The Japanese Archipelago is composed of a multitude of smaller islands in addition to the four main islands. The 3,000 islands cover an estimated 370,000 km², of which roughly 62,000 is protected. The intersection of three tectonic plates generates numerous hot springs and volcanoes creating a basis for unique environments, and therefore propagating unique life. Japan consists of a wide range of ecosystems and biodiversity, resulting in a plethora of rare flora and fauna.
The Japanese Archipelago includes very diverse flora and fauna. The islands contain unique varieties of firs and broad leaf trees such as the Sakura, a cherry blossom and the Matsu, a pine. The Japanese fauna contains everything from the brown bears of Hokkaido to the tropical snakes of Okinawa, with unique breeds of monkeys, deer and fox in between. A couple of the rarer and more endangered species include the Sapheopipo noguchii, Okinawa Woodpecker and the Pteropus pselaphon, Bonin Flying Fox, both endemic species of the Japanese Archipelago. The Okinawa Woodpecker is speculated to have a remaining population of less than 600, continually declining, this is a direct result of human development causing habitat loss. The Bonin Flying Fox is also threatened by habitat loss, living in the temperate forests of Ogasawara, these bats are finding food sources and roosting places to become continually more scarce.
Japan has a high population concentration; so much of Japan is quite underdeveloped. Seventy percent of the population inhabits three percent of the land. However, only 20 percent of the original vegetation is still intact.
Following World War II, the Forestry Agency of Japan cleared high-elevation conifer forests and replaced them with other Japanese timber species. Japan’s remaining forests are not facing elevated threat due to logging, owing to the high cost of Japanese timber compared to cheap imports from other countries.
Forests are being cleared for ski resorts and golf courses and more roads are being built to support use of private transportation. Improvements in public transportation have made it even easier to travel to once remote and little developed areas of the country. Coastal regions and wetlands are also being lost to development. The smaller islands of the Ryukyus and Ogasawaras have lost habitat to timber plantations and urban development.
Invasive alien plants and animals are a threat to endemic species. Some of these species, including the Indian grey mongoose (Herpestes edwardsi), Javan mongoose ( H. javanicus) and Siberian weasel ( Mustela sibirica) were introduced for the purposes of snake control but have decreased numbers in native birds and small mammals.
The Japanese government is one of five members of the conservation organization, “Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.”
Conservation International. Biodiversity Hotspots. “http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/Hotspots/japan/Pages/impacts.aspx”
There are 28 national parks in Japan to attempt to save their wild life. In 2004 they had an international conference with East Asia to discuss the control of invading species. The Cosmos Prize focuses on the public attention on the need for conservation that the Japanese Government has won.
Organization for this cause: http://www.bdnj.org/index_E.html