Location and Values: The Yakushima world heritage site covers about 20% of Yakushima Island, in the far south of the Japanese archipelago. This relatively small site extends from the sea coast to the island’s highest peaks (at around 2,000m altitude), and includes a complex of vegetation zones corresponding with altitude. The coastal vegetation includes subtropical elements while higher elevations support montane temperate rainforest dominated by ancient Yakusugi (Japanese cedar) trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old. The central mountain peaks are characterized by moorland and bamboo grassland communities. The site is considered to be globally important as the last, best example of this type of primeval temperate rainforest, set in a superb scenic landscape. It has become an important centre for scientific studies on ecosystem processes, evolutionary biology, biogeography and vegetation succession.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of Yakushima is ‘good, with some concerns’. The IUCN report notes that the boundaries of the site are rather arbitrary and it is necessary to manage the site in a wider landscape context with the surrounding forested lands. The site is vulnerable to external threats including invasive species (e.g. raccoon dog) and overpopulation of deer and other native animals and these threats need to be addressed in a holistic way for the whole of Yakushima Island.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description