Nature & Parks

[Outline of the Heritage Area] Yakushima World Heritage Area Management Plan

[Cultural and Historical Heritage] Yakushima World Heritage Area Management Plan

2. Outline of the Heritage Area

Yakushima Island is located between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean,approximately 60 kilometers south of the southern-most region of the main island of Kyushu.

The island has an area of approximately 500 sq km and a relatively circular perimeter of 132 km. A mountain range with over 45 mountains stands in the central part of the Island,(the main peak, Miyanoura-dake, stands 1,935 m above sea-level and is the highest mountain in Kyushu ) The many rivers running down these mountains have, created deep valleys. The climate is warm and rainy. The average annual temperature in the plains is 19.1 ℃, and the annual precipitation is estimated to be over 44,000 mm in the plain areas and 10,000 mm in the mountainous areas.
Yakushima Island has a long history of inhabitation because of its warm climate and rich nature. In medieval times, the island was considered an important strategic point for shipping and transportation routes. In more recent times, primary industries (agriculture, forestry and fisheries) have been key for supporting the economic life of the island. Therefore, while interaction has taken place between the islanders and outsiders, there has been a harmonious coexistence between nature and people on the island. Currently, small villages are scattered on the seashore, and the island supports a total population of approximately 14,000 residents (as of 31 March 1994) . The island is linked to the Kyushu mainland by air and sea (ferries, jetfoils) routes.
The history of conservation in this area is also long. A series of measures were implemented to establish conservation measures in the Heritage Area. The first of these measures was, the designation of an Academic Reference Forest Reserve in the national forest. In 1924, the Heritage Area was designated as the Yakushima Old Growth Japanese Cedar Forest Natural Monument (the designation was changed to Special Natural Monument in 1954), and was incorporated into a national park in 1964 In 1975, the Area and was further designated as a Wilderness Area was established national park that was expanded in 1983. The Forest Ecosystem Reserve was established in 1991 Much of the Heritage Area also overlaps with the Biosphere Reserve that was approved by the international committee of the Man and Biosphere Program. The outline of the Heritage Area is as follows.

(1) Location

In additoin to Miyanoura-dake in the central mountainous area, the Heritage Area continues west to the ocean over Kuniwari-dake, south to Motchomdake, and east to Aiko-dake. The Heritage area contains mountains and hills, and ranges from 30˚15' to 30˚23' North, and 130˚23' to 130˚38' East.

The following towns are located in this area:Yaku-cho, and Kamiyaku-cho, Kumage-gun, Kagoshima Prefecture

(2) Area

The Heritage Area covers l0.747 ha and accounts approximately 21% of the total area of the island. The Forestry Agency owns 95.5% of the Heritage Area, but part of the western shoreline in the Heritage Area is privately owned.

(3) Flora

A remarkable variety of plants inhabit the Heritage Area They range from sub-tropical plants, such as the banyan tree (Ficus superba var. japonica) near the seashore, and sub-tropical/temperate plants, such as Machilus thunbergii, chinquapin (Castanopsis cuspidata) and evergreen oaks further inland, to temperate zone plants, such as fir trees and Trochodendron aralioides, and subalpine plants such as the Pseudosasa owatarii and rhododendron (Rhododendron degronianum var. yakushimanum), all of which are vertically distributed on the island. Furthermore, there are natural old growth forests unique to Yakushima Island, such as those of giant yakusugi that are estimated to be several thousands of years old. These plants and trees show different vegetation from the main islands of Japan and create a unique forest ecosystem. Because of a geological quirk, over 1,900 varieties of plants and trees (including those that are unique to the island) are distributed over the area. There are 94 endemic species, over 200 species that are in the southernmost occurrence, and many indentified species that are in their northernmost occurrence. The island is differs dramatically from the main islands because it lacks Japanese beech (Fagus crenata) and other colder climate deciduous, broad-leaved forests that are found on the main islands but is home to over 600 varieties of mosses.

(4) Fauna

Since the island separated from the Kyushu mainland some 15,000 years ago,the environment of this island has produced a rich and quasi-primitive habitat. This environment has produced various subspecies that are endemic to Yakushima. There have been sixteen mammals identified on the island. Of those sixteen species, four species, e.g.,Cervus nippon yakushimae and Macaca fuscata yakui, are sub-endemic to the island. There are over 150 known species of birds on the island. Four of these species, including the Turdus celaenops and Erithacus akahige tanensis, are sub-endemic to the island. OF these 150 species, there are also four species(e.g.,Erithacus komadori and Columba janthina), are designated as Natural Monuments. There are also 15 species of reptiles, eight species of amphibians, and approximately 1,900 species of insects which have been confirmed to inhabit the island, making this small island extremely abundant in fauna.

Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan

Page top