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Introduction to the Ecology of Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area

 Introduction to the Ecology of Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area

Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area International Bird Race

Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area is located to the northeast of Taichung City on Taiwan's west-central coast (Taichung's Heping District), on a southwesterly spur of the Syueshan Mountain Range. From the highest point of Siaosyueshan (2997 meters) southwesterly to Anmanshan, Chuansingshan, and Siaolaishan, the park extends for 12 kilometers along this ridgeline at elevations spanning 2000 to nearly 3000 meters encompassing both mid- and high-elevation areas. The topography is undulating with relatively large changes in elevation, and except for a few scattered areas with gradual slopes, most of the land in the park has average slopes that exceed 30%. The total area of the park is 3963 hectares. Due the wide range of elevations, forests within the park cover warm, temperate, and cold climatic zones, each with its own unique ecological characteristics. The warm forest zone is mostly formed by broadleaf tree species of the Lauraceae and Fagaceae families, mixed with small amounts of Pseudotsuga wilsoniana and other members of the Pinaceae, forming complex vegetative communities. Temperate forests are composed of the large coniferous Taiwan Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa var. formosana), Taiwan red cedar (Chamaecyparis formosensis), and Tsuga formosana mixed with broadleaf trees of the Lauraceae and Fagaceae, forming mixed coniferous-broadleaf forests with large soaring trees. In the cold forest zone, the Taiwan white fir (Abies kawakamii) is dominant. Above the tree line, arrow bamboo (Yushania niitakayamensis) and Miscanthus transmorrisonensis together form stunning high-montane grasslands. Because of the plentiful forest resources, the area of this park was originally under the jurisdiction of the Taiwan Provincial Government's Dasyueshan Forestry Company, Ltd., which was in charge of Taiwan area forestry policies in the important phase of business enterprise development and industrialization. The Dongshih Forest Administration was established in 1989, when forestry concepts were gradually turning more toward conservation of forest resources and recreation, and so the Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area was born.

At mid and high elevations within the park, it is cold in winter and cool in summer. The average annual temperature is 12.4 °C, with the highest average monthly temperature in July of 17.8 °C, and the lowest in December of 6~7 °C. When cold fronts pass through Taiwan, temperatures here can drop below 0 °C, and it snows in the higher elevations. The annual precipitation can reach 4000 mm, mostly falling in late spring's "plum rains" and during the summer typhoon season. Winter is comparatively drier, and the sources of some of the mountain streams often dry up then.

There are different scenes in the four seasons of the year at Dasyueshan National Forest Recreation Area. Each spring as the cold begins to wear off, trees of Taiwan cherry (Prunus campanulata) fill with blossoms in a prelude to the coming flowering season. When the cherries are in full bloom, one can often see the Taiwan Yuhina (Yuhina brunneiceps) and White-eared Sibia (Heterophasia auricularis) within clumps of flowers drinking nectar. In April and May, along the Dasyueshan Forest Road and most trails in the park, the red-stripe azalea (Rhododendron formosanum), Mori azalea (Rhododendron morii), red-hairy azalea (Rhododendron rubropilosum), Taiwan azalea (Rhododendron ellipticum), and common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) one by one burst into bloom, and later in turn entering the fray are Taiwan lily (Lilium formosanum), Senecio nemorensis, and Polygonum cuspidatum which continue to adorn the green forests with flourishing magnificence. At this time, the mid-elevation birds begin seeking mates, and each species does its best with loud clear calls and gorgeous plumage from head to toe to outcompete other birds for mates. In the middle of the summer, everywhere in the park are seas of green forests, the air is cool and pleasant, and this is when people from the lowlands come to the high mountains to escape the heat. Now the thermals are strong, and in the afternoon, clouds and mist often rise from the river valleys, covering the park in a layer of thick intoxicating fog. By November, it is deep autumn, and the deciduous trees of Acer serrulatumAcer kawakamiiAcer morrisonense, and Photinia niitakayamensis continually change to shades of yellow and red, painting the forest with many colors. After winter arrives, the vegetation is yellowed and dried out, and the forests have a desolate look, but the vast seas of clouds and colorful scenes at sunset are gorgeous performances that daily provide mystifying vistas. In addition, at mid and high elevations, the air is clear and there is little light pollution, so Dasyueshan is a well-known spot in Taiwan to watch stars. On a clear night with no moon, the night sky is filled with twinkling heavenly bodies. Near the Siaosyueshan Hostel there is an interpretive area explaining the constellations, and the view is vast with nothing covering the sky, so it is an excellent place to count the stars.

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