Japan adds nine new Ramsar Sites

Japan adds nine new Ramsar Sites

26 June 2012

The government of Japan has designated nine interesting new sites for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, bringing that Party's total number of Ramsar Sites to 46. Summary descriptions of the new sites have been prepared for the Annotated Ramsar List by Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for Asia-Pacific, Ms Nessrine Alzahlawi.

Arao-higata. 03/07/12; Kumamoto; 754 ha; 32°58'10"N 130°25'30"E. National Wildlife Protection Area. Arao-higata is situated in the eastern side of the central part of the Sea of Ariake and is the largest single tidal flat in the Central Kuroshio Current biogeographic region. The site serves as an important wintering and stopping point for the migratory waterbirds along the East Asia-Australasian Flyway, including shorebirds which feed on the biota of the tidal flats. The endangered Black faced spoonbill Platalea minor and the vulnerable Saunder's gull Larus saundersi occur and the site regularly supports more than 1% of the world population of the latter. Commercial laver (seaweed) culture and fishing for short-neck clams are carried out in the site. Ramsar Site no. 2054. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Lower Maruyama River and the surrounding rice paddies. 03/07/12; Hyogo; 560 ha; 35°37'05"N 134°49'00"E. National Park, Class 2 Special Zone. Comprises the Maruyama River within Toyooka City, adjacent rice fields and the coastal area facing the Sea of Japan. The site is famous for a successful reintroduction programme for the endangered Oriental White Stork Ciconia boyciana that began in 1955 after the species had become extinct in the biogeographic region. The rice paddies are water-logged in the winter in order, as surveys indicate that they provide habitat for 5,668 species in total. The site serves as the spawning ground and nursing area for different families such as Oncorhynchus keta (Chum Salmon), Gsterosteus aculeatus (Three-spined Stickleback) and Oryzias latipes latipes (Japanese Rice fish). The people in Toyooka City (pop. 88,095) rely on the lower Maruyama River as it provides a supply of water for domestic, industrial and agricultural use and is a source of food through its fisheries. The expansion work of roads in the surrounding areas threatens to reduce the wetland and lead to the deterioration of the water quality. Ramsar Site no. 2055. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Miyajima. 03/07/12; Hiroshima; 142 ha; 34°14'34"N 132°16'09"E. National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site. A natural coastal wetland consisting of sandy shores and intertidal marshes on Miyajima Island within the Seto Inland Sea National Park in the northwestern part of Hiroshima Bay. The site is well conserved compared to other parts of the coast along the Seto inland sea that have already been lost due to bank protection work. Spring water from Mount Misen mixes with the inflow of seawater to form brackish tidal marshes that provide an ideal habitat for the vulnerable Orthetrum poecilops miyajimaensis, a subspecies of the IUCN red-listed Mangrove skimmer Orthetrum poecilop. Miyajima is the only site in the world where this subspecies has been recorded. The wetland lies within the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine World Heritage site. Ramsar Site no. 2056. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Nakaikemi-shicchi. 03/07/12; Fukui; 87 ha; 35°39'40"N 136°05'20"E. Quasi-National Park. Within the Japanese Mixed Forest biogeographic region, this type of low moor wetland is rare and not widely distributed. The peat sediment at the central part of the site is approximately 40 meters deep, representing a valuable record of changes in climate and vegetation during the past one hundred thousand years. It is also considered a biodiversity hot spot with more than 2,000 species of animals and plants inhabiting the area. It was initially developed for rice cultivation during the Edo period (1603-1868) and has since been used as unprepared wet paddies without improvement. Currently, cultivation has been abandoned for the entire field except for the wet paddies for conservation of the wetland. The Japanese Yellow Bunting, Emberiza sulphurata, listed as vulnerable by IUCN, occurs in the wetland. The visitor centre is managed by Tsuruga city and used for environmental education and communication; boardwalks, paths, and information boards have been built for the 15,000 visitors that visit the area each year. Incursion of alien species such as Procambarus clarkia (Red swamp crawfish) and Solidago altissima (Canada goldenrod) is seen as a potential threat. Ramsar Site no. 2057. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Onuma. 