The forest at Karatsu Bay is a clear example of an ecological legacy: a feature of the landscape that reflects environmental conditions and processes that operated decades or even a century ago. Centuries of tumultuous change. Black pine fills the canopy and bides its time in its own deep shade. As conifers, the trees of the Nijinomatsubara forest assert a strong influence over local soils, other plants, fauna, and human experience. “By producing shady, cool conditions and laying down a thick carpet of needles on the sandy dunes, black pine structures its own ecosystem.”

Due to strong, salt-laden winds and desiccation, sandy coastal areas provide poor habitats for forests. Ecologically impoverished coastal areas are more threatened by storm surges and tsunamis coming in from the sea. In Japan, which is an archipelago surrounded by the ocean, black pine coastal forests have traditionally been cultivated as ecological barriers in such areas. But while the black pine tree is tolerant to the nutrient-poor conditions of sandy soils, it is nowadays also heavily affected by PWD and other factors that imperil it.

For instance, up until the energy revolution and the production of chemical fertilizers in the 1960s, fallen needles and branches from the Japanese black pine forests were used as fuel or fertilizer. With this practice of cleaning the forest floor discontinued, however, humus can now form as organic matter decays in situ. This, in turn, accelerates the invasion of broad-leaf trees that additionally threaten to supersede the black pine forests. A combination of these factors means that the existence of coastal Japanese black pine forests as environmental barriers has been declining since the 1960s.

“At the intersection between the sciences of nature and the sciences of culture, a new model is afoot, the key characteristic of which is multispecies love. Unlike earlier cultural studies of science, its raison d’être is not, mainly, the critique of science, although it can be critical. Instead, it encourages a new, passionate immersion in the lives of the nonhuman subjects being studied.”

— Anna Tsing, “Arts of Inclusion, or, How to Love Mushroom”

The Maule River estuary outfalls at Constitución, one of the hardest hit communities following the tsunami in 2010. Extreme pulses of inundation are common to estuarine environments where marine sand meets river silt. At present, many estuaries along the Chilean coast are infilled by coastal concretization that intervenes between marine and terrestrial realms. The wave action following an earthquake brought silty inundation, erosion, and deposition to the estuarine coast, a disturbance that is neither unprecedented nor particularly unique. The lineage of estuary formation across time is described by paleo-geological analysis which confirms that the southwest coast of Chile is a remarkably active area 

Landscape studies participates in bridging natural and constructed worlds. Practices and entities such as planted forests and conserved old-growth, public parks and private estates, roadsides and river ways, seed plants and fruiting bodies become linked through design. In the process, something happens across species that shifts the focus of design towards activity and consequence rather than formal products. This is but one reason for a case study on planted pine forests: they endure with humankind, such that the practices of landscape cannot separate nature and culture or planted and spontaneous. It is a choice that humans maintain the concentration of black pines along the coast of Karatsu Bay. It is also a choice, albeit a different kind of decision, for the consortium of other species to maintain their marks amongst the black pines from sprouting black locust trees to airborne spores and pine wood nematodes.

Earlier in this text, I referred to the planted forest as an alternative. An alternative to armoring, and even an alternative to nature-based solutions because it is so much more than an engineering detail. Nijinomatsubara is a landscape that presents a different response to coastal risk when the danger posed by tsunamis was the problem. Why build a village along a dangerous shoreline? Can a protective public space be planted to ensure the villagers are safely settled? The answer to these questions was a “yes” that spans generations. The questions before us in the present-day are no longer those linked to tsunamis because the town now enjoys a generous setback from the shore. The gift of safety. Rather, the surprising question that arises is how to shift the cultural consciousness that risk is also ecological, and that climate risk is a cascade beyond a single event. Here, change would embrace the subtlety of species migration. The question emerges: Why not allow black pine forests evolve? Can this evolution in species composition create even more protection in the future? Perhaps the next hundred years will welcome a diversity of trees, led by the groundbreaking sprouts of black locust.

Management of the forest is a private responsibility taken on by families and neighbors in organized events. Remarkably, households adopt a grid marked area, and care for it in much the same way as a front lawn or a back garden. Without such regular consideration, the forest would enter into stages of ecological succession. This is communal park-making that adds up, as plots are inherited over time. The responsibility of caring for public landscapes is passed on.

A rupture twenty-five kilometers deep beneath the Nazca plate, produced the earthquake, triggering a tsunami that traveled along the fault at tectonic junctions. The magnitudinous waves spread beneath the coast until making landfall along the shores between Constitución and Concepción. Magnitude is relative power, and its measurement takes into account the energy released at the source. By comparison, intensity is the strength of the shaking produced by the magnitude.