Yakushima

Outstanding Universal Value

(vii) Natural beauty
Landscape dominated by natural forests of enormous Japanese cedars called “Yakusugi"
(ix) Ecosystem
Island ecosystem that exhibits the conspicuous vertical plant distribution

From Subtropical to Subalpine Zones

Despite the fact that Yakushima is situated to the south of the Japanese Archipelago, visitors here can see natural vegetation of Japan—which stretches from north to south—on this single island because it contains mountains of about 2,000 m in elevation. The vegetation in Japan is reflected in miniature along a vertical distribution, ranging from coastal vegetation with subtropical elements such as Ficus superba var. japonica, to evergreen broadleaf forest such as Catanopsis sieboldii, to Japanese cedar forest, to cold-temperate bamboo grassland and high moor near the mountain peaks, and to subalpine scrub forest, as elevation increases. A great variety of plants can be observed, including Gentiana yakushimensis that is endemic to Yakushima, Japanese cedar at its southern limit in Yakushima, and Caesalpinia crista at its northern limit.

From Subtropical to Subalpine Zones

A Rain-Shrouded Island

Yakushima is an island with so much rain that it is often described as “rainy 35 days a month". It has high levels of humidity and receives more than 8,000 mm in annual precipitation, which is nearly five times the average for Japan and nearly ten times worldwide. While Japanese cedar is thought to live about 800 years at most, the cedar trees in Yakushima grow incredibly slowly owing to nutritionally-poor soil. For this reason, they have extremely precise tree rings, contain a great deal of resin, and are resistant to rotting. Many of these cedar trees live more than 1,000 years here to be called “Yakusugi". Together with the mountain stream vegetation like Ainsliaea faurieana and epiphytes that are adapted to the highly humid environment, the old Yakusugi trees present distinctive forest scenery which can not be seen anywhere else in the world.

A Rain-Shrouded Island

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