Japan names 20 new Wetlands of International Importance

Japan names 20 new Wetlands of International Importance

6 January 2006

Asia side event highlights at COP9 -- Japan designates 20 new sites at Ramsar COP9

The Ramsar Convention Secretariat congratulates the Government of Japan for designating 20 new Ramsar sites and extending the area of the previously designated "Akkeshi-ko and Bekambeushi-shitsugen". The wetlands were designated on 8 November 2005, the first day of the 9th meeting of the Conference of Parties through a site dedication event organised by the Ministry of Environment Japan on 10 November 12005, with about 100 participants, convened by Ms. Noriko Moriwake. The agenda of this event can be found here.

In the opening speech and congratulatory remarks, Mr. Yoshihiro Natori, Director of Wildlife Division, and Mr. Takahiro Kuroiwa, Member of the House of Councillors of the Japanese Parliamentary League for increasing Ramsar Sites, expressed profound contentment when announcing the unique and underrepresented wetlands in Japan. Mr. Kuroiwa, in his presentation, mentioned that promoting wetlands conservation and wise use has gained political support in Japan.

Ramsar site certificates or diplomas were distributed by the Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention, Dr. Peter Bridgewater, to the representatives of local authorities of the new Ramsar sites. Following the messages by Ministry of the Environment and the representatives of local authorities, presentations on wetlands conservation activities were delivered by relevant ministries and leading NGOs in Japan. Various highly illustrative publications on the Ramsar sites in Japan were also presented in the designation ceremony and week-long exhibition.

The designation of 20 new sites is in response to the global objective set at COP7 in 1999 to double the number of 1000 Ramsar Sites by 2005. Japan had only 11 sites in 1999 and was able to surpass well beyond its goals, increasing the number of Ramsar Sites to 33 by 2005. The surface area covered by Ramsar sites is now 130,293 hectares and, worldwide, these new designations represent Ramsar sites numbers 1540-1559 on the Ramsar List. In previous years, the majority of Japan's Ramsar sites were those primarily serving as habitats of waterfowl. However, these have expanded, ranging from lakes, tidal flats, groundwater system, and beaches to underrepresented wetland types, i.e. coral reefs, mangroves, peatlands, seagrass beds, wet grasslands and high-altitude and mountain wetlands.

Among the newly designated Ramsar sites, Sarobetsu-genya, Uryunuma-shitsugen, Oze, Okku-Nikko-shitsugen, Kuju Bogastsuru and Tadewara-shitsugen are marshlands and moors covering in total of 12,468 hectares. The moors in these five sites constitute large areas of high, intermediate and low moors mostly situated in high-altitudes and one, Sarobetsu-genya, in a low-lying area.

Imuta-ike, Kabukuri-numa and Akan-ko Ramsar sites include freshwater lakes which are a rich depository of freshwater biodiversity in Japan. Akan-ko is well-known for harbouring rare freshwater algae species, particularly Marimo aegagropila and largest the freshwater fish in Japan, the Japanese Huchen.

Another unique wetland type has also been included in the Ramsar list, Akiyoshidai Groundwater System. This is the largest karst formed by limestone and underground hydrological system. The site includes karsts along with three subterranean caves in Japan. Deep within these caves, many unique cave-dwelling species are observed, including six species of bats, and a variety of aquatic mollusks in the groundwater.

In Hokkaido, Akkeshi-ko, Furen-ko and Shunkuni-tai, Tofutsu-ko, Shinji-ko, Nakaumi and Mikata-goko represent brackish lakes that are often the final depository of organic trophic materials from rivers with a complex ecosystem combining freshwater and saline environments.

Yakushima Nagata-hama, a natural sandbeach, provides the largest nesting habitat for the Loggerhead Sea-Turtle in the Nothern Pacific region. Yakushima island is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, designated in 1993 for its unique natural environment and supporting ancient cedar tree species, as old as 1000 years, revered as 'sacred' and of high spiritual values.

The total area of reef-building corals in Japan is approximately 35,350 hectares, mostly located in Tokara Archipelago, of which 927 ha are included within the surface area of the Ramsar site. The high-latitude Kushimoto Coral Communities and Kerama-shoto Coral Reef, the two newest Ramsar sites, have some of the world's most outstanding diversity.

The Ramsar site Kabukuri-numa includes rice paddies surrounding a restored marsh that are used by geese as resting and feeding grounds. The basis of such inclusion is the need to maintain healthy rice paddy environments for sustaining Japan's biodiversity. Other sites, i.e. Shinji-ko and Nakaumi, are also surrounded by rice fields, supporting culturally valuable and rich biodiversity surrounding the waterbodies.

