Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wuyi Mountains

The Wuyi Mountains are a mountain range located at the prefecture Nanping, at the northern border of Fujian province with , . The mountains cover an area of 60 . In 1999, Mount Wuyi entered UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites, both natural and cultural. It is the most outstanding biodiversity conservation zone of Southeast China. Numerous types of tea are produced around Mount Wuyi, it is the origin of the ''real'' Da Hong Pao tea and Lapsang souchong, further described in .

Location


The Wuyi Mountains are located between Wuyishan City, at Nanping prefecture of Fujian province and Wuyishan Town, at Shangrao city of Jiangxi province. The geographical coordinates are 27 43 northern latitude and 117° 41′ east of Greenwich. The area is connected to the road network by provincial road number S303. The world heritage site has an area of 999.75 square kilometres with an additional buffer zone of 278.88 km?.

Geology


The region is part of the Cathayshan fold system and has experienced high volcanic activity and the formation of large fault structures, which were subsequently subject to erosion by water and weathering. The landscape is characterized by winding river valleys flanked by columnar or dome-shaped cliffs as well as cave systems. Peaks in the western portion of the Wuyi Mountains typically consist of volcanic or plutonic rocks, whereas peaks and hills in the eastern area are made up of red sandstone with very steep slopes but flat tops. The Nine-bend River , about 60 kilometers in length, meanders in a deep gorge among these hills. The highest peak in the area is Mount Huanggang at 2,158 meters, making it the highest point of Fujian, the lowest altitudes are around 200 meters.

Climate



The Wuyi Mountains act as a protective barrier against the inflow of cold air from the northwest and retain warm moist air originating from the sea. As a result, the area has a humid climate with high rainfall and common fogs. Lower altitudes experience annual temperatures in the range from 12 to 18 °.

The area is relatively pollution-free, the Chinese government set up its first air quality monitoring station in the area on January 31 2005.

Biodiversity and environment



The Wuyi Mountains are the largest and most representative example of Chinese subtropical forests and South Chinese rainforests' biodiversity. Its ecology has survived from before the Ice Age around 3 million years ago. Biologists have been conducting field research in the area since 1873.

The vegetation of the area depends strongly on altitude. It is divided into 11 broad categories: 1) temperate coniferous forest, 2) warm coniferous forest, 3) temperate broad-leaved and coniferous mixed forest, 4) deciduous and broad-leaved forest, 5) evergreen broad-leaved and deciduous mixed forest, 6) evergreen broad-leaved forest, 7) bamboo forest, 8) deciduous broad-leaved shrub forest, 9) evergreen broad-leaved shrub forest, 10) brush-wood, and 11) meadow steppe. Most common are evergreen broad-leaved forests, some of which make up the largest remaining tracts of humid sub-tropical forests in the world. Higher plants from 284 families, 1,107 genera and 2,888 species as well as 840 species of lower plant and fungus have been reported for the region. The most common tree families are Beech Fagaceae, Laurel , Camellia , Magnolia , Elaeocarpaceae, and Witchhazel Hamamelidaceae.

The fauna of the Wuyi Mountains is renowned for its high diversity, which includes many rare and unusual species. In total, approximately 5,000 animal species have been reported for the area. 475 of these species are vertebrates and 4,635 insects. The number of vertebrate species is divided as follows:


49 vertebrate species are to China and 3 are endemic to the Wuyi Mountains. The latter are the bird David's Parrotbill , Pope’s Spiny Toad , and the Bamboo Snake ''Pseudoxenodon karlschmidti'' . Other known endangered species in the area include: South Chinese Tiger , Clouded Leopard , Leopard , Hairy-fronted Muntjac , Mainland Serow , Cabot's Tragopan , Chinese Black-backed Pheasant , Chinese Giant Salamander , and the Golden Kaiserihind .

Human history


Human settlement on the slopes of Mount Wuyi can be traced back 4,000 years by archeological remains. During the Western Han Dynasty, the ancient city of Chengcun was the capital of the Minyue kingdom. In the 7th century, the Wuyi Palace was built for emperors to conduct sacrificial activities, a site that tourists can still visit today. The mountains were an important center of Taoism and later Buddhism. Remains of 35 academies erected from the era of the to the Qin Dynasty and more than 60 Taoist temples and monasteries have been located. However, most of these remains are very incomplete. Some of the exceptions for which authentic remains are preserved are the Taoyuan Temple, the Wannian Palace, the Sanqing Hall, the Tiancheng Temple, the Baiyun temple, and the Tianxin temple. The area is the cradle of Neo-Confucianism, a current that became very influential since the 11th century.

Tourism





The number of visitors to the area has increased from approximately 424,000 in 1993 to 700,000 in 1998. A raft trip down the Nine-bend River is the most popular activity followed by a visit to the "Thread of Sky" caves, where the narrowest walkway is only 30cm. Visitor access to the biodiversity protection area is controlled.