Printer Friendly

4 The protected areas and biosphere reserves in the temperate rainforests.

1. The world's protected temperate rainforests

1.1 General points

The objective characteristics of the temperate rainforest biome makes it very desirable that it should contain a large network of protected spaces, because it shows high biodiversity, even though its area is relatively small and it is highly fragmented. Many of the temperate rainforest areas contain a high number of endemic species and groups (New Zealand, Canary Islands, and Japan) and high species diversity. Furthermore, the relict nature of the flora and fauna of some of these areas makes their high biodiversity even more important.

These forests are intensely exploited, and may totally disappear from areas at middle latitudes in developed countries or regions with high populations. On the northwest Pacific coast of North America, for example, most of the temperate rainforests have been cut down. Many of the remaining mature forests are in danger of being logged, which causes a loss of biodiversity, habitat fragmentation and destruction, water pollution, soil erosion, and reduces the recharging of aquifers. In the Southern Hemisphere the mature temperate rainforests are being cleared at an alarming rate. In Tasmania, even though the Southwest Biosphere Reserve (a wilderness that is also a World Heritage Site) retains large areas of intact forest, the logging companies continue to fell the island's natural Eucalyptus forests.

In addition to modern-day logging, many of the lowland and mid-altitude temperate rainforests on flat sites were cleared long ago and cultivated or occupied by human settlements. As a result, most of the protected areas are steep, rugged, and mountainous. This abrupt relief often means that several vegetation layers are present in a single area, some of which may correspond to other biomes. This is most common in areas of the biome with the most abrupt relief, such as the mountain ranges on the northwest coast of North America, the southern Andes, and the mountain chains in Japan and New Zealand.

1.2 The protected parks and areas

The total area occupied by temperate rainforests is currently estimated to be about 748,960,154 acres (303,097,900 ha), of which 9,051,186 acres (3,662,900 ha; about 0.93%) are in a total of 899 protected areas. This percentage approaches that recommended by conservation organizations. This value is in fact rather low, and it includes only publicly owned areas included in IUCN Category I (nature reserve) and Category VIII (anthropological reserve) that cover more than 2,471 acres (1,000 ha).

Many of these protected areas are small, and often aim to protect something specific, such as the last patch of forest, or the last habitats of some animal species, especially birds. There are also some very large parks, such as some of the parks in Chile. Two of these (Bernardo O'Higgins and Laguna San Rafael) cover more than a million hectares. There are also some special cases, such as the British Crown Lands in the mountains of New Zealand, which are not explicitly protected, but whose status means that large areas of the mountain temperate rainforest remain unexploited.

Japan has an interest in protecting its temperate rainforest. Japan's current system of natural parks began on April 1, 1931, when the law on national parks was passed but the basis for its establishment had been laid many years earlier under the governmets of the Meiji era. In 1873, the Japanese government passed a law creating the koen, state-protected "public parks." The koen sites are visited frequently.

For example, visitors come in spring when the cherries flower and in autumn when they can enjoy the spectacular fall colors. Formerly, many of these parks were sacred forests that surrounded important temples and sanctuaries and to which everybody had access after the creation of the koen. The current environmental protection law was enacted in 1972.

2. The UNESCO biosphere reserves in the temperate rainforest biome

2.1 The biosphere reserves in the temperate rainforests

Thirty-five biosphere reserves in eight countries are totally or partially in the temperate rainforest biome. More than a third of them (12) are in the United States, some of them in the coniferous temperate rainforests of the northwest coast (7), and pine and laurel forests of the southeast (5). Another third are mixed formations in Australia (5) and evergreen broadleaf forests in China (8). The rest are in Chile (4), Japan (3), the Russian Federation (1), and Spain (1), on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands. The total area of these reserves (which are not entirely within the temperate rainforest biome) is more than 16 million acres (6.5 million ha). They vary greatly in size, with two exceeding one and a half million ha (Laguna San Rafael in Chile, 4,305,655 acres [1,742,448 ha], and Glacier Bay-Admiralty Island in Alaska, 3,743,668 acres [1,515,015 ha]), while the El Canal y Los Tiles Biosphere Reserve on the Canary Islands is just over 1,236 acres (500 ha).

