Akira Miyawaki

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Akira Miyawaki
宮脇 昭
Akira Miyawaki in 2019.jpg
Akira Miyawaki in 2019
Born (1928-01-29) 29 January 1928 (age 92)
Alma materHiroshima University
AwardsAsahi Prize (1990)
Goldene Blume von Rheydt Prize, Germany (1990)
Purple Ribbon Medal, Japanese Government (1992)
Reinhold Tüxen Prize, Germany (1995)
Nikkei Global Environmental Technology Awards (1996)
Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, Japanese Government (2000)
Japan Culture Life Award (2002)
Distinguished Service Award, Ecological Society of Japan (2003)
Blue Planet Prize (2006)[1]

Akira Miyawaki (宮脇 昭, Miyawaki Akira, born 29 January 1928) is a Japanese botanist and expert in plant ecology, specializing in seeds and the study of natural forests. He is active worldwide as a specialist in the restoration of natural vegetation on degraded land. Since 1993, he has been Professor Emeritus at Yokohama National University and Director of the Japanese Center for International Studies in Ecology. He received the Blue Planet Prize in 2006.[2][3]


Since the 1970s, Akira Miyawaki has advocated the value of natural forests and the urgent need to restore them.[4] He considers that the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro failed to protect native forests and that (except very locally) they continue to decline or deteriorate.[citation needed]

Trees around a shinto shrine in Sasayama, Hyogo

Miyawaki observed the trees which traditionally grew around temples, shrines, and cemeteries in Japan, such as Japanese Blue Oak, Castanopsis cuspidata, Bamboo-leaf Oak, Japanese Chestnut trees, and Machilus tunbergii (a tree from the laurel family). He showed that they were native species, relics of the primary forest. At the same time, he noted that trees such as Japanese Cedar, Cypress and Larch Pine, supposedly native to Japan, had in fact been introduced into Japan over centuries by foresters in order to produce timber. Miyawaki was led to reflect on the consequences of the change in composition and sometimes structure of the majority of Japanese forests, which are now far away from their original natural vegetation.[5]

He calculated that only 0.06% of contemporary Japanese forests were indigenous forests. Contemporary forests, created according to forestry principles, are not in his view the most resilient nor the best suited vegetation for the geobioclimatic conditions in Japan, neither are they the most suited to address climate change.

Referring to potential natural vegetation (PNV) (a concept he studied in Germany), he developed, tested and refined a method of ecological engineering today known as the "Miyawaki method" to restore native forests from seeds of native trees on very degraded soils which were deforested and without humus. Using ecological theories and the results of his experiments, he quickly and successfully restored, sometimes over large areas, protective forests (disaster-prevention, environment-conservation and water-source-protection forests) at over 1,300 sites in Japan and various tropical countries, in particular in Pacific area[6] in the form of shelterbelts, woodlands and woodlots, including urban, port and industrial areas.

Although most experts believe that rapid restoration of a forest is impossible or very difficult on a laterized and desertified soil following the destruction of rainforest, Miyawaki showed that rapid restoration of forest cover and restoration of soil was possible by using a judicious choice of pioneer and secondary indigenous species, densely planted and mycorrhized.[citation needed]

Studying local plant ecology, he uses the species that have key roles and complementary roles in the normal tree community. These species are accompanied by a variety of accompanying species (40 to 60 types of plants or more in the tropics) for "support".


Miyawaki is primarily a botanist specialized in plant ecology and seeds. He wrote a thesis on this subject in the Department of Biology at the University of Hiroshima. He then conducted field research in various parts of Japan, while working as a research assistant at the Yokohama National University, continuing his studies at the University of Tokyo.[citation needed]

Reinhold Tüxen (1899-1980), who headed the Federal Institute for Vegetation Mapping, invited him to Germany. Miyawaki then worked with him on the concept of "potential natural vegetation" (vegetation which would occur naturally in the absence of human intervention), from 1956 to 1958.

Returning to Japan in 1960, he applied the methods of mapping potential natural vegetation (PNV). He found relics of ancient forests still present in the vicinity of temples and shrines (surrounding Chinju-no-mori sacred groves). Inventorying over 10,000 sites throughout Japan, he was able to identify this potential flora affected by different types of human activity, including in mountainous areas, river banks, rural villages and urban areas.

