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Japan Hotspot

Japan is internationally recognised for its efforts in promoting biodiversity conservation and retains a forest cover of 20% spread over a land area of 74,698 sq km. It is interesting to note that 70% of Japan's 127.5 million people live on just 3% of the land. This hotspot covers roughly 370,000 sq km, which is the land area of Japan. The country has many different vegetation types-from montane forests to subtropical broad-leaf evergreen forests and mangroves.

Japan's 3,000 island chain is located at the intersection of three of the earth's tectonic plates making it vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanoes. Different parts of the archipelago are subjected to heavy rains and snowfall. In fact, Kyushu is one of the rainiest places on earth while Honshu has one of the highest rates of snowfall in the world.

The country has 5,600 plant, 366 bird, 94 mammal, 66 reptile, 240 butterfly, 50 amphibian and 214 freshwater fish species. Japan has a number of notable plants that are endemic and favourites in gardens. Among mammals the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), Iriomote cat (Prionailurus iriomotensis) are unique to this region. The Okinawa rail (Gallirallus okinawae) and Okinawa woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii) are two of the 13 endemic bird species. Kyushu is also well known for being a popular winter breeding ground with over 85% of the world's hooded cranes (G. monacha) and 40% of white-naped cranes (G. vipio) seen here in winter. The Okinawa black-breasted leaf-turtle (Geoemyda japonica), and one of the world's largest amphibians, the Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus), are also found here.

Threats to habitat include clearing forests for ski resorts, golf courses, road construction or for agricultural, industrial or residential land. Besides this, alien invasive species like the Indian grey mongoose (Herpestes edwardsi), the Javan mongoose (H. javanicus) and Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica) have also invaded the forests in Japan posing a serious threat to the survival of several endemic species. About 17% or 62,025 sq km of the hotspot is a legally protected area.

[The information has been sourced from the Conservation International website on biodiversity hotspots ( Accessed in February 2008.]

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