One special case, an example of the evergreen broadleaf forest of the Black Sea, is the Khosta forest, a forest of English yew (Taxus baccata) and Colchic box (Buxus colchica). The Khosta forest is on the southeastern slopes of the Great Akhun about 8 ft (2.5 m) from the shores of the Black Sea, and 12 miles (20 km) from the center of the town of Sochi, in the western Caucasus. This area of 744 acres (301 ha) is a living botanical monument, a sample of a relict and endemic flora, fauna, and ecosystem that has remained almost unchanged for millions of years. The zone's highly favorable climatic conditions have allowed the conservation and regeneration of the box, yew, and other relict plant species. Some of the specimens of yew are more than 1,000 years old and have trunks more than 6.6 ft (2 m) in diameter. The area contains 70 different species of trees and shrubs, 20 of them in danger of extinction. It is also a refuge for rare animals, such as the Caucasian parsley frog (Pelodytes caucasicus), the Aesculapian snake (Elaphe longissima), the Caucasian viper (Vipera kaznakowii), and the Asia Minor newt (Triturus vittacus). (All these animals are listed in the Red Book of Endangered Species.) In 1931, this small site was declared a nature reserve. It is now strictly protected, and (as a separate plot of land) it also forms part of the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve, one of the largest mountain forest reserves in the Russian Federation (651,063 acres [263,477 ha]).

2.2 The biosphere reserves in the coniferous rainforest

The biosphere reserves in the temperate rainforest biome include eight that contain coniferous rainforest (nine, counting the New Jersey Pinelands, basically pine forests in a space classified as a mixed formation). All of them, except the Araucarias Biosphere Reserve in Chile, are in the northwest states of the United States; the Cascade Head, H.J. Andrews and Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forests, Olympic National Park, and the Three Sisters, California Coast Ranges, and Glacier Bay-Admiralty Island Reserves.

Olympic National Park Biosphere Reserve

Olympic National Park covers an area between 47[degrees]30'N and 48[degrees]11'N and between 123[degrees]07'W and 123[degrees]30'W on the Olympic Peninsula at the northwest tip of the contiguous United States. To the west lies the Pacific Ocean, to the north the Juan de Fuca Strait (opposite Vancouver Island, Canada), to the east is the Hood Channel, and the counties of Grays Harbor and Mason lie to the south.

The area was not affected by the first waves of European colonization. In 1787, the British navigator Charles William Barkley gave the name of Juan de Fuca to the strait separating the Olympic Peninsula from Vancouver Island, because he thought it might be the passage that the Greek navigator Apostolos Valerianos (?1530-?1602) said that he had found in 1597. Valerianos is better known by the name he adopted in Spanish, Juan de Fuca, during the 40 years that he sailed in the service of the Spanish crown; de Fuca said that this might be the western approach to the eagerly sought northwest passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific. It was not, and the story of the claimed "discovery" may be entirely apocryphal. Serious exploration of the coastline only began in the late eighteenth century, as a result of conflict between the Russians, Spanish, and British for control of the northern Pacific shoreline. After the Revolutionary War, the United States entered the dispute, which did not terminate until the 1846 treaty between the British and the United States that defined the western end of the border between the United States and Canada at 49[degrees]N.

The first colonial settlements were concentrated on the coastline. There was no serious attempt to explore the Olympic Peninsula until 1885, despite the relative proximity of the cities of Olympia (founded in 1850 and later Washington's state capital) and Seattle (founded in 1851). An ancient Native American legend said that there was a broad valley with a very benign climate within the Olympic Mountains. The area was formerly inhabited by a peace-loving tribe who were expelled by a catastrophic earthquake caused by Seatco, the god of the spirits of hell, so the Native Americans rarely entered the area. The first organized expedition was in 1885, under Lieutenant Joseph O'Neil. In 1889, The Seattle Press (see also figure 162) published the legend mentioned above and equipped a squad of six men under James Christie, which began exploration of the Olympic Peninsula in December 1889, one of the coldest and snowiest winters in the region's recorded history. Despite this, they successfully crossed the peninsula from north to south (a distance of only 60 miles [96.5 km]) in five and a half months. They returned hungry and in rags but had shown that there were no fierce tribes in the forests of the Olympic Peninsula.

In 1890, Joseph O'Neil returned to the Olympic Peninsula to try and cross it from east to west, from the Hood Channel to the Pacific coastline. He was successful, and as a result of this expedition, O'Neil and others started to lobby for the establishment of a national park in the area. In 1897, an area more or less corresponding to the present day national park was declared a forest reserve. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt declared part of the reserve a National Monument. In 1938, legislation was passed that created Olympic National Park, which was later declared a biosphere reserve in its entirety, and in 1981, a World Heritage List Wilderness Site.