In addition, Japan still retains vast communities of seagrass/seaweed beds, particularly eel grass, kelps, etc. which have high value for oxygen supply to marine organisms, water purification, sea-bottom stabilizations, and for providing nesting and feeding habitats for fishes, turtles and countless aquatic fauna. Notsuke-wan Ramsar site is one of the largest eelgrass beds demanding conservation priority as the present trend of degradation continues in other similar places.

For the past 20 years, land reclamation of tidal flats has been targeted for the scarcities of flatlands in Japan. As a result, 6000 ha of tidal flats have disappeared. These rich nutritious sediments from freshwater and marine sources contribute to 100 types of mangrove vegetation, benthos and wealth of micro-organisms. Nagura-Ampuru is a noteworthy example of the few preserved tidal flats on the Ramsar List.

All of these Ramsar sites are now protected under the national law for nature conservation and wildlife protection, ranging from protection of specific species to areas, restrictions on development, exploitation of resource, and restoration of lost natural environments. The Law for the Promotion of Nature Restoration was enacted in December 2002 to promote the implementation of nature restoration through a bottom-up approach and facilitating consensus among various local actors. The national policy on wetlands is described in the National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan (established in 2002) to conserve the unique ecological character of wetlands through achieving consensus in society and an integrated approach for enhancement of conservation with provision of economic incentives.

We thank, once again, the Government of Japan, the wetland conservation groups, NGOs and experts who collaborated with the Ministry of the Environment to increase number of Ramsar sites, and for their remarkable initiatives in promoting wise-use conservation across the country and the region.

-- Ms Shahzia Khan, Ramsar

Information sources:

  • Ramsar Sites in Japan, Ministry of Environment, Japan 2005.
  • Ramsar Information Sheets for designation.
  • Japan's National Report to Ramsar COP9 (also available here).

Brief site descriptions of Japan's new Ramsar sites

Akan-ko. 08/11/05; Hokkaido; 1,318ha; 43°27'N 144°06'E. National Park. A freshwater caldera lake lying between two active volcanoes, Me-akandake and O-akandake, formed by volcanic subsidence. A number of rare aquatic freshwater algae, particularly the well-known Marimo Cladophora aegagropila are observed. The lake is also an important habitat for the largest freshwater fish in Japan, Japanese Huchen Hucho Perryi and Kokanee Oncorhynchus nerka. In addition, 65 species of birds and 24 mammals, for example, Eurasian Brown Bear and Yezo Sika Deer, also depend on the lake ecosystem. The lake is surrounded by mixed forests of conifers and deciduous trees such as Ezo Spruce Picea jezoensis, Sakhalin Fir Abies sachalinensis, and Japanese oaks. Main landuses include hydroelectric power generation, fishery, aquaculture, and boating. At Akan Lakeside Eco-Museum Center and Marimo Exhibition Center, visitors, about 1.56 million per year, learn about the history of the lake and the status of Marimo and fish species. Ramsar site no: 1540.

Akiyoshidai Groundwater System. 08/11/05; Yamaguchi; 563 ha; 34°15'N 131°18'E. "Quasi-National Park". One of Japan's largest karst topographies, situated in western Honshu with the karst tableland extending 13,000 ha on a gradual plateau and centrally located groundwater system developed underneath, forming three limestone caves of Akiyoshido, Taisido and Kagekiyodo. 'Karrenfeld' pinnacles and small dolines on the tableand are observed. Sometimes an ephemeral lake appears in Kaerimizu Uvala which functions as a rainwater drain. The site functions as a groundwater recharge area with some 50m deep springs observed in the downstream of Koto-gasa river to Aokaga-gawa river. The site is important for unique organisms endemic to caves in the area, including Sinella akiyoshiana, Allochthoniue kobayashii akiyoshiensis, numerous shellfish and several species of bats such as Horseshoe bat and Eastern Bent-winged bat. The area is surrounded by karst grasslands with fringe Kama poljes which are used in some parts as paddy fields. Akiyoshodai is a Quasi-National Park with approximately 900,000 tourists visiting every year. The Natural History Museum conducts regular research. Ramsar site no. 1541.

