Monday, October 20, 2008
Tekari-dake: smoking gun of climate change?
New photo from intrepid author of Tozan Tales suggests that the treeline is rising in Japan's Southern Alps
In Nihon Hyakumeizan, Tekari-dake is described as the southernmost point in Asia (and therefore the entire world) where creeping pine grows. Creeping pine or "haimatsu" gives the high mountain tops of Japan much of their character. Technically speaking, it belongs to the “sub-alpine” vegetation zone.
The Hyakumeizan author, Fukada Kyuya, also says that the summit disposes of a good view to the south. At least, that was the case in 1936, when he visited the mountain.
But more recent visitors have had trouble seeing either the view or the creeping pine. That's because a small wood of forest trees appears to have taken over the summit. The photo above shows the current situation. Wes Lang – author of the
Tozan Tales and Hiking in Japan blogs – took the picture just a month or two ago, when he climbed Tekari while completing his round of the one hundred mountains.
The photo immediately knocks down one theory – that the creeping pine was eroded off the summit by the constant to-and-fro of hikers' feet. It shows that the trees have come up from below en masse. Is climate change to blame? And when did the trees start arriving on the summit? More research is needed… And it would be good to find a photo that showed the summit area in 1936 or thereabouts. Maybe it's time to hand this one over to a local expert.
Wes Lang just discovered a group photo (left) that shows the area around the summit marker of Tekari-dake in 1965. That part of the summit was clearly wooded then, much as it is now. So maybe the trees have been there for some decades. But have they been there since 1936? We still need that photo.... Original of the photo shown left comes from this web-page.
Photo credit: many thanks to Wes Lang and congratulations on completing your round of the One Hundred Mountains. See also Wesu's account of how to climb Tekari-dake
For more on creeping pine and rising treelines, see previous blog postings:-
The creeping pine question reloaded
The Tekari creeping pine question
Nihon Hyakumeizan by Fukada Kyūya in a forthcoming translation as One Hundred Mountains of Japan.