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Features and Initiatives

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The rich natural environment provides us with various "blessings of nature". In addition, the unique culture cultivated by our ancestors is still utilized in our lives as "blessings of people".
The "blessings of nature" and "blessings of people" of the Shiga-highland Biosphere Reserve are important resources of the region and have become our inherited "legacy". In order to protect and pass on these resources, use them wisely, and aim for sustainable development of the region, we will promote "learning" as a way to develop human resources who will be responsible for these resources.

Natural Environment

Shiga Kogen is a plateau located on the Fossa Magna, surrounded by the outer wall of a volcanic belt with several volcanoes such as Mt. Shiga and Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane. It is also a source of water for several water systems with more than 70 ponds and marshes of various sizes.
Temperate deciduous broad-leaved forests such as beech and Quercus serrata, and subalpine coniferous forests such as Japanese privet and birch grow here. In addition, some of the subalpine coniferous forests remain as primeval forests. This vegetation has an impact on the growth of a wide variety of plants and animals, including rare animals such as the Japanese macaque monkey, Japanese dormouse, and stoat, as well as birds such as the golden eagle, brown eagle, and red-faced bluebird.

Traditional Common Land and Resource Management

Some of the forests in the buffer and transition areas are traditional common lands of the local communities, which have been managed together since before the middle ages. This is to ensure that the resources are not exhausted, and are used sustainably for gathering wild plants and cutting down trees according to the community's practices. The fishing rights of the river are held by the local residents' fishery cooperatives, and the native population of Japanese char living in the Zako River is managed by the fishery cooperatives for proper resource utilization.
This kind of joint management by local residents' groups serves to protect the mountains of Shiga-highland Biosphere Reserve by preventing overexploitation and the abuse of water rights.

Utilization of Biosphere Reserves

The blessings of nature we received from Biosphere Reserves are deeply connected to our lives.
The "volcanic heat" from mountains such as Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane is widely used as a tourist resource for its hot springs, and is also utilized for hot spring heat, heating, and snow thawing on roads, as an initiative based on the SDGs.
At Shiga Kogen, we offer tours that allow visitors to experience the natural environment in each of the four seasons (trekking tours), as well as environmental learning programs that go beyond simply experiencing nature and aim to deepen understanding of environmental conservation and coexistence.

Achieving Environmental Protection

In order to achieve balance between humans and nature, following a suggestion from kabuki actor Ebizo Ichikawa, we are planting trees to restore defunct ski resorts to a forest rich in nature through a program named ABMORI, and volunteer groups and ski clubs are working to eradicate invasive alien plants to restore the marshlands.

Continuation of Culture and Tradition

Charcoal making, bamboo crafting, white chopstick making(unlacquered), and wood turning have been carried out using "resources of the mountain" such as trees and nemagaridake (A type of bamboo) in Shiga Kogen. People have been using the blessings of the mountains and taking care of nature since the Edo period, for example by restricting the cutting down of trees for materials.

Blessings of Nature

Filtered by the great nature of the Shiga-highland Biosphere Reserve, the mineral-rich snowmelt water flows into the fields to grow fresh, flavorful crops.
Our ancestors made tremendous efforts to cultivate the wilderness, dig weirs, and manage the weirs after the water was drawn, so water is not something we can take for granted.

ESD activities in Shiga-highland Biosphere Reserve

In order to promote the integration of education, utilization, and conservation of the biosphere, Biosphere Reserve are also suitable as a place for ESD (Education for Sustainable Development), and synergistic effects are expected by linking the efforts of Biosphere Reserve, ESD , and UNESCO Schools.
In Yamanouchi Town and Takayama Village, all elementary and junior high schools are members of UNESCO schools, and are engaged in ESD activities with a focus on environmental education.

What is ESD?

ESD is the abbreviation of “Education for Sustainable Development”. It is an approach to education that nurtures the leaders who will build a sustainable society in the future. Through this learning, we aim to create a sustainable society by fostering a new sense of values and the ability to think and act.

Example of ESD application at Shiga-highland Biosphere Reserve

The Boards of Education of Yamanouchi Town and Takayama Village have registered all their elementary and junior high schools as UNESCO Schools. Each school engages in ESD learning that emphasizes children's awareness, and holds exchange meetings to learn from each other. In the buffer area, the Nature Conservation Center of Shiga Kogen and the Shiga Nature Education Park affiliated with the Department of Education of Shinshu University are conducting nature watching for children from infants to high school students, trash pickup by local elementary and junior high school students, and marshland restoration activities.
Shiga Kogen Tourism Association is also implementing an "Environmental Studies Program" for students to learn about the environment through lectures and practical training, beginning with the UNESCO School.

Topographical and Geological Features(Click here for details)

These volcanos such as Mt. Shiga, Mt. Kasagadake, and Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane, were active at different times and have volcanic landforms formed by their respective eruptions. Most of the geology is magmatic rock, but there is also a wide range of greenstone rocks that were formed by magmatic activity underground during earlier periods.

Climate(Click here for details)

Based on the Köppen climate classification, the climate is subarctic humid (Dfb), but the lower elevations belong to the temperate warm and humid climate. Mountain fog is common near the 2,000-meter-high Mountains in the area, and during the cold season, the temperature is low even during the daytime, so rime and hoarfrost on trees can be seen. The abundant snowmelt is an important source of water for the Shinano River and Tone River systems.

Vegetation(Click here for details)

At a height of about 1,600 meters, the upper part of the mountain is covered with subalpine coniferous forests such as Japanese red fir and Japanese white birch, while the lower part is covered with deciduous broad-leaved forests such as beech. The depressions of the lava plateau are dotted with numerous lakes and high-rise marshes, which are inhabited by plants that live in a special environment. A total of 1446 species in 142 families of vascular plants have been confirmed.

Animals(Click here for details)

A wide variety of animals have been confirmed to inhabit the mountain environment, which is rich in differences in elevation, grasslands, marshes, lakes, and rivers. Mammals such as Stoats, Japanese macaques and black bears, birds such as golden eagles and ruby-throated flycatchers, butterflies such as the yellow-bellied monarch butterfly and the red-faced lizard, and dragonflies such as the white-throated dragonfly and the damselfly are found here. A total of 194 species in 76 families of 28 orders of vertebrates and 972 species in 141 families of 13 orders of insects have been confirmed.

Tourism(Click here for details)

Tourism is a major industry in Shiga-highland Biosphere Reserve. In particular, skiing, which takes advantage of the volcanic terrain and heavy snowfall, and the Yudanaka-Shibu hot spring resort and Kusatsu hot spring, which utilize the rich source of water from the volcano, are among the largest and oldest in Japan.

Agriculture(Click here for details)

In the transition areas of Yamanouchi Town and Takayama Village, fruits and rice are cultivated, and fruit trees such as apples and grapes are especially popular due to the well-drained soil and topography peculiar to the fan-shaped land and the climate with a large temperature difference between day and night.