epaper

High Mountain Ecology

SOME 10.3 PERCENT OF TAIWAN'S LAND AREA IS MORE THAN 2,500 METERS ABOVE SEA LEVEL. VERY FEW HUMANS LIVE PERMANENTLY AT THIS LEVEL; IT REMAINS A REALM OF FORESTS, WILD ANIMALS, AND BIRDS. BY STEVEN CROOK
We descended from the ridge, walking slowly because of the weight of our packs and the roughness of the trail. Looking down to the creek where we planned to camp for the next two nights, we saw three large animals grazing near the water. One, clearly the male, had a striking set of antlers.

They were Formosan Sambars, Taiwan's largest herbivores. In their brown winter camouflage they were hard to spot until they moved, which they did as soon as they noticed our approach.
The creatures didn't return while we remained in the valley, although the following afternoon we saw another adult male - or possibly the same one - standing still on a nearby hillside. I read later that grown sambars are up to 1.3 meters tall at the shoulder and 1.8 meters long. Through my binoculars, this one looked at least that big, a majestic lord of the highlands.

Harder to find are Taiwan's Formosan Black Bears, the country's only indigenous ursine species. These famous denizens of the Central Mountain Range differ from many other bears in that they don't hibernate. They've been known to steal food from hikers' packs while the humans are sleeping, but generally they keep a very low profile.

TAIWAN'S AVIAN POPULATION has been drawing increasing attention from foreign birdwatchers, many of whom come here in the hope of glimpsing species which exist nowhere else.

One of the most prized of these is the Mikado Pheasant, which inhabits sparse forest and bamboo groves from 1,800 meters to 3,300 meters. Despite its Japanese-sounding name, this bird is a genuine endemic. A pair is depicted on Taiwan's NT$1,000 bank bills, with the main peak of Yushan as the backdrop.

Males are blackish; their feathers have distinct glossy purple-blue edges, and their tails are black with white bars. The females are smaller and grayish.

Unfortunately, the Mikado Pheasant is both rare and shy. You're much more likely to come across the Taiwan Flamecrest, a tiny but colorful warbler. In the warmer months these birds can be found very high in the mountains, just below the peak of Mt. Syue (Snow Mountain), for instance.

On the same mountain, Vinaceous Rosefinches hang around the doorways of hikers' huts, ready to pick up any crumbs. You don't have to go far out of your way to see the Taiwan Laughing Thrush. In Yushan National Park, on the trail from Tatajia to Paiyun Cottage, hikers will almost certainly see this largish and amazingly tame bird, as it tends to scamper along the trail, oblivious to people.

If you want to learn more about Taiwan's birds, a good website is www.birdingintaiwan.com, which profiles the island's endemics, endemic subspecies, and some of the other 500-plus species found here.
AT ALTITUDES HIGHER THAN 2,000 METERS, trees rather than flowers make an impression. And while few people go hiking in the summer because of the risk of rain, those who do are rewarded with an abundance of flora, including highland rhododendrons, lichens, and mosses.

New plants, usually physically tiny and location-specific species, are still being discovered in Taiwan.
One highlight plant is the Taiwan Pleione, a deciduous perennial of the orchid family that thrives in foggy conditions around 2,500 meters above sea level. Its flowers are bright lilac-colored. This plant is so popular with collectors that there have been instances of theft (the plant is a protected species), and for this reason the 57.8-hectare Taiwan Pleione Nature Reserve was created near the mountain resort of Alishan.
Butterflies cluster wherever there are flowers, and Taiwan's warm, well-watered lowlands and foothills are rich in flora. This does not mean, however, that the drier, rockier high mountains are bereft of lepidopterans; several species can be spotted anywhere from sea level to 2,500 meters. In fact, a few survive at high elevations only. Minois nagasawae, for instance, is a rare Taiwan endemic recorded at altitudes of up to 3,300 meters on the slopes of Hehuanshan and other peaks.

FISH AREN'T USUALLY ASSOCIATED WITH HIGH MOUNTAINS, but Taiwan's alpine creeks are home to a fascinating species that is a relic of the last Ice Age.

The Formosan Landlocked Salmon used to be like other salmon - born in freshwater, migrating to the ocean, then returning to freshwater to reproduce. But when the Ice Age came to an end, its need for water colder than 18 degrees Celsius meant it was able to survive only in places like the Cijiawan Stream inside Shei-Pa National Park.

