Birds of passage Our Urgent Task : Building up the Ecological Network

In situations where, for example, there is a heated argument over the Fujimae tidal flat, we are required to elaborate a basic strategy to protect or conserve a variety of ecological systems, including tidal flats and marshes in the Japanese Islands.
If we do not have some basic strategy, we will have to repeat the unfortunate experiences we have had with the Fujimae and Isahaya marshes.
In concrete terms, I would like to propose the prompt formulation of an ecological network nation-wide or preferably beyond national borders.
By combining corridors of wildlife habitats and securing habitats in the form of stepping-stones, we can preserve and improve the ecological functions of our land as a whole, which I would like to call an ecological network.
To do so, we need to be aware of the following facts, and prepare for the measures accordingly:

The number of registered protected areas remains stagnant

Island Firstly, an increase in the registration of internationally protected areas by international conventions is an imperative measure to protect ecological systems. The present situation, however, tells us that we cannot rely much on this method.
Currently in Japan we have several internationally protected districts; those registered with the Ramsar Convention, those registered with the World Heritage Convention (Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage), and the Biosphere Reserves.
Take the case of marshes registered with the Ramsar Convention, for example.
The increase in the number of registrations by countries which signed the Convention earlier, is generally stagnant (including Japan) these days except for a few countries such as England.
We cannot expect the number of registrations to increase by leaps and bounds in the near future both in Japan and abroad.
Our task, therefore, is to find out how to form a network of as-yet-unregistered marshes.
We may need to compile a preliminary list of marshes to be registered in the near future. At the same time, registered marshes should become a node of both domestic and international networks.
In an ecological linkage of registered- and non-registered marshes, registered marshes will be expected to play a strategic base function similar to those of so-called hub airports.

Urgent need to establish a database

Frog Secondly, we need to effectively implement the "National Strategy on Biological Diversity" formulated in 1996.
At the end of last year the Environment Agency divided Japan into ten districts, each having its own common ecological traits, and began to formulate a nation-wide ecological network, selecting important regions from each district.
However, the strategy set a rather long-term target; by about the middle of the 21st century, a rather long interval.
Given the remarkable change in ecosystems in recent years, it is desirable to complete and strengthen such a network in about 15 years.
For that purpose, it is necessary to establish several concrete goals, and carry out five-year action plans successively.
One of the most urgent tasks is to establish a database of ecosystems and habitat information.
Incidentally, the Corine Program, an Euro database on habitat types, played an important role in formulating a network later on.
Thirdly we have to think about the position of the ecosystem network in our national land planning.
In this connection, it can be said that we took a step forward because a provision related to this issue was laid down in the New Comprehensive National Development Plan Grand Design for the 21st Century(1998).
We need further progress; we should define the ecosystem network as "another invisible axis of national land planning = Ecological Axis," and should make an investment in social infrastructure for the enhancement of environmental assets.
In other words, we should make an effort to build up an infrastructure which can strengthen the ecological function of our land through the active recovery and restoration of ecosystems.
With these measures, we will be able to set up a "nation-wide ecological network."

The strategy open to the world

Owl In order to make the "National Strategy on Biological Diversity" open to the world, we want to develop our national ecological network into a "cross-border ecological network" encompassing Japan, East Asia and Oceania.
In principle, this network should be pushed forward based upon trinity of conventions; the "Convention on Biological Diversity," "Ramsar Convention" and the "Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals = Bonn Convention."
However, Japan has not yet signed the Bonn Convention for various reasons. As for migratory birds, the Africa/Eurasia Regional Agreement was concluded under the Bonn Convention, and a similar agreement is expected to be concluded for East Asia and Pacific region.
At the moment, Japan is planning the formation of a network based on the Ramsar Convention.
Currently a cooperative system based on the "strategy to protect migratory water birds in Asia and the Pacific regions" is being set up among concerned countries.
Considering the impact on Asian ecosystems by climate change and other factors, we need to build up not only networks among the destination countries of migratory birds, but also a network of ecosystems among cross-channel (or cross-strait) countries.
The "Natura 2000" plan of EU is a good example.
Based on the "Habitat Directive" of 1992, the EU has designated its Special Conservation Areas through a three-stage selection process of member countries and six bio-geographic zones.
EU will complete an ecosystem network across Europe by 2004.
Japan is in a different situation than Europe because its ecosystem is an island type.
Nevertheless, I believe that our taking the lead in establishing an "ecosystem network for East Asia and Oceania" may be also the most effective way of protecting ecosystems in Japan.

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