From these data, he created maps of existing vegetation and maps of potential natural vegetation.[7] His maps are still used as a basis for scientific research and impact studies, and as an effective tool for land use, diagnosis and for mapping biological corridors. These maps of potential natural vegetation serve as a model to restore degraded habitats and native plant environment.[citation needed]

Over a period of ten years, from 1980 to 1990, in cooperation with laboratories of phytoecology and universities, Miyawaki led botanical and phytosociological inventories to map vegetation throughout Japan, compiled into a ten-volume book with more than 6,000 pages of comment.[5]

Origin of the "Miyawaki method"[edit]

Miyawaki showed that natural Japanese temperate forest should be mainly composed of deciduous trees – while in practice conifers often dominate. Deciduous trees are still present around tombs and temples, where they have been protected from exploitation for religious and cultural reasons.

The more his research progressed, the more he found that the current forest vegetation of Japan (24.1 million hectares, or 3.5 billion cubic meters of timber on more than 64% of the country) had moved away from potential natural vegetation, due to the introduction of alien species by man. He noted that conifers (still considered in the 1970s as indigenous by many Japanese, including botanists), which became dominant in many forests, are actually an introduced species, and were only naturally present at high altitudes and in extreme environments (such as mountain ridges and steep slopes). They have for centuries been planted there to produce timber faster, and they acclimated. This led Miyawaki to think about forest other than as a source of greenery, recreation or timber. He became interested in the functions of allelopathy and complementarity of species in naturally wooded areas.

First experiences[edit]

His first field trials have shown that planted forests, which in composition and structure were closer to what would exist in the absence of human activity, grew quickly and generally showed very good ecological resilience.

Miyawaki gradually formed a large seed bank (more than 10 million seeds have been identified and classified, according to their geographical origin and soil). They are mostly remnants of natural forests preserved for generations around temples and cemeteries because of the traditional belief in Chinju-no-mori (literally "forests where the gods dwell"; it was considered unlucky to interfere with these forests). These places have allowed the preservation of thousands of small reserves of native species and tree genes descending from prehistoric forests.

Using the principles of this tradition, he proposed a plan to restore native forests for environmental protection, as a water retention resource and to protect against natural hazards. His proposals were not initially met with positive feedback, but in the early 1970s, Nippon Steel Corporation, who wanted to plant forests on embankments around its steelworks at Oita, became interested in his work after the death of previous conventional plantations and entrusted him with a first operation.[citation needed]

Miyawaki identified the potential natural vegetation of the area, studying the forests surrounding two nearby tombs (Usa and Yusuhara). He chose various species of trees that he tested on the substrate to be afforested. He then created a nursery where plants were mixed and then planted on the site, where today lives a forest composed exclusively of native species. The steel corporation was so pleased with the results that in the 18 years since, it has planted forests with this method at sites of its steel mills in Nagoya, Sakai, Kamaishi, Futtu, Hikari, Muroran, and Yawata.[citation needed]

Since then, Miyawaki and his colleagues and partners have successfully covered more than 1300 sites with multilayered protective forests, composed entirely of native species. The method has been tested successfully in almost all of Japan, sometimes on difficult substrates, including plantations to mitigate the effects of tsunamis on the coast, or typhoons in the port of Yokohama, wastelands, artificial islands, fixing crumbling slopes after road construction, and creating a forest on a cliff freshly cut with dynamite to construct the Monju Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture.[citation needed]

International applications[edit]

Miyawaki has instructed people on planting in over 1,700 areas around the world, including over 1,400 sites in Japan as well as in Borneo, Amazonia and China. He has been involved in the planting of over 40 million native trees, together with companies and citizens, to contribute to forest regeneration. Since 1978, Miyawaki has contributed to vegetation surveys in Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.[1]

From 1990, Miyawaki worked on restoring severely degraded tropical forests, including that of Bintulu (Sarawak, Malaysia). Thanks to sponsors, a seed bank of 201 tree species (mainly Dipterocarpaceae) from potential natural vegetation produced 600,000 seedlings in pots which were annually planted on site, under various conditions. In 2005, the surviving plants from 1991 (a major natural selection takes place, as is desired in the method) measured over 20 meters in height (growth of more than 1 metre per year) and the sedimentary facies of a young rainforest was reconstituting, protecting the soil, while fauna also was gradually reappearing.

