Yakushima

 
Kamiyaku-cho and Yaku-cho, Kumage-gun Kagoshima Prefecture
N30 18 54 E130 30 31
Date of Inscription: 1993
Criteria: (vii)(ix)
Property : 10,747 ha
Ref: 662
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Located in the interior of Yaku Island, at the meeting-point of the palaearctic and oriental biotic regions, Yakushima exhibits a rich flora, with some 1,900 species and subspecies, including ancient specimens of the sugi (Japanese cedar). It also contains a remnant of a warm-temperate ancient forest that is unique in this region.

Yakushima is a primeval temperate rainforest extending from the centre of the almost round-shaped, mountainous Yakushima Island. Situated 60 km off the southernmost tip of Kyushu Island in the southwestern end of Japanese archipelago, the island is located at the interface of the palearctic and oriental biotic regions. Mountains reaching almost 2,000 m high dominate the island, and the property lies in the centre of the island, with arms stretching south, east and west to the coast.

The island ecosystem of Yakushima is unique in the Northern Hemisphere’s temperate area with successive vertical plant distributions extending from coastal vegetation with subtropical elements, up through a montane temperate rainforest to a high moor and a cold-temperate bamboo grassland at the central peaks.

The montane temperate rainforest of Yakushima is globally distinct, due to its peculiar ecosystem with abundant rheophytes and epiphytes that have adapted to the high rainfall, in excess of 8,000 mm annually, and resulting humid environment. Home to some 1,900 species and subspecies of flora, 16 mammal species and 150 bird species, it exhibits a rich biodiversity including the landscape of the Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica), a primeval forest composed of trees called “Yakusugi”, which are over 1,000 years in age.

Criterion (vii): Yakushima, despite being a small island, boasts several key features including impressive mountains which rise to nearly 2,000 m, and an outstanding gradient from the high peaks of the central core down to the seacoast. The property is home to a number of extremely large diameter Japanese cedar trees, thousands of years old with the oldest and most spectacular individuals of the species found on Yakushima Island. It contains the last, best example of an ecosystem dominated by the Japanese cedar in a superb scenic setting. Thus, Yakushima is a valuable property having natural areas of biological, scientific and aesthetic significance on a small island.

Criterion (ix): Yakushima is an island ecosystem with high mountains––a characteristic rare in the region at around 30 degrees north latitude. It contains a unique remnant of a warm-temperate primeval forest which has been much reduced elsewhere in the region. These forests extend through an altitudinal sequence from the coast up to the central peaks. The property is very important for scientific studies on evolutionary biology, biogeography, vegetation succession, interaction of lowland and upland systems, hydrology, and warm-temperate ecosystem processes.

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2 replies »

  1. The Shiratani Unsui-kyo Ravine is a big draw for the adventurous as it is a beautiful place to hike. Some of the trails can be completed in a single hour while other trails inside the ravine can take up to six hours to complete. It rains almost every day, but that doesn’t take away from the exceptional beauty of the island where you will also find rare plants and animals, including the Yaku monkey.

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  2. The forest is a breathtaking national park and a hiker’s paradise. But make sure to pack your raincoats. Yakushima is a tropical island with frequent rains: locals joke about it having 35 days of rain a month.

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