Mistaking the Mori for the Ki

As promised, here’s a more or less exact transcription of my notes from my discussion (read as: barrage of questions) with Tanaka-san and also just general observation. In other words, mistaking the forest for the trees:

  1. Were animal species also brought to Meiji Shrine just as the trees were, or did these communities colonize and develop on their own?
    • Mostly native species; predominantly insects, birds, and arachnids.
    • Microorganisms at the foot of trees, but few mammals
    • Species surveyed every 50 years
  2. What kinds of microhabitats and microecosystems make up the larger forest ecosystem?
    • Forest
    • Open fields
    • Streams
    • Ponds
  3. Is the Meiji Shrine Forest community/ecosystem relatively isolated or does emigration and immigration occur? Are there any edge effects, considering the forest is something of an “island” in the middle of urban Tokyo?
    • Only mammals (and presumably birds) really travel in and out of the forest
    • Tannuki (raccoons) and masked palm civet can survive in urban setting
    • Genetic isolation? Genetic diversity?
  4. How did the firebombings of Tokyo during WWII impact the forest? Did it burn down at all?
    • Forest did not burn down at all, due to the high humidity and water content (whereas Meiji Shrine burned)
  5. What kind of trophic structure and complexity does the forest support? Are there many organisms occupying niches of the same trophic level or do you get upper trophic levels?
    • Falcons and snakes seem to occupy the upper trophic levels and consume pigeons, field mice, and wild ducks
    • Falcons considered an umbrella species
    • No large carnivorous mammals (raccoons, for instance, omnivorous)
    • Visited falcon nest (おおたかのす; ootaka no su)
  6. Given that the forest is relatively isolated and there is little migration between the forest and either urban or other ecosystems, do you think there could be evolution or speciation? Even on a local scale?
    • To Tanaka-san’s knowledge, there hasn’t been any speciation (note to self: probably because 100 years is quite short in evolutionary time), but he thinks that my intuition on that matter would be correct (i.e. relatively isolation and low external gene flow could lead to diversification and/or speciation with substantial time)
    • Perhaps localized genetic diversity/differentiation compared to nearby or similar Japan forest ecosystems?

Some general notes:

  • Gyoen Garden:
    • 150 species of iris; maintained original lines (no successful cross-pollination; picked up any fallen bulbs)
    • Iris = はなしょうぶ (hanashoubu)
  • Insects Taxa:
    • Coleoptera (beetles)
    • Water striders
    • Lepidoptera
    • Hymenoptera (specifically ants; bees and wasps?)
  • Pond ==> stagnant?
    • No fish, cloudy, still water
    • Water striders and water lilies ==> tolerant species?
    • Due to lotic water that isn’t interfered with by humans?
  • Birds:
    • Crows, pigeons, ducks, falcons…others?
  • Deciduous oak vs evergreen oak (かしkashi)
    • Quercus spp. (e.g. Quercus serrata)
  • Vegetation from Edo era (section of forest; “summer mansion forest”)
    • Dominant: こなら (konara) = Quercus serrata
  • Tanaka-san did overseas restoration work in Bali mangrove forests, damaged by fish harvest (aquaculture that cleared mangroves?)

To close, I think there’s a lot of background information and ecology that I’m going to look up and explore on my own. Honestly, this was a seriously cool trip and discussion that I wasn’t really expecting out of a visit to Meiji Shrine. That is to say, I wasn’t expecting this kind of ecological discussion.