In 2000, the Miyawaki method was tested for the first time in a Mediterranean ecosystem in Sardinia, Italy, on an area where traditional reforestation methods had failed.[8] The original method was adapted while maintaining its theoretical principles. Results obtained 2 and 11 years after planting were positive: plant biodiversity appears very high, and the new coenosis was able to evolve without further operative support.[9]

In 2013, the Miyawaki method was applied in the Barapani Industrial Area of Umiam in North East India.[10]

In 2014, SayTrees in Bangalore switched to this method.

Acacia Eco based out of Ahmedabad, Gujarat has been implementing projects of various sizes using Miyawaki method since 2016. As of November 2020, they have planted more than 3,50,000 trees across 57 projects across India.

In 2018, the Miyawaki method was implemented by the boomforest.org team in Paris, France, to restore a 400-square metre area near Porte de Montreuil, in the Boulevard Périphérique, a controlled-access dual-carriageway ring road around the French capital.[11]

In 2019, GreenYatra planted around 3,000 trees using the Miyawaki method on CRWC railway land in Jogeshwari, Mumbai. GreenYatra would plant 1,000,000 more trees switching to this method across India within one year.

On 5 June 2019, World Environment Day, 550 trees of 40 native species were planted with this technique in a plot of 160 square metres. The forest was named after Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikh religion.

Since that same date, the Anarghyaa Foundation has created Miyawaki forests in rural areas of North Bangalore.The Anarghyaa Foundation will be creating mini-forests by planting Lakh trees with the Miywaki method across Karnataka within the next year.[12]

In December 2019, the Annapradokshana Charitable Trust embarked on an initiative to turn unused space in government schools into mini-forests by adopting the Miyawaki system of tree plantation at the Nonankuppam Government Higher Secondary School and the Vivekananda Government Boys Higher Secondary School in Villianur, Pondicherry.[13]

Method and conditions for success[edit]

The Miyawaki method of reconstitution of "indigenous forests by indigenous trees" produces a rich, dense and efficient protective pioneer forest in 20 to 30 years, where natural succession would need 200 years in temperate Japan and 300 to 500 years in the tropics. Success requires compliance with the following phases:

  • Rigorous initial site survey and research of potential natural vegetation.
  • Identification and collecting of a large number of various native seeds, locally or nearby and in a comparable geoclimatic context.
  • Germination in a nursery (which requires a technique for some species, for example, those that germinate only after passing through the digestive tract of a certain animal, or that need a particular symbiotic fungus, or a cold induced dorming phase, etc.).
  • Preparation of the substrate if it is very degraded (addition of organic matter/mulch (for example with 3–4 kg of rice straw per square metre, to replace the protection afforded by surface humus and leaf litter) and (in areas with heavy or torrential rainfall) planting mounds for tap-root species that require a well-drained soil surface. Hill slopes can be planted with more ubiquitous surface roots species (cedar, Japanese cypress, pine, etc.)
  • Plantation respecting biodiversity inspired by the model of the natural forest. Miyawaki implements and recommends unusually dense plantation of very young seedlings (but with an already mature root system : with symbiotic bacteria and fungi present), for example 30 cm oaks from acorns, raised in a nursery over two years. Density aims at stirring competition between species and the onset of phytosociological relations close to what would happen in nature (30 to 50 plants per square metre in the temperate zone, up to 500 or even 1000 seedlings per square metre in Borneo);
  • Plantations randomly distributed in space in the way plants are distributed in a clearing or at the edge of the natural forest, not in rows or staggered (meeting on this point with the Prosilva methods in Europe).

The results show that this method, if properly applied, quickly produces a multi-layered forest and according to him, a soil with a microbial and acari composition quickly approaching that of a normal primary forest. He has published dozens of books, treatises, and articles on his researches and results.


According to the classical theory of succession initiated by Clements in the U.S., it should need 150 to 200 years for a young native forest with a multi-layered community to restore itself on bare soil in Japan, and it takes 300–500 years or more in the tropics of Southeast Asia.

