Nansei Shoto Archipelao, Japan

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > East Asia > Japan

Dugong (Dugong dugon). Indo-Pacific Ocean.
© WWF-Canon / Jürgen FREUND


The Nansei Shoto Archipelago consists of numerous islands in the western Pacific Ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan. The larger of these islands are volcanic and mountains; the smaller ones are mostly coral formations. All of them contain subtropical forests and have numerous endemic plant and bird species.

A WWF-project is collecting information about the biodiversity of Nansei Shoto, including the status of the islands’ rare species and habitat. Since 2000, the WWF Coral Reef Conservation and Research Centre in the village of Shiraho on Ishigaki Island has been involved in community-based conservation, research, monitoring and environmental education.


WWF has supported individuals and organizations conducting research on ecosystems or wildlife in the Nansei Shoto since 1971. In 1980 the World Conservation Strategy was published, listing Nansei Shoto as a region to be protected. In 1996 WWF selected it as an ecoregion. WWF commenced the Nansei Shoto conservation special programme in 1983 and established a special committee for the conservation of the Nansei Shoto in 1986. The committee selected important locations in the region from a conservation perspective and implemented and supported surveys of the region.

The outputs were presented at the symposiums on the conservation of the Nansei Shoto. The selected locations of high conservation value were:
1) Shiraho coral reef in Ishigaki Island: WWF Japan Shiraho Coral Research and Conservation Centre has provided direction for various activities in Shiraho.
2) Biodiversity of Yambaru forest in Okinawa Island: dugongs, Okinawa woodpeckers, and Okinawa rails have been designated as flagship species.
3) Forests in Amami-Oshima: work has focused on support for local conservation non-profit organizations (NPOs).

Evaluations on biodiversity of the Nansei Shoto were made by WWF around 1980 and by the Environment Agency (presently the Ministry of Environment) around 1990. It is necessary to compare the past outputs, assess the present status and establish scientific and logical countermeasures.


- Collect information about the biodiversity of the Nansei Shoto ecoregion.

- Evaluate the present status by comparing information with past data.

- Raise awareness on the rare species and their habitat.


By March 2005

- Determine the direction of the project and form the team.

- Conduct surveys and collect information.

By March 2006

- Analyze the data to identify issues threatening the ecosystems and wildlife.

By March 2007

- Draw up a conservation action plan by reviewing outputs and evaluating biodiversity.

- Disseminate information to the local residents to help them understand the WWF programme and encourage participation in conservation activities.


By March 2005

- An inventory is being compiled of the literature on the animals in the Nansei Shoto (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, etc).

- A resolution on the conservation of dugongs, Okinawa woodpeckers and Okinawa rails was adopted at the 3rd World Conservation Congress of IUCN, the World Conservation Union, held in Bangkok in November 2004 (second adoption after the 2nd congress held in Anman in 2000). WWF drafted the resolution and, with other NGOs, negotiated with the governments and IUCN members for support.

By March 2006

- A plan to build a civil/military airport off Henoko, the most important and last habitat of dugongs of Okinawa, was abandoned due to a nationwide campaign. However, an alternative plan off Camp Schwab was presented in almost the same area.

- Politicians and the Japanese public are becoming more aware of the issues. The information is being given to overseas NGOs and researchers.

- For Okinawa woodpeckers and Okinawa rails, a survey was conducted on the mongoose, an invasive predator. Locations of their captures and land use were plotted.

- A petition was made to the Defense Agency of Japan with regard to the construction plan of the United States helipad in the Yambaru forest.

By March 2007

Conservation of dugongs and their habitat

- WWF conducted a biodiversity survey of Henoko and Oura Bay in the Northern Okinawa Island, the last habitat of dugongs in Okinawa. An underwater topographical map and a 3-dimentional map were produced based on the data collected from the survey.

- The Japanese government publicized an amendment plan to construct a US military base on the coast to replace an offshore landfill in the dugong habitat. WWF issued a statement to criticize this amendment and sent it to the relevant ministers and heads of local governments. The translation was sent to concerned organizations overseas.

Conservation of Okinawa woodpeckers and Okinawa rails

- WWF began a geographic information system (GIS) analysis of the land use of the Yambaru Forest and correlations between the locations where mongooses were caught and the land use pattern.

- WWF sent comments on the environmental assessment with regard to the construction of the helipad in Yambaru Forest.

Conservation of Awase Tidal Flat.

- WWF undertook a survey of birds seen in Awase Tidal Flat. It is a part of the Awase Tidal Flat Ecological Survey conducted by the Nature Conservation Society of Japan. A report was produced.

- WWF and other survey members visited the mayor of Okinawa City where the tidal flat is located and submitted the report for wise use.

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