Various conservation efforts help keep Japan’s national parks beautiful and biodiverse. Learn about how the government and local communities collaborate to preserve these precious natural habitats.
Japan is home to over 7,000 types of plants, 1,000 species of animals and more than 70,000 species of insects. The country’s forests, wetlands, mountains and coral reefs are fragile ecosystems inhabited by rare and endemic creatures such as the red-crowned crane and Hokuriku salamander. The national parks were established to preserve Japan’s precious flora and fauna, while giving people a chance to appreciate and deepen their knowledge about nature.
The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) carries out a range of activities to protect the environment and wildlife within the national parks. Their initiatives include:
- Cooperating with local governments and volunteers to organize clean ups.
- Employing local residents as "Green Workers" to conserve wildlife, clear invasive species and clean areas that are difficult to access.
- Restricting entry of vehicles at designated locations.
- Setting up and maintaining facilities so they are safe for visitors and in harmony with nature.
- Raising awareness about nature and conservation through field activities, workshops and other programs.
The areas of each national and quasi-national park are divided into ordinary, special and marine park zones. The special zones are further classified into class I, II and III special zones and special protection zones, all with varying degrees of restrictions on access and use.
Since many rare and endemic species inhabit the national parks, there are restrictions on collecting plants and capturing and hunting animals in some parts of the park. The Ministry of the Environment, local governments, academics and NGOs work together to protect endangered species such as the Japanese crested ibis, rock ptarmigan, Blakiston’s fish owl and the Japanese crane. Their initiatives include artificial breeding, feeding and habitat-improvement programs.
Alien species from abroad can drive away native species, prey on rare species and threaten native habitats. Stakeholders at national parks actively monitor or eradicate foreign plants and invasive species. There are also laws in place that prohibit the import and cultivation of alien species, such as the Invasive Alien Species Act of 2004.
Alien Fish Species at Onneto Yunotaki Falls
Onneto Yunotaki Falls is a hot spring waterfall in Akan-Mashu National Park. Tropical fish, such as tilapias and guppies, were released into pools near the waterfall in the 1980s. Their population grew to over 15,000 in 2009. They fed on native algae communities that are essential for the local ecosystem, so the Ministry of the Environment decided to take action.
Warm water, essential for the survival of tropical fish, is provided all year round by Yunotaki Falls. In an effort to eradicate the fish, the Ministry of the Environment set up pipes to divert warm water away from the pools and bring in cold water. The drop in water temperature led to the decline and eventual eradication of all alien fish species in recent years.
Maintaining Facilities at Daisetsuzan National Park
The Ministry of the Environment ensures that facilities in national parks are safe and do not damage the environment. Trails and wooden promenades in Daisetsuzan National Park are often damaged by snowmelt and rainfall. Park rangers regularly monitor and repair them to ensure the safety of visitors. A large number of other authorized personnel help the park rangers carry out such tasks, in addition to daily monitoring activities, maintenance of the facilities and ensuring climber safety. They also carry out restoration work following strict technical guidelines, taking a variety of factors into consideration. For instance, wooden promenades are carefully repaired, ensuring they are safe for hikers to walk while causing minimal damage to the surrounding vegetation and landscape.
Park Rangers play an important role in monitoring and conserving the national parks. Learn more about Japan's park rangers and how they are working to protect the environment.