Miyawaki seeks to accelerate the process of ecological healing by imitating as much as possible the normal composition of the primary forest in each context. He expects to get a restored temperate forest, whose facies and structure (distinct genetics, humus, and sections of old or dead wood) strongly resemble the native forest, in 20 to 30 years.

Miyawaki has extensively tested the method in:

  • deforested sites in dry tropical zones in Thailand
  • alluvial tropical forests in the Brazilian Amazon,
  • the old Nothofagus (southern beeches) forest area in Concepción (Chile).

In each case, he was able to quickly restore a dense canopy reminiscent of the native forest.

The forest planted along the Great Wall of China

In 1998, Miyawaki piloted a project of reconstruction of a forest dominated by the Mongolian Oak (Quercus mongolica) along the Great Wall of China, gathering 4000 people to plant 400,000 trees, with the support of the Aeon Environment Foundation and the city of Beijing. The first trees planted by groups of Chinese and Japanese, on areas where the forest had long since gone, had grown over 3 m high in 2004 and - except for one part - continued to thrive in 2007.

Miyawaki also contributes to the massive reforestation in China by Government and Chinese citizens, no longer seeking to plant commercial species for commercial or ornamental purpose only, but to restore the natural potential vegetation, including in Pudon (west coast district in the special economic zone of Shanghai), Tsingtao (Qingdao), Ningbo, and Ma'anshan.

Miyawaki received the 2006 Blue Planet Award for his involvement in the protection of nature.[2]

His method had already been presented as exemplary in a preparatory report[14] for the 1992 Earth Summit, and in 1994 in the Biodiversity congress of the UNESCO in Paris. The method was also presented in 1991 at the Symposium of the University of Bonn, "restoration of tropical forest ecosystems " and at the congresses of the International Association for Ecology, the International Society for Vegetation Science, and the International Botanical Congress, including new aspects including the links between growth, natural habitat and estimated carbon fixation.

Curiously, despite more than 1,000 successful and sometimes spectacular experiences, the Western forestry or landscape world has rarely attempted to apply or even test the "Miyawaki method".


One of the few criticisms of the Miyawaki method (such as during the 1994 conference on Biodiversity at UNESCO in Paris) is that it produces a slightly monotonous visual appearance due to the first generation of trees all being the same age. This criticism is generally made on the basis of photographs taken after 10 or 20 years. But Miyawaki was among the first to emphasize the importance of not planting trees in a line or at equal distances (He would often have trees planted by the public or by young children to promote randomness). He wants to imitate the complexity and the semi- random nature of the plant community of native habitat. He promotes competition between plants, natural selection and plant associations. He believes that the faster-growing trees, the broken ones and those attacked by herbivores quickly produce new shoots resulting in low and intermediate strata.

Another criticism is the high cost of the first phase (nursery, soil preparation, dense planting), but the success rates are exceptionally good where conventional methods fail. The forests also require much less maintenance and attention. Some have lost most of their leaves in cyclones, but they resisted and helped protect the buildings where they were planted.


Supervising planting at Kii Tanabe in 2007
  • 1928: Born 29 January in Okayama[1]
  • 1952: Diploma in biology, Hiroshima University[1]
  • 1958-1960: Visiting researcher under Reinhold Tüxen in Stolzenau, Germany[1]
  • 1961: Doctor of Science, Hiroshima University[1]
  • 1961-1962: Researcher at Yokohama National University[1]
  • 1962-1973: Associate Professor at Yokohama National University[1]
  • 1973-1993: Founding professor of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at Yokohama National University[1]
  • 1985-1993: Director of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at Yokohama National University[1]
  • 1993-: Professor Emeritus of Yokohama National University[1]
  • 1993-: Director of the Japanese Center for International Studies in Ecology[1]

He is a Honorary Member of the International Association for Vegetation Science (1997).[15]


in English[edit]