Furen-ko and Shunkuni-tai. 08/11/05; Hokkaido; 6,139 ha; 43°18'N 145°21'E. NWPA. Furen-ko is a brackish lagoon, low moor and sea grass beds that used to be a part of the sea on the base of Nemuro peninsula at the northeastern tip of Japan. Among 13 rivers flowing into Furen-ko, the estuary of the Furen River has developed into a saltmarsh forming a vast landscape. Shunkuni-tai resembles a lid on Furen-ko lagoon consisting of 3 rows of ancient sand dunes covered by Sakhalin Spruce Picea glehnii forest. 280 species of birds were recorded in this site including globally endangered Grus Japonensis, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus, and rare White-tailed Sea Eagle, Steller's Eagle, Black Woodpecker and Blakiston's Fish Owl. Fishery, aquaculture, harvesting of clams and tourism are the main activities. Shunkuni-tai Wildbird Nature Center attracts 10,000 visitors annually. Various nature observation programmes are conducted by local NGOs and other organizations. Ramsar site no. 1542.

Hotokenuma. 08/11/05; Aomori; 222 ha; 40°49'N 141°23'E. NWPA. Hotokenuma lies at the Pacific coast of Shimokita-Hanto peninsula, connected to the largest lake Ogawara-ko. It was part of the converted ricefields under a reclamation project in the early 1960s which was later suspended by the government, when Hotokenuma became an undisturbed reedlands owned by the Misawa city. It is a low moor dominated by common reed, Phragmites communis. Hotokenuma was brought to public attention for the sighting of IUCN Redlisted Japanese Marsh Warbler Locustella pryeri, a species found only in some parts of China and Japan with last remaining world population of 2500. It is also a breeding site for endangered Japanese Reed-bunting and Schrenck's Bittern and important staging site for migratory waterbirds. Apart from the special wildlife protection, a nature conservation programme was conducted in the past. Ramsar site no. 1543.

Imuta-ike. 08/11/05; Kagoshima; 60 ha; 31°49'N 130°28'E. Natural Habitat Conservation Area, Natural Monument. In Satuma-sendai city, outflowing to the Sendai River and surrounded by a small cluster of volcanoes, the freshwater crater lake Imuta-ike of Iimori Mountain forms a crucial component of its surrounding lake-low moor ecosystem. At the northwest, the peat 'islands' are considered a national natural monument serving an ideal for Phragmites japonica, Zizania latifolia Manchurian Wild-rice, and Nymphea tetragona Pygmy Water Lily. The lake is a conservation priority for many species of dragonfly including IUCN Redlisted critically endangered Libellua Angelina. It is also a breeding site for Spot-billed duck and habitat for various other waterfowl. Scarcity of human settlements in the area has kept its pristine environment, although water is utilized for irrigation downstream. The city government established a Ecosystem Preservation Museum to raise public awareness of the site's diversity, especially the peat plant communities, using interpretive panels, models, visual images and training sessions. Annually, about 35,000 tourists visit the site for sight-seeing, finishing and canoeing. Ramsar site no. 1544.

Kabukuri-numa and the surrounding rice paddies. 08/11/05; Miyagi; 423 ha; 38°38''N 141°06'E. NWPA. One of the largest wintering sites for Anser albifrons White-fronted Goose (7.86%-18.46% East Eurasian Population), Anser fabalis middendorffii Bean Goose, Whooper Swan and, in total, 230 bird species for breeding, foraging and roosting. The lake is inhabited by typical lowland swamp vegetation of Manchurian wild rice and reeds, with willows along the shores and rare species of Penthorum chinensis. About 22 species of dragonflies and various freshwater fishes are found. For managing the wintering ground, measures such as water management, clean-ups, channel maintenance and water quality improvement are regularly conducted. In winter and post-harvest, the rice fields are left flooded for wildbirds to winter in the site; later the nutrient-rich soil from droppings is used as natural fertiliser for the wild rice, in addition to controling weeds and pests. Public awareness programmes and school education are integrated with the local conservation measures. Ramsar site no. 1545.

Kerama-shoto Coral Reef. 08/11/05; Okinawa; 353 ha; 26°12'N 127°18'E. Quasi-National Park. Part of the Kerama-shoto Islands at the west of Okinawa, the designated area is divided in two major areas: 120 ha along the west coast of Tokashiki Island and 233 ha among deserted islands. The coral reef consists of 248 species of well-developed fringing corals, tabular, mound, horn-shaped, branching and sheet reef-building ones, densely distributed in water with abundant colorful fishes like Chromis notata, Chaetodontidae and Labridae species. Some places are covered with 90% corals, mainly tabular and arborscent Acropora. The reefs are the supply sources for larvae corals. Past threat to the reef was crown-of-thorn starfish and, in 1998, severe coral bleaching were observed. Control campaigns by local communities are helping to restore the site. Much of the area retains natural beauty attracting over 100,000 scuba-divers and tourists every year. Whale-watching is also a popular activity in winter. Ramsar site no. 1546.

