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

source of pic: http://www.bio.davidson.edu/people/vecase/behavior/Spring2006/Magargal/magargal.html

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10 responses »

  1. Leo Costa says:

    Humans are constantly threatening different species through deforestation. It seems that golf courses will replace the Archipelago…

  2. April Marcuzzo says:

    At first the deforestation sounded mostly linked to tourism, but the human population needs somewhere to live too… Also, introducing a foreign species to try to control a native species doesn’t seem to work very well

  3. I loved the opening of this article describing the unique landscapes of japan being the direct result of the tectonic plates that reside underneath the island’s crust. “Seventy percent of the population inhabits three percent of the land” was especially alarming to me, I knew most of their population was rooted with in the major cities, but I didn’t think it was THAT extreme. Overall, very interesting, now I want to visit Japan!

  4. kristysiciliano says:

    i never knew that japan was underdeveloped, i would never have thought that. i also have never heard of any of their endangered species

  5. Ashley Raynor says:

    I found it interesting to read about Japan’s wide variety of species, especially the endangered ones. I was always under the assumption that Japan was mass-developed and didn’t really have a wide variety of ecosystems for plants and animals. Shows how much I know…

  6. laura wood says:

    I always thought of Japan as a nation with a high concentration of population for such a small piece of land, but I never thought that 70 percent of the population lives on only 3 percent! no wonder they are packed in so tight. I never knew that it was a biodiversity hot spot, either. I wonder what they are doing to prevent this, especially with the population increase over the last 20 years. Hopefully the people of Japan realize they are in a unique environment, so that they can save these species before it’s too late!

  7. Grace Betts says:

    It’s really unfortunate that the distribution of mankind doesn’t always correspond to the environment in which they live in. Knowing that Japan is incredibly under developed in comparison to their population size makes me worry about their natural neighbors. It’s sad that peoples priorities stay focused on selfish short term gains instead of the long term environment.

  8. Dave Swanson says:

    Japan has always had an incredible landscape. All too often though we concentrate on the past when it comes to their natural environments. I wish more people would focus on what they have to offer ecologically as opposed to technologically.

  9. Japan is actually really cool about the mountains there, they don’t let people build up past a certain range of feet. Only certain people can build in the mountains, and for the most part they try to keep the mountains pretty pristine. When I went to Japan, the people that lived in kyoto explained how important keeping the mountains balance was to keeping the city cool in the summer time. It was pretty awesome.

  10. Interesting to find out that Japan’s timber really is more expensive than imports. I had a feeling, knowing that Japan has very little resources besides fish that are able to support the population. I didn’t know that they introduced all of the non-native species to control snakes, and I wonder how many other invasive species they’ve brought in to try and make japan more of a mainland-esqu country.
    -Ailish Reilly

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