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NP QUARTERLY

December 2008

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COVER STORY

Life Will Find a Way - Evolution and Development of Species upon Climate Change by Professor Guo-shih Syu

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Abies kawakamii: The tower shape is a result of evolution to adapt to the snowing environment.
“Life will find a way” is the famous phrase from Jurassic Park, the movie.
 
The rampant scene in the movie has now been replaced by the fight against global warming. While humans are thinking whether to deal with global warming actively or passively, natural species have found their own way.
 
Disarrayed Forest
Retired Prof.Guo-shih Syu, a long-term devotee to the study of flora and fauna ecology at the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China, introduced year-mark knowledge from the U.S. in 1992 and established a laboratory at National Dong Hwa University to study tree ages.
 
The year mark tells the age of a tree as well as the temperature change and rainfall each year. It can even record forest fires, early frost hazard and chemical elements in the surroundings or mechanically driven change in the year mark. Botanists use the year Mark and data recorded at a local
weather station to get the whole picture of environmental changes on earth.
 
Chamaecyparis forest only exists in a few areas worldwide and Taiwan is the southernmost region and the only tropical country for the plant. Chamaecyparis likes a cool climate and humid environment.
Qualified in these aspects, Taiwan becomes a favorable growing environment. There are the Chamaecyparis formosensis and Chamaecyparis obtusa Var. formosana in Taiwan. The two vary in their growing altitudes.
 
Syu indicates that Chamaecyparis is an ancient plant and keeps a lot of ancient tree characteristics. It is a valuable natural legacy. Biological evolution rules say that these two similar plants seldom mix and mixture is a result of multiple climate changes.
 
Rising temperature and biological competition are threatening the growing space for Chamaecyparis. An advanced study done by the EPA in 2003 indicated a potential shrinkage by 60% in Champaecyparis distribution by 2100. New broadleaf forest species like Liquidambar formosana and Cinnamomum camphora will take over the growing space of Champaecyparis.
 
Abies kawakamii (Hay) Ito grows in areas from Taiping Mountain and Beinan Mountain around 2800 to 3700 meters in altitude in the Central Range of Taiwan. Syu indicates that climate change and rising temperature drove plants to grow toward a higher altitude. In a study done with his student in 1995, it was found that Abies had relocated 15 meters upward.
Abies fruit: Fruits of Abies in Taiwan fall off in scales and the seeds will land on edge of forest with sufficient sun exposure to sprout easily.  Therefore, it is easy to spot abies sprouts on the edge of a forest. Forest line (Mt. Cilai): The range in Taiwan also nurtures a variety of lives.  However, climate change has driven forests above 3000 meters in altitude to grow toward a higher altitude.  The picture shows Mt. Cilai of Tarako National Park around 3560 meters in altitude.
  • upper: Abies kawakamii: The tower shape is a result of evolution to adapt to the snowing environment./ by Deng-liang You
  • lower left: Abies fruit: Fruits of Abies in Taiwan fall off in scales and the seeds will land on edge of forest with sufficient sun exposure to sprout easily. Therefore, it is easy to spot abies sprouts on the edge of a forest./ by Deng-liang You
  • lower right: Forest line (Mt. Cilai): The range in Taiwan also nurtures a variety of lives. However, climate change has driven forests above 3000 meters in altitude to grow toward a higher altitude. The picture shows Mt. Cilai of Tarako National Park around 3560 meters in altitude./ by Deng-liang You

Interview & text/ Hsin-hua Lian
Acknowledgement/ Professor Guo-shih Syu, Mr. Mao-Yao Lin of Tarako National Park Headquarters
Translation/ James Chang
Photos provided/ Tarako National Park Headquarters

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