Kuju Bogatsuru and Tadewara-shitsugen. 08/11/05; Oita; 91 ha; 33°06'N 131°15'E. Quasi-National Park. Near the summit of the mountain in Kirishima Volcanic Belt and below at its base, the largest intermediate moors of mixed sphagnum bogs formed in the mountainous areas in Japan. Bogatsuru is nestled in a basin between Mt. Mimata and other volcanic mountains, whereas Tadewara is located in alluvial fan. The site is the central attraction within Aso-kuju National Park drawing 5 million visitors annually to the breathtaking landscape of smoking volcanoes, meadows, forests, and hot springs. Popular activities include sight-seeing during autumn, hiking, camping, nature walking and folk events. It supports 74 fern species and 493 seed plants, including some rare plants like Geranuim soboliferum, Pterygopleurum neurophyllum and Sphagnum palustre. To maintain the vegetation, terrestrialisation of the wetlands into forests is hindered through meadow burning in spring by the local community. Nationally Redlisted species Golden Eagle, Hodgson's Hawk-eagle and Peregrine Falcon are also found. Ramsar site no. 1547.

Kushimoto Coral Communities. 08/11/05; Wakayama; 574 ha; 33°27'N 135°47'E. National Park. A unique littoral area rich in high-latitude to tropical marine life of 120 species, situated at southern tip of Kii Peninsula. Kuroshio Current, the major warm current on the earth, touches the area allowing formation of a peculiarly warm environment supporting tropical organisms on the main island of Japan. Acropora hyacinthus, the dominant species, is important for its high nutrition productivity and topography formation capacity, and also significant for tourism resources because of its beautiful tabular coral landscape. The highest concentration of Catalaphyllia jardenei population was identified only in this area, making it the largest marine colony in Japan and northernmost distribution in the world. The remarkable coral communities support rich biodiversity with nutrition and habitat sources stabilising the neritic environment. The site has special value for marine fishery, leisure fishing, scientific research and tourism, particularly coral observation and scuba diving. Typhoon, natural retreat of the warm current, Arita Bay development activities, illegal and over-fishing are considered as major threats to the coral communities. Ramsar site no. 1548.

Mikata-goko. 08/11/05; Fukui; 1,110 ha; 35°35'N 135°53'E. Quasi-National Park. A cluster of 5 brackish-semi-freshwater lakes (locally referred to 'the lakes with five colors') along the Rias Coast of Wakasa bay, surrounded by gradual hills and Mt.Baijo. Though the lakes are connected, each has different salinity, size and depth, which harbours variety of fish species, including different endemic fish species in natural and aquaculture areas, such as Gnathopogon elongates, Stripped bitterling Acheilognathus cyanostigma, Big-eye sardine Etrumeus teres and rare Piscivorous chub Opsariichthys unicirostris. The coastline thrives on fishery, tourism and gourmet seafood all year round. The freshwater vegetations are mainly reed, wild rice and water-chestnut. These lakes, except Hiruga-ko, are wintering site for more than 10,000 waterbirds and Pandion haliaetus (Osprey). Eutrophication is seen as a major threat to two of the lakes. Even though the site is developed for commercial fishery and aquaculture, fish catches in the recent years have been decreasing. The Seaside Nature Center of Fuikui operates 'Mikata-goko Nature School' with local organisations for observing life forms in rice fields around the lakes, fishes and migratory waterbirds. Ramsar site no. 1549.

Nagura Ampuru. 08/11/05; Okinawa; 157 ha; 24°24'N 124°09'E. NWPA. A tidal flat with mangrove forests located on the west coast of Ishigaki Island, where the Nagura River flows into Nagura Bay and crucial for flood control and sediment trapping. The diverse subtropical natural ecosystem supports various bird species of raptors, waterfowl typical of Yaemama islands, a high diversity of shellfish and benthos like rare crustaceans Neocaridina ishigakiensis, and burrowing shrimps. It is also a rich resting and foraging ground for sandpipers, plovers, and ducks. The common mangroves are Bruguiera gymnorhiza, Lumnitzera racemosa, Avicennia marina and Rhizophora mucronata. The benthic creatures are considered as a source of inspiration for locals; the ecology of crabs is humorously personified in folk songs. Outdoor recreations of the locals include shellfish and crab harvesting, bird watching and sight-seeing. Much of the land is privately owned, but the site is nationally protected for wildlife and restricts hunting. Potential threats are sedimentation and agricultural run-off. Nature observation is included in school curricula and the local government develops awareness materials for student's awareness. Ramsar site no. 1550.

