Biodiversity Conservation in Japan

The Red-crowned crane

Dear fellow classmates,

I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide an insight into what other countries are doing to promote their biodiversity.

The country I have decided to look into is Japan. I’m sure that all of you know a little about Japan, but you may not know that Japan consists of several thousand islands and its archipelago stretches for approximately 3,000km from north to south. It’s located in the mid latitudes (20-45 degrees) of the northern hemisphere[1]. Japan has a huge variety of biological life in both terrestrial and marine environments; known species in Japan number around 90,000 and unclassified species up to 300,000[2]. Along with Australia, Japan is in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) top 15 countries in terms of the proportion of endemic species; 40% of mammals (30% including marine mammals) and about 80% of amphibians are found only in Japan.

Japanese Snow Monkey. Photo by David Jez. Creative Commons.

Like many countries, Japan suffers from human induced diversity pressures including:

  • Population growth vs land
  • Environmental pollution and destruction
  • Over use of natural resources
  • Issues with alien species / Introduced species
  • Climate change (increasing temperatures)

By far the greatest pressure on biodiversity conservation is population growth even though it’s projected that Japan’s population will decline from the current 128 million to 87 million by 2060[3]. With Japan being so densely populated, you would think that land clearing for agriculture and logging were the major pressures on biodiversity, but the problem lies more with tourism. To support the huge influx of tourists into Japan, more infrastructure and transport systems are needed to provide better access to more remote areas of Japan. Additionally, land clearing for golf courses and other open space recreational pastimes add pressure.

So what kind of programs and processes are being developed to mitigate pressures? More national parks and reserves are under consideration, but some argue that the structure of the parks is detrimental- developments for tourist facilities, road construction and vehicle pollution are causing more damage rather than creating more areas for biodiversity.

The Ministry of Environment has created a sector for biodiversity conservation and its website (Biodiversity Centre of Japan maintains up-to-date information on biodiversity research. “The National Strategy Plan of Japan 2012-2020” (which can be accessed from the above website) is an educational brochure which outlines current challenges for Japan and what Japan aims to achieve by the year 2020. These are:

  1. Raising public awareness of biodiversity
  2. Developing human resources and a collaborative framework
  3. Regions linked by ecosystem services
  4. National land conservation and management taking into account the dwindling population, etc.
  5. Strengthening the scientific knowledge base for the development of political measures.

Locals helping in conserving the surrounding forest

Although this blog is only a small insight into the planning and research being undertaken, if I’ve managed to ignite your interest in biodiversity conservation work in Japan, I have a list of recommended resources you may like to browse through in your spare time:

‘The 3rd National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan’ by Ministry of Environment Japan –

Newsletter: Towards Biodiversity Conservation in Japan –

Biodiversity Center of Japan-

Ministry of Environment Japan-

WWF Japan-

Yurika Shiokawa, BSc/BA (Global Change Science and Japanese)

Works cited

[1], [3]Nature Conservation Bureau, Ministry of Environment, Government of Japan Japan. 2012. Living in Harmony with Nature: The National Biodiversity Strategy of Japan 2012-2020. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 April 13].

[2] Edahiro, J. 2008. Towards Biodiversity Conservation in Japan. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 April 13].


About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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One Response to Biodiversity Conservation in Japan

  1. Thanks Yurika for the insight to biodiversity conservation in Japan – a country for which many of us think as a place to go skiing or catch a bullet train, rather than a country replete with biodiversity.

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