Japan Designates Nine New Ramsar Sites

26 June 2012: The Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) has announced that the Government of Japan has designated nine new Wetlands of International Importance, bringing that Party's total number of Ramsar Sites to 46.

The first site, Arao-higata, situated on the eastern side of the central part of the Sea of Ariake, is the largest single tidal flat in the Central Kuroshio Current biogeographic region. It provides a wintering and stopping point for migratory waterbirds along the East Asia-Australasian Flyway. Activities carried out on the site include commercial laver (seaweed) culture and fishing.

The second site, Lower Maruyama River and the surrounding rice paddies, comprises the Maruyama River within Toyooka City, adjacent rice fields and the coastal area facing the Sea of Japan. The site provides the habitat for 5,668 species, including some endangered birds. The river supplies water for domestic, industrial and agricultural use and is a source of food through its fisheries. Threats to the site include the expansion of roads in the surrounding areas, which could lead to reduced wetland and the deterioration of water quality.

The third site, Miyajima, is a natural coastal wetland consisting of sandy shores and intertidal marshes on Miyajima Island within the Seto Inland Sea National Park. It provides habitat for vulnerable plant species as well as IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red-Listed subspecies.

The fourth site, Nakaikemi-shicchi, is a rare low moor wetland, which is considered a biodiversity hotspot with more than 2,000 species of animals and plants inhabiting the area. Activities on the site include environmental education and communication, and tourism. The site is threatened by incursion of alien species.

The fifth site, Onuma, includes the Onuma, Konuma, and Junsainuma freshwater lakes at the center of the Oshima Peninsula. It supports a diversity of shellfish species, provides flood control, and acts as a reservoir used for agriculture, power generation, ecotourism and fisheries. The site is threatened by eutrophication caused by agriculture and stockbreeding effluent, as well as by the invasion of alien plant species.

The sixth site, Tateyama Midagahara and Dainichidaira, is alpine wetland extending over the flat lava plateau formed by past volcanic activity of Mount Tateyama. The site includes the Shomyo Waterfall, and offers a wintering spot for several species of alpine butterflies and dragonflies. It is threatened by disturbances caused by the opening of the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine sightseeing route in 1971.

The seventh site, Tokai Hilly Land Spring-fed Mires, is a cluster of six small, oligotrophic, spring-fed mires. It supports many rare and endemic plant species. These spring-fed mires comprise a water reservoir and support the agriculture carried out downstream.

The eighth site, Watarase-yusuichi, is a natural river flood plain and includes the Watarse reservoir. It supports a diversity of wetland flora and fauna, and plays an important flood control function. Activities on the site include fishing, recreation and environmental education. It is threatened by drying up due to excess deposits of earth and sand.

The ninth site, Yonaha-wan, located in the Okinawa archipelago, is the biggest tidal flat on Miyako Island. It supports mangrove forests, extensive seaweed beds, various waterbird species and reptiles. Activities on the site include fishing, tourism and environmental education. It is threatened by the inflow of excess nutrients and sediments from agricultural and domestic sources.

Japan's designations contribute to one of the goals contained in the Ramsar Convention's Strategic Plan for 2009-2015, which is to reach a protected area of 250 million hectares by 2015. [Ramsar Press Release]