Last spring, the park authorities opened the Formosan Landlocked Salmon Ecological Center to better coordinate conservation work and public-education efforts. It's well worth dropping by here, or any one of the other visitor centers in national parks around Taiwan, before heading off in search of fish, flowers, and fauna. You'll learn a lot, both about local ecology and your responsibility as a visitor to protect it.

 

Exploring the Valley of the Glowing Sky

Fruit of the Angels

Its Cake Culture

The Amazing Bamboo

Yilan’s Kumquats

Lovely Nanzhuang

The Sea of Flowers in Xinshe Festival

Healthful Eating and Delicious Flavors

The Black King Kong of Yuanchang

From Art Brush to Beauty Brush

A Strange Fruit

The Sound of Drums

Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival

The Hot Springs of Beitou

Simakusi (Smangus)

Meinong

Water Frolics

Overnighting on the Northeast Coast

Giant Buddha, Old Temples, and Glass Art

Mt. Beidawu

The Most Joyous Thing in the World is Music

Taiwan Fun on the Tropic of Cancer

FUN WITH CHINESE - Men in the Fields during Rain

NK 101 Tea @ Style

Taitung Backpack Bus Trip

The Life of Pi

Taipei’s East District Where the Art of Shopping Is Serious Business

Spring Onion Country Yilan's Sanxing Township Offers Ideal Conditions for Cultivating Scallions

Sandy Beaches, Rocky Coastline, Quiet Country A Whirlwind Tour Round Hengchun Peninsula

What Happened at Wushe

Confucius Day

Keeping It in the Family: I Wan Jan Puppet Theater

Taiwan Has a Unique Culture

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit and the ROC's 100 Years

All the Flowers You Can Dream Of

Music from the Marshland

Pristine Scenes

Fierce Faces

Following the Tide

A Wonderful World Out There

Off to the Beach and the Rocks

Taiwan’s Easy Rider Goes Into the Wild

HAKKA TUNG BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Taipei Int'l Flora Expo

HIDDEN HOT SPRINGS & LANDFORMS

JOURNEY into the PAST

YOUNG, GIFTED, AND DEAF

Taiwan's Ultra Man Going Beyond Extreme

Rice by Any Other Name

Taiwan is Beautiful!

TAIPEI EYE

Slate Houses and Mud Rivers

From Fir Formosa

Touring Kaohsiung by KMART

TOURING TAIWAN

Taoyuan HSR Station

Taking Taiwan's Slow Train

Bus Trip to Central Taiwan

Establishing a Beautiful Taiwan

High Mountain Ecology

Exploring High Mountain HighsTaiwan at Her Peaks

Cultural Tourism in Taiwan:What's in It for You?

Getting to Know Taiwan's Indigenous Cultures

Leaving Stress Behind

Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country

Exploring Taiwan's Rural Side

Aboriginal Tribes & Festivals

The Famous Lantern Festival in Taiwan

Night Markets in Taiwan

Great Arts, Culinary Exhibitions and Events in Taiwan's National Palace Museum and Other Places

Mountains in Taiwan

Water Fun in Taiwan

Taiwanese Arts, Arts Festivals and Interesting Artifacts

"Taiwan's Ghost Festival and Other Religious Events"

Dragon Boat Festival

City: The Tallest Building Taipei 101 & Kaohsiung's Love River

National Scenic Area (IV)-Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, Penghu National Scenic Area, Matsu National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (III)-East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, East Coast National Scenic Area, Maolin National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (II)-Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (I)-North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area

Offshore Islands- Penghu、Kinmen National Park、Matzu、Green Island(Lyudao)、Orchid Island(Lanyu)

Eastern Taiwan- Taroko National Park、East Rift Valley、Rueisuei & Hongye、Jhihben

Southern Taiwan- Alishan、Tainan、Kaohsiung、Dapeng Bay & Little Liouciou、Kenting National Park

Central Taiwan- Miaoli、Taichung、Changhua、Nantou、Yushan National Park

Northern Taiwan -Taipei City、Yangmingshan & Beitou、Danshuei、Wulai、Jioufen & Jinguashih、Yilan、Taoyuan & Hsinchu