03/07/12; Hokkaido; 1,236 ha; 41°59'16"N 140°40'28"E. Quasi National Park. The site includes the Onuma, Konuma, Junsainuma freshwater lakes at the centre of the Oshima Peninsula, connected by waterways called "sebatto" (literally: 'narrow doors'). The lake system formed as a result of the damming of rivers following the great eruption of Mt. Komagatake in 1640. More than 120 islands called "Nagareyama" (small lava cones) were formed within the ponds, creating a unique landscape. After the volcanic eruption, vegetation slowly colonized the site and the forest is now dominated by Fagus crenata, of which the site is the northernmost limit. The site is also known for the diversity of shellfish species from the boreal regions and from Honshu (mainland Japan). The wetland provides flood control and acts as a reservoir used for agriculture, power generation, ecotourism and fisheries. Around 2 million visitors visit the site annually. It is currently threatened by eutrophication caused by agriculture and stockbreeding effluent and by the invasion of the alien plant species Rudbeckia laciniata. Ramsar Site no. 2058. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Tateyama Midagahara and Dainichidaira. 03/07/12; Toyama; 574 ha; 36°34'18"N 137°32'06"E. National Park. An alpine wetland extending over the flat lava plateau formed by the past volcanic activity of Mt. Tateyama. These snow patch grasslands contain about 1,000 shallow ponds recharged by melting snow and rain. The site includes Shomyo Waterfall, at 350m the highest waterfall in Japan, and offers a wintering spot for Lagopus muta (Ptarmigan) and several species of alpine butterflies and the dragonfly Leucorrhinina dubiaorientalis. The site overlaps the Special Protection Zone of the Chubu-sangaku National Park which is intended to give strict protection to the pristine natural environment of the park. The site holds religious significance as it lies within the Tateyama area, a place of mountain worship. Shomyo Waterfall (Shomyo = chanting the name of Buddha) is said to have been named for the roaring sound of the waterfall that closely resembles Buddhist prayer. The opening of the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine sightseeing route in 1971 has caused some disturbances that are seen as potential threats. Ramsar Site no. 2059. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Tokai Hilly Land Spring-fed Mires. 03/07/12; Aichi; 23 ha; 35°05'02"N 137°12'59"E. Quasi National Park. A cluster of six small oligotrophic spring-fed mires at an elevation of 100-300m that occur in three main areas (Kamitaka, Onshinji, and Yanami) in adjacent catchments, but are hydrologically linked because of underground seepage from the Yahagi River system. The mires are representative examples of such wetland types that once used to be common in the biogeographic region but have since been lost due to development. The wetland supports many rare and endemic plant species that are adapted to the oligotrophic conditions of Tokai Hill, including a number that are locally called 'Tokai Hill Land Elements' because they have their main distribution only at the site. These include 'Shiratama-hoshikusa' Eriocaulon nudicuspe, 'Mikawa-shiogama' Pedicularis resupinata var. microphylla and 'Tokai-komousengoke' Drosera Tokaiensis. As a result of land development elsewhere, these are the only remaining spring-fed mires that are still in good condition. The clusters of wetlands are currently well conserved and protected under national law. They represent a water reservoir and support the agriculture carried out downstream. Ramsar Site no. 2060. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Watarase-yusuichi. 03/07/12; Ibaragi, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama; 2,861 ha; 36°14'20"N 139°40'56"E. National Wildlife Protection Zone. A natural river flood plain where the Watarase, Uzuma and Omoi rivers meet and includes the Watarse reservoir, an artificial retarding basin surrounded by an embankment managed mainly for flood control. Located 60 km north of Tokyo, it is representative of a Phragmites australis-dominated low moor wetland in the Japanese Evergreen Forest biogeographic ecoregion. The extensive reedbed is one of the largest in the biogeographic region and supports a diversity of wetland flora and fauna. The site has an important flood control function by retarding the flood water from the rivers that flows into the site, and then slowly releasing the water into the Tone River that flows downstream. It is also used for fisheries, recreation, and environmental education. The wetland is at risk of drying up due to excess deposits of earth and sand and is being maintained through excavation since 2010. Ramsar Site no. 2061. Most recent RIS information: 2012.

Yonaha-wan. 03/07/12; Miyako Island; 704 ha; 24°45'57"N 125°16'16"E. Special Protection Zone. Located in the Okinawa archipelago, Yonaha-wan is the biggest tidal flat on Miyako Island and is one of the largest in the Ryukyu Islands biogeographic region. The site supports mangrove forests and extensive seaweed beds mainly composed of Thaalassia hemprichii, Cymodocea rotundata and Syringodium isoetifolium. A significant number of waterbird species stop at the site to forage or breed, including the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus and the endangered Japanese Crane Grus japonensis and Oriental stork Ciconia boyciana. A number of reptiles are also recorded in this marine sanctuary, such as the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata as well as endangered endemic species such as the Miyako Grass Lizard Takydromus toyamai. The area is important for fisheries, tourism and environmental education and is currently affected by the inflow of excess nutrients and sediments from agricultural and domestic sources. Ramsar Site no. 2062. Most recent RIS information: 2012.