Friday, July 23, 2010

Huoyanshan in central Taiwan stands out like painting to study in fascinating detail in wonderful ecology classroom

By Nancy T. Lu

Huoyanshan, a hill formation resembling a beautiful landscape painting when seen from the highway in Miaoli, takes its name from a legendary setting in the classic, “Journey to the West,” because of the dramatic flaming effect of sunlight on its hard and dry yellowish meandering ridges. Up close, this landmark of saw-tooth mountain ridges is a virtual classroom for geological and ecological study.

Huoyanshan’s rock layers have been formed by pebbles of different sizes over a long period of time. Sedimentation, corrosion and erosion have all come into geologic play. Patterns on rocks when studied by experts lead to a better understanding of the secrets of nature.

Erosion has resulted in materials from the hills settling in the low-lying areas. Compacting and compression have followed, accounting for Huoyanshan’s present formation particularly the main peak with an altitude of 600 meters above sea level. The Daan River nearby has mostly gravel beds. Over the years the landslides during the rainy season have frequently forced the closure of the road at the foot of the mountain to traffic. Even the building of a tunnel has not solved the problem.

The landscape consisting of interesting ridges, cliffs and slopes with vegetation here and there continues to rapidly change. The topography keeps evolving. The climate is one influencing factor. Constant rain washes away the mud holding the rocks together. As a consequence, rocks on the edges of the slopes slide off.

Motorists who drive past Huoyanshan can find weather sunny in the south and rainy in the north. In short, Huoyanshan is virtually a weather boundary between the north and the south. Such environment provides a unique habitat for animals and plants. The nature preserve tells a fascinating story in this respect.

The raised air current at Huoyanshan helps migratory birds passing through fly higher. The birds soar and glide to save on energy, riding on the winds and the thermals, which are rising currents of warm air.

Huoyanshan, in fact, is on the migration route of the gray-faced buzzard. Every spring, this raptor returns to the north for breeding. While en route, it stops and rests at Pakua Terrace and Huoyanshan Nature Preserve.

Forest fires and landslides explain the distribution of plant species at the Huoyanshan Nature Preserve. Growing in drier areas south of Huoyanshan’s main peak are the Taiwan pied pine, the Taiwan acacia, the Formosan sweet gum and the Formosan alder. Wild grass plants thrive in the gravel river delta.

Visits to fascinating Huoyanshan require special permission. The Huoyanshan Forest Ecological Education Center at 73 Zhongzheng Road in Sanyi, Miaoli, was inaugurated last July 16. The exhibits here provide an introduction to the wonderful ecology of the site. Visitors can peep through a hole and see, for example, a yellow butterfly from the area. Video clips show the many faces of Huoyanshan and what dangerous erosion has done to it.

Trained guides deployed Huoyanshan Forest Ecological Education Center are helpful in promoting love and protection of nature especially among visiting schoolchildren. Do-it-yourself activities are organized regularly to stimulate interest in the natural environment and its protection.

The Hsinchu Forest District Office of the Forestry Bureau under the Council of Agriculture has asked the Forestry Department of the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology to manage this center. The center is open from 9 a,m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. Call tel. (037)878851 to make inquiries. Or write to email address