science

SE China national park boosts ecological research

FUZHOU, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Xu Xia can’t recall the number of times he has taken the 600-km route to Mount Wuyi in southeast China’s Fujian Province during the past 14 years.

“Mount Wuyi has a comprehensive forest ecosystem representative of the mid-subtropical zone. It boasts diverse groups of plants due to its varying altitudes,” said the 38-year-old ecologist with the Nanjing Forestry University, shedding light on the carbon cycling research that he has been doing since he was 24.

With a primary forest area covering 210.7 square kilometers, Mount Wuyi, the highest peak in the southeast of the Chinese mainland, has long attracted ecologists like Xu with its diverse ecology. Meanwhile, dozens of monitoring and research facilities interspersed in the lush woods have added to its appeal.

Since the establishment of the Wuyishan National Park in 2016, covering an area of 1,001.41 square kilometers, more than 20 million yuan (about 3 million U.S. dollars) have been invested into building scientific facilities to better monitor and study the area’s rich biodiversity.

Among these facilities are four 5-meter iron towers monitoring carbon flux in the air. The construction of the towers was completed in December 2019 after nearly three years of concerted efforts by Xu’s research group and Wuyishan National Park.

“If it were not for the establishment of the national park, such a project requiring advanced technologies and a huge amount of money would not be possible,” said Zhang Huiguang, an official in charge of the scientific research and monitoring work of the national park.

Every month since September, students from Xu’s research group will spend around a week in Mount Wuyi to collect data from the towers.

“Through continuous, long-term monitoring we are able to determine the carbon budget in the entire ecosystem and thus provide data for policymaking in carbon trading,” Xu said.

Like Xu, many researchers stationed in Mount Wuyi are getting their share of the new equipment. According to Zhang Yong, a zoologist who has studied wildlife in the mountain for years, some 400 additional infrared cameras will soon be installed around the park, a significant expansion from about 100 currently in service.

In three years, the national park will conduct a comprehensive background investigation of all its biological resources. “It’s an essential work for a national park, akin to keeping a tab on one’s bank balance,” said Huang Shide, senior engineer at Fujian’s academy of forestry.

“Investigation, monitoring and research are all means to achieve the ultimate goal of protection,” Zhang said. “Understanding the changes in the ecosystem and conducting research on this basis will help us formulate more comprehensive protection policies.

With the investigation delving deep, new species have also been found. Chen Xinyan, a botanist, discovered a new species of orchid in the park during an expedition in September 2018.

“Such plant species has strict requirements for its habitat, so its discovery shows the ecology of the Wuyishan National Park is well protected,” Chen said.

The national park, with its abundant natural resources and newly-built scientific facilities, is also encouraging young ecological researchers to help raise the park’s scientific research capability, Zhang Huiguang said, adding that he is happy to see the arrival of Xu’s eight students, who are likely to continue their study in Mount Wuyi after graduation, just like their professor.

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