Wild Plants Under Threat in Japan
Japan has a rich flora comprising almost 7,000 species of vascular plants, and it is only recently that the extremely high rate at which these species are disappearing has been recognised. Following detailed surveys by the Japanese Society for Plant Systematics with support from 400 volunteers, it is now known that 24% of the Japanese flora is either extinct or endangered. The serious status of wild plants in Japan was highlighted in the 1997 Red List of Vascular Plants published by the Ministry of the Environment. Twenty taxa had become completely extinct and five were extinct in the wild. A further 1,665 taxa were classified as threatened. Out of a total listing of 1,887 taxa, 1,044 were classed as endangered, 621 as vulnerable, 145 as near threatened and 52 as data deficient. Work is continuing to assess the current situation, and a revised edition of the Red List is due to be published by the Ministry of the Environment in 2006.
Major threats to plant conservation have been identified, such as over-harvesting and change of land usage. The Endangered Species Act was implemented in Japan in 1993. Under this law, 19 plant species have been designated as National Endangered Species. Programmes for the rehabilitation of natural habitats and the maintenance of viable populations have so far been put in place for 12 of them.
BGCI(2005) Cuttings, Vol.2(1) 2