National park enriches carbon research
Xu Xia can't recall the number of times he has taken the 600-kilometer route to Mount Wuyi in 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 from 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 more than 210 square kilometers and its diverse environment, Mount Wuyi, the highest peak in the southeast of the Chinese mainland, has long attracted ecologists like Xu. Dozens of monitoring and research facilities interspersed in the lush woods have also added to its appeal to ecologists.
Since the establishment of the Wuyishan National Park in 2016, which covers an area of over 1,000 sq km, more than 20 million yuan ($3.1 million) have been invested in building scientific facilities to better monitor and study the area's rich biodiversity.
Among these facilities are four 5-meter-tall 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 the 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 park.
Since September, students from Xu's research group have periodically been on Mount Wuyi collecting 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 hands on new equipment.
Zhang Yong, a zoologist who has studied wildlife on the mountain for years, said 400 additional infrared cameras will soon be installed around the park, a significant expansion from the 100 currently in service.
Over the next three years, the national park will conduct a comprehensive 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, a senior engineer at Fujian's Academy of Forestry.
Zhang Yong said investigation, monitoring and research are all means to achieve the ultimate goal of protection. "Understanding the changes in the ecosystem and conducting research on this basis will help us formulate more comprehensive protection policies," he said.
New plant species have also been found in the national park. Chen Xinyan, a botanist, discovered a new species of orchid in the park during an expedition in September 2018.
"Such a plant species has strict requirements for its habitat, so its discovery shows the environment of the Wuyishan National Park is well-protected," Chen said.
Zhang Huiguang said with its abundant natural resources and newly built scientific facilities, the national park is also encouraging young ecological researchers to help raise the park's scientific research capability.
He said he was happy to see the arrival of Xu's eight students, who are likely to continue their research work on Mount Wuyi after graduation, just like their professor.