Shiga Highland

©Wikimedia Commons/663highland
Shiga Highland Biosphere Reserve

Shiga Highland Biosphere Reserve is located in the central part of Honshu in Japan, spreading over 5 municipalities in 2 prefectures, namely Yamanouchi Town and Takayama Village of Nagano Prefecture and Nakanojo Town (former Rokugo Village), Kusatsu Town and Tsumagoi Village of Gunma Prefecture. The Core Area and Buffer Zone overlap Joshin’etsukogen National Park. The volcanic lake of Mt. Shirane is reputed to be the most acid lake in the world with a pH of 0.8. 

Designation date: 1980 (extended in 2014)
Administrative authorities: Yamanouchi Town Office
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 30,281 ha
Core area(s): 691 ha ha
Buffer area(s): 17,569 ha
Transition area(s): 12,021 ha

36°36’N – 36°49’12"N
Longitude: 138°19’48"E – 138°36’E
Midpoint: 36°42’36”N – 138°28’12”E

Ecological Characteristics

©Wikimedia Commons/Dr. Raju Kasambe
Asian black bear

The geographical features of the Shiga Highland Biosphere Reserve are the mountains formed by volcanic activities and valleys, river terraces, and alluvial fans formed by rivers. The surface layer of the mountains and valleys is covered by forests while habitats, paddy fields, fields, and orchards are spread around the river terraces and alluvial fans. Mt. Shirane in the southeast of the Buffer Zone is an active volcano, around which vegetation affected by the volcanic activity exists.

While deciduous broad-leaved forests spread across the zone at less than 1,600-1,700 m above sea level, the parts affected by humans are covered by secondary forests of broad-leaved deciduous trees, planted coniferous forests, or bamboo bushes.

Habitats, paddy fields, fields, and orchards spread around the river terraces, alluvial fans, and hills less than 800 m above sea level where volcanic hot springs rise in many places. In the rural zone, the landscape of typical Japanese Satoyama, which comprises secondary forests managed by humans and pastoral land, can be seen.

Many mammals such as Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), Japanese dormouse (Glirulus japonicus), Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus), stoat (Mustela erminea) and aves such as golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), coal tit (Periparus ater) and olive-backed pipit (Anthus hodgsoni) inhabit the area.


Socio-economic Characteristics

©Wikimedia Commons/663highland
Mii-dera (Onjoji) Golden Hall in Otsu, Shiga prefecture, built in 1599.

21,249 people reside in the area, however, the total population is on the decline, and the aging of the population resulting from the decline in the birthrate is a significant issue. Most of the population is Japanese.

Major industries are agriculture focusing on the cultivation of rice, vegetables, and fruits and tourism based on spas and ski resorts, which benefit from the ecosystem services by making the most of the topographical features and natural environment.

The municipalities are taking the lead in the promotion of environmental conservation-oriented agriculture since the 1980s as well as renewable energy to implement the activities for the development of a sustainable society.

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Last updated in February 2017

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