Nakaumi. 08/11/05; Shimane, Tottori; 8,043 ha; 35°28'N 133°14'E. NWPA. A brackish lagoon located at the estuary of the Hii River system, linked to the Sea of Japan by a narrow waterway in the northern shore. The site is home to 80 species of brackish and sea fishes and is one of the largest wintering and staging spots of more than 75,000 birds and 260 species. Nakaumi supports more than 1% of the East Asian population of Tundra Swan, Common Pochard, Tufted Duck and Scaup. The site has a high value for fishery resources with average annual catch more than 500 metric tons. A strong environmental movement against a reclamation project for converting the lands to farmlands with freshwater flow has subsequently led to Ramsar designation. Main conservation measures include Anatidae census, regular national survey of the environment, and a Sanctuary established for Yonago Waterbirds. Ramsar site no. 1551.

Notsuke-hanto and Notsuke-wan. 08/11/05; Hokkaido; 6,053ha; 43°35'N 145°16'E. NWPA. Notsuke-hanto is the largest sand spit in Japan, a fish hook-shaped peninsula jutting into Nemuro Strait on the eastern edge of Hokkaido. Notsuke-wan is a bay formed between the sand spit and the mainland with average depth of 4m, widespread tidal flats and full of Zostera seagrass bed. The site is one of the largest staging and breeding habitat for migratory waterbirds with 66,935 annual migratory population of 211 species, particularly IUCN Redlisted Grus Japonensis, and regularly supporting more than 1% population of Cygnus Cygnus, Branta bernicula, Anas Penelope, Aythya marila, and Bucephala clangula. Seaside vegetation on salt marshes consist of Elymus mollis community among other species, and sand dunes are covered with Japanese Rose and White clovers. It also functions as an important spawning and nursing ground for local fish. In Notsuke-wan, the major catch in the seagrass bed is Hokkai shrimp Pandalus kessleri, protected by a fisherman cooperative to regulate its open season and catch, managing limited marine resource as one of the best practice wise use wetland fisheries in Japan. Ramsar site no. 1552.

Oku-Nikko-shitsugen. 08/11/05; Tochigi; 260 ha; 36°47'N 139°26'E. National Park. The site is composed of Senjogahara, Odashirogahara and Yunoko at 1400m asl. in altitude surrounded by mountains. Senjogahara is one of the largest high moors in Honshu Island with more than 100 species of swamp plants like cotton grass and Japanese azalea. The vegetation of Odashigahara shows characteristics of moor and grassland succession; whereas Yunoko is a freshwater lake with hot springs in the same watershed, almost in pristine condition and an attractive tourist spot. The area is an important breeding site for summer birds, mostly Latham's Snipe Gallinago hardwickii and Stonechat Saxicola torquata. During winter, the site is visited by many migratory waterfowls including Mallard, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Smew. Colour change of decidous trees in autumn, traditionally called 'Koyo', is cherished by the Japanese for its landscape beauty. Potential threats to Senjogahara are sediment inflow, reduction of inflow, constructions of facilities disconnecting inflow from upstream, inappropriate drainage and intake facilities, tourist influx, alien invasive species, and overgrazing. Conservation measures regularly conducted by local organixations are nature walks, control of alien species, control foraging by deer, and capacity building training for youth. Ramsar site no. 1553.

Oze. 08/11/05; Fukushima, Gunma, Niigata; 8,711 ha; 36°56'N 139°14'E. National Park. Oze consists of Ozehahara moor, Ozenuma Lake and surrounding mountains, forests and small moors. Ozegahara is the largest high moors in Japan, 760 ha spreading across Niigata, Gunma and Fukushima, a flat basin (at 1400m asl.) with high water retention capacity. The site possesses rich wetland biodiversity including endangered aquatic Chara globularis var globularis, dragonflies and coleopterous, and many migratory birds. The site includes around 6,277 ha of private lands area (72% of the total designated area) now brought under conservation measures. To appreciate one of Japan's most beautiful landscapes, ecotourism has been developed in Ozegahara and Oze-numa with nature trails, boardwalks, visitor's center, and local restoration programmes and about 3-6 million visits annually. Ramsar site no. 1554.