  • Miyawaki A (1992). Restoration of Evergreen Broad-leaved Forests in the Pacific Region. In: M.K. Wali (ed.). Ecosystem Rehabilitation. 2. Ecosystem Analysis and synthesis. SPB Academic Publishing, The Hague
  • Miyawaki A, K. Fujiwara & E.O. Box (1987). Toward harmonious green urban environments in Japan and other countries. Bull. Inst. Environ. Sci. Technol.. Yokohama Natl. Univ. 14: Yokohama.
  • Miyawaki A & S. Okuda (1991). Vegetation of Japan Illustrated. Shibundo, Tokyo (Japanese)
  • Miyawaki A et al. (1983). Handbook of Japanese Vegetation, Shibundo, Tokyo
  • Miyawaki A (1980-1989). Vegetation of Japan. vol. 1-10
  • Miyawaki A (1985). Vegetation-Ecological Studies on Mangrove Forests in Thailand, Inst. Environ. Sci. Technol. Yokohama Natl. Univ., Yokohama
  • Miyawaki A, Bogenrider, S. Okuda & I. White (1987). Vegetation Ecology and Creation of New Environments. Proceedings of International Symp. in Tokyo and Phytogeographical Excursion through Central Japan. Tokai Univ. Press, Tokyo
  • Miyawaki A, & E. O. Box (1996). The Healing Power of Forests -The Philosophy behind Restoring Earth's Balance with Native Trees. 286 p. Kosei Publishing Co. Tokyo
  • Miyawaki A, Plants and Human (NHK Books)
  • Miyawaki A, The Last Day for Man (Chikuma Shobo)
  • Miyawaki A, Testimony by Green Plants (Tokyo Shoseki)
  • Miyawaki A, Prescription for Restoration of Green Environments (Asahi Shinbun-sha)
  • Miyawaki A, Chinju-no-mori (Native Forests of Native Trees) (Shincho-sha).

in Japanese[edit]

  • 日本植生誌 (literally : Japanese Plant Journal), edition 至文堂, 2000, ISBN 978-4-7843-0040-2.
  • 植物と人間 (lit. Of Plants and Men), editions NHK
  • 緑回復の処方箋 (lit. Prescription for a Green Relaunch)
  • 鎮守の森 (lit. Forest Guardians), Shinshio Journal (新潮)
  • いのちを守るドングリの森


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "2006 Blue Planet Prize" (PDF). Blue Planet Prize. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b Ghosh, Nirmal (21 August 2008). "The tree guru". ST Blogs. Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  3. ^ "Blue Planet Prize". Japan: The Asahi Glass Foundation. 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  4. ^ Miyawaki, A.; E. O. Box (1996). The Healing Power of Forests -The Philosophy behind Restoring Earth's Balance with Native Trees. 286 p. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Co.
  5. ^ a b Miyawaki, A. (1980–1989). Vegetation of Japan. vol. 1-10.
  6. ^ Miyawaki, A. (1992). Restoration of Evergreen Broad-leaved Forests in the Pacific Region. In: M.K. Wali (ed.). Ecosystem Rehabilitation. 2. Ecosystem Analysis and synthesis. The Hague: SPB Academic Publishing. pp. 233–245.
  7. ^ Miyawaki, A. (1983). ex : Handbook of Japanese Vegetation, 872 p. (names in Japanese and Latin), with maps of plant communities in Japan (168 p). Tokyo: Shibundo.
  8. ^ "Restoring Mediterranean forests with the Miyawaki method" (PDF). DG Environment News Alert Service. European Union. 14 April 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  9. ^ Bartolomeo Schirone; Antonello Salis; Federico Vessella (January 2011). "Effectiveness of the Miyawaki method in Mediterranean forest restoration programs". Landscape and Ecological Engineering. 7 (1): 81–92.
  10. ^ "RNB Cements adopt Akira Miyawaki model of plantation elaborates how to plant a 'dense forest'". India: SP News Agency. 25 June 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2014.
  11. ^ "Boomforest use Akira Miyawaki plantation technique". France: Boomforest Agency. 21 March 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Afforestation". Anarghyaa Foundation.
  13. ^ "Unused space in Puducherry government schools to turn into mini-forests". The Hindu.
  14. ^ "Changing Course". Business Council for Sustainable Development report. 1992.
  15. ^ http://iavs.org/Awards/Honorary-Members.aspx

External links[edit]