uncertainties."

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