Sarobetsu-genya. 08/11/05; Hokkaido; 2,560 ha; 45°05'N 141°42'E. NWPA. A vast peatland at the northern tip of Hokkaido represents one of the largest high moors in lowland plains. The Sarobetsu River, flowing around the marshland, has limited water fluctuation and poor supply of nutrients leading to ideal conditions for formation of such high moors. Ponds and small lakes scattered in the site provide breeding sites for waterbirds and support more than 1% of the East Asian population of Anser fabalis middendorfii and Cygnus columbianus. From spring to autumn, the wetland is covered by more than 100 species of colorful flora including Small cranberry, Hare's cotton-grass, and lilies. Boardwalks constructed in Sarobetsu Wildflower Garden and Panke-numa provide a close look at these pretty flowers. A project is underway to restore the dry areas of wetlands due to past incidence of lowering the groundwater level. About 300,000 people visit the Sarobetsu Nature School/Toyotomi Visitor Center and Horonobe Visitor Center annually and walk along the nature trails. Ramsar site no. 1555.

Shinji-ko. 08/11/05; Shimane; 7,652 ha; 35°26'N 132°58'E. NWPA. The seventh largest lake in Japan and one of the largest wintering sites of Anatidae species, with 21,000-48,500 per year. Shinji-ko offers an essential habitat for 80 brackish water species of fish and shellfish, including Japanese indigenous Shinjo-ko Goby and popular Shijimi or Corbicula clam. The site supports 240 species of waterbirds and more than 1% of the East Asian population of White-fronted Goose and Scaup. The lake provides the largest catch of Corbicula Leana, about 7500 tons, more than 40% of the country's total catch, and has a special connotation in Japanese seafood culture as 'Shinji-ko Shichi-chin' or '7 rare seafoods of Shinji-ko'. Bird watching, nature observation, Nature Museum visits, windsurfing, pleasure fishing and boating are popular activities. In recent years, reduction of pollution loads in this prefecture has become a priority, and there is a plan to employ effective measures for conservation and raise water quality. Ramsar site no. 1556.

Tofutsu-ko. 08/11/05; Hokkaido; 900 ha; 43°56'N 144°24'E. Special National Park Zone. A brackish lagoon in eastern Hokkaido, with salt marshland developed in lowlands along the shore filled with rare aquatic plants, in particular, Common Glasswort Salicornia europaea, which fills the shore with red color in autumn inviting many tourists. It is one of few important stopovers for 67,000 Anatidae species as well as Grus Japonensis and Yellow-breasted Bunting for breeding every year. White-tailed Eagle, Steller's Eagle and commercially important mollusks are also found. Common vegetation includes meadow, cropland, coniferous and broad-leafed forest. Present threats affecting the ecological character are sediment inflow, land development for agriculture, and population. Ramsar site no. 1557.

Uryunuma-shitsugen. 08/11/05; Hokkaido; 624 ha; 43°42'N 141°36'E. Quasi-National Park. The second largest mountain high moors, after Oze, in Japan. The regular snowfall is more than 3m high and post-winter thawing of snows leave the area with replenished freshwater with frozen parts of semi-decomposed, but nutritious land. The most diverse plant communities among Japan's northern marshlands, at least 150 species, are developed in the site, where peatmoss, Sphagnum spp. and Moliniopsis japonica are typically observed. The most remarkable characteristic of this site is that more than 100 ponds are scattered in the wetlands including small islands of waterweed swamps, in summer filled with colourful aquatic flowers like blooming lilies. A main threat is invasion of alien species like Solidago altissima, although continuous control measures are taken by the local management authority. Ramsar site no. 1558.

Yakushima Nagata-hama. 08/11/05; Kagoshima; 10 ha; 30°24'N 130°25'E. National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site. A sand shore on the northwestern part of Yakushima Island, entirely surrounded by sea cliffs and the beach sweeping south from the River Nagata-gawa. With subtropical climate, it experiences rare and diverse vertical distribution of pristine flora, the most famous 1000-year old 'Yaku-sugi' cedar. The beach is a renowned spawning ground and crucial stopping point for the Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta -- in 2005, a total of 2,799 turtles were recorded, of which 1,394 individuals nested. In 1985, the NGO Yakushima Umigame-kan/Sea Turtle Center was established with activities including ecosystem assessment, beach cleanups, nesting patrols, protecting the eggs and eco-volunteer training. A Sea Turtle Aquarium was also built near the beach. Recreation activities include bathing and turtle observation, attracting at least 7,000 visitors every year. Ramsar site no. 1559.