‘Totoro’s forests’ threatened by oak wilt disease
11:10 JST, August 23, 2022
A contagious disease known as oak wilt is spreading in oak forests on the Sayama Hills that straddle Saitama Prefecture and Tokyo.
The forests have been dubbed “Totoro no Mori,” or Totoro’s forests, after the popular animated film “My Neighbor Totoro” by a foundation working for their preservation.
Oak wilt is caused by a fungus carried by the oak ambrosia beetle. A tree infected with the disease becomes unable to absorb water, and its leaves wilt and turn red or yellow, resembling autumn leaves out of season. Eventually, the tree dies.
The disease used to be seen in the Tohoku region on the Sea of Japan side. In recent years, however, it has spread across the country’s Honshu main island, causing serious damage.
According to the Totoro no Furusato Foundation in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, which bought the forests in order to conserve them, 61 oak trees were infected with the disease in Totoro’s forests in 2020.
That number rose to 263 trees in 2021, of which 64 died. The number of infected trees is increasing further this year.
Damage is spreading particularly among aged trees. Today there are more old trees in forests that contain various types of trees — in the past, trees aged 15 years or older were cut for firewood and charcoal. This is believed to be one of the reasons for the spread of oak wilt.
The highly poisonous mushroom kaentake, or poison fire coral, also tends to grow in forests where oak wilt has occurred. The foundation is taking various measures against the disease, such as setting traps for the beetles and felling dead trees.
"SCIENCE & NATURE" POPULAR ARTICLE
Japan Plans to Subtract ‘Blue Carbon’ from CO2 Emissions; Seaweed Said to Lock Up Carbon for Longer than Land Plants
Europe’s Euclid Space Telescope Releases First Images
G7 to Share Information on Invasive Alien Species; Members Agree to Create Database, Strengthen Research
Joby Shows Off Electric Air Taxis in New York
Astronaut Takuya Onishi Set for Long-Term ISS Mission Around 2025; Fellow Astronaut Yui’s Mission Pushed Back
JN ACCESS RANKING
- Japan’s Economy Contracts as Demand Wanes
- Japan Sees 2.52 Mil. Visitors in October, Exceeding Pre-COVID Levels
- Sardines and Mackerels Blanket Beach in Hokkaido; Local Fishermen ‘Never Seen This Many’
- Haneda Airport to Showcase Japan’s Master Craftsmanship to World with Luxury Store
- Tsunami observed in Japanese coast after the earthquake near Philippines (UPDATE2)