Taiheiyo Tapestry of Trees
A bright green tapestry of evergreen forest drapes over the plains, hills, and low mountains on the Pacific Ocean (Taiheiyo) side of Japan’s Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu Islands. Forests of laurel weave along the coast, shifting to oak forests further inland. Rivers and streams wind through the landscape like long, silver threads.
The warm waters of the Japan Current in the Pacific bring a subtropical, warm-temperate climate to this ecoregion, providing a long growing season for vegetation. From June to September, tropical typhoons whip across the shore, bringing high temperatures and much precipitation. In winter, temperatures and rainfall levels drop, often creating conditions that are even colder than the snowy winters on the western side of Honshu.
Several salamander species live on the forests, rivers, and streams of this ecoregion, including the Tokyo, spotted, amber-colored, Oita, and Odaigahara salamanders. Some of these secrete toxins when they get scared, making themselves a far less tasty snack for predators. This ecoregion is also the breeding ground for the vulnerable Japanese night-heron. These nocturnal birds are rarely seen, preferring instead to stay in the crowns of trees during the day. The threatened fairy pitta builds its spherical nest in the evergreen forests of this ecoregion. If an intruder approaches, the little bird covers the entrance to the nest with leaves and twigs.
Cause for Concern
Across the coastal plains and hills of this region, rice fields stretch where ribbons of broadleaf evergreen forest once grew, a result of the introduction of rice cultivation to Japan almost 2,000 years ago. The land in this region has been almost entirely developed or converted to agriculture. Urban areas have heavily altered the landscape. The largest cities in Japan--including Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagoya, as well as the Pacific industrial belt--lie in this region. Introduced tree and grass species compete with native vegetation. Remnants of original forests grow in sanctuaries around temples and shrines, on steep, inaccessible mountain slopes, and in river gorges.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001