A View of Hokkaido’s Lattice Windbreaks From Space

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The landscape of the Konsen Plateau viewed from above looks like a lattice with crisscrossing lines of narrow strips of forest. The shelter belts, or windbreaks, were created in the 1890s in this part of eastern Hokkaido, Japan as part of an effort to converted the forested area into agricultural and pastoral lands. The windbreaks were created by clearing out the forest within each grid, leaving only a 180-meter (590-foot) wide row of trees along each side. As trees have been felled for timber or decimated by wildfire, larch and spruce trees have gradually replaced the original broadleaf trees.

The windbreaks created a distinctive pattern that can been seen in these satellite images taken from NASA’s  Landsat 8. Dark green lines crisscross the land in Hokkaido.

Dark green lines form the forested windbreaks in Hokkaido, Japan.  Image: NASA.
Dark green lines form the forested windbreaks in Hokkaido, Japan. Image: NASA.

Even when the landscape is carpeted in a layer of snow, the windbreaks are clearly visible.

Hokkaido's forested windbreaks are visible in the snow-covered landscape. Image: NASA.
Hokkaido’s forested windbreaks are visible in the snow-covered landscape. Image: NASA.

The presence of the forested windbreaks serves many functions. During the winter, the shelter belts protects livestock and prevents damage to crops from the cold winds that blow over the Konsen Plateau. The protective border of trees also helps to moderate the temperature of the ground within and prevents topsoil from being blown away. The forest strips also provide shelter to wildlife and act as a wildlife corridor. Lastly, the forest strips are a valuable source of carbon absorption for the region.

Hokkaido's lattice pattern of forest strips helps to protect livestock from wind and cold.  Image: Sendai Blog, CC BY-SA 2.0
Hokkaido’s lattice pattern of forest strips helps to protect livestock from wind and cold. Image: Sendai Blog, CC BY-SA 2.0

References

Voiland, A. (2020, May 5). A windbreak grid in Hokkaido. NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146664/a-windbreak-grid-in-hokkaido

Winter scenery in east Hokkaido: Drift ice and a lattice-shaped windbreak forest “Great green grid” | 2005 | JAXA earth observation research center (EORC). (2005, March 25). JAXA 第一宇宙技術部門 地球観測研究センター(EORC). https://www.eorc.jaxa.jp/en/earthview/2005/tp050328.html

Watch: Earth from Space: Hokkaido’s Lattice-Shaped Shelterbelts

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