Natural features and values

Olympic National Park is an area of exceptional beauty that contains spectacular examples of primary temperate rainforests and the largest intact areas of conifer forest in the United States. The park consists of two separate areas: a mountainous core covering about 865,000 acres (350,000 ha) that includes the Olympic Mountains, whose highest peak is Mount Olympus (7,965 ft [2,428 m]), and a separate area of about 42,000 acres (17,000 ha), consisting of a narrow, rugged coastal strip, running for 56 mi (90 km) along the Pacific coastline. The coastal sector has been extended on two occasions: in 1976 to include Arches Point and Shi Shi Beach; and again in 1986, to include a series of islands and their intertidal areas. The resulting corridor forms part of the Olympic Coast Marine Wildlife Sanctuary, which was established in 1994 and runs from Cape Flattery to the Copalis River.

The Olympic Mountains are a good example of a mountain formation that has arisen along the borders of three colliding tectonic plates. About 35 million years ago, the oceanic Juan de Fuca Plate started to subduct under the North American Plate, forming a vast dome of shale, sandstone, lava, and slate about 59 mi (95 km) in diameter, which has eroded to create the Olympic Mountains. Massive geological forces fractured and folded the dome, and then rivers and glaciers carved deep valleys and left high peaks. Inland glaciers 3,281 ft (1,000 m) thick transported blocks of granite distances of more than 124 miles (200 km), to British Columbia in Canada. There are 60 named glaciers, which are some of the most important landscape features of Olympic National Park. The largest glaciers are those on Mount Olympus, the Bailey Range, Mount Christie, and Mount Anderson. There are also fields of ice that resemble, but are not, authentic glaciers. Many geologists suppose that the Olympic Mountains rose from the sea between 12 and 30 million years ago. They form the highest area of coastline in the contiguous United States though the mountainous coastline of British Columbia, southeastern Alaska, and South America are higher. Mount Olympus is the tallest mountain (7,965 ft [2,428 m]), followed by Mount Deception (7,789 ft [2,374 m]) and Mount Constance (7,743 ft [2,360 m]).

The climate is predominantly maritime, with cool summers, mild and very foggy winters, and temperatures that fluctuate little over the course of the day. The absolute minimum temperature almost never falls below 19.4[degrees]F (7[degrees]C), and absolute maximum almost never exceeds 80.6[degrees]F (27[degrees]C). At lower elevations, the average annual temperature is about 50[degrees]F (10[degrees]C), with a range from 33.8-62.6[degrees]F (1-17[degrees]C). The Olympic Mountains rise almost directly from the shoreline, and they intercept the moisture-laden air masses moving over the Pacific Ocean. These air masses rise up the slopes facing the sea, cool, condense, and precipitate as rain. In the northeast, however, rainfall is lower because of the rain shadow effect of the mountains, since the descending air masses have discharged the water vapor they contained. The variations are very extreme. (It is the steepest rainfall gradient in the world in the temperate latitudes.) The wettest area in the contiguous United States, Mount Olympus (with rainfall of up to 197 in [5,000 mm]) is only 38 miles (64 km) southwest of Sequim, on the northeastern coast of the Olympic Peninsula, which is the driest area on the coastline north of California. At Sequim the average annual rainfall does not exceed 20 in (500 mm). In the areas at lower elevation and near the ocean, snowfall rarely exceeds 1 in (25 mm), and it rarely persists for more than a few days, while on ridges and peaks, the snow layer may be 39 feet (12 m) thick, the deepest snow layers recorded in the United States.

The temperate rainforests of the Olympic National Park Biosphere Reserve are at low elevations, running along the Pacific coastline and in the west facing valleys, where summer fogs are frequent and temperatures are mild. In the most typical altitudinal layer, the middle mountain, the Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) is the dominant tree species along the entire coastal strip from southeast Alaska to southern Oregon. Other species typical in other layers of vegetation also occur, such as the western red cedar (Thuja plicata), which is more typical of lowland areas. Some trees are spectacularly large, reaching a height of 328 ft (100 m) and a circumference of 33 ft (10 m). Mosses, lichens, ferns, saprophytes, and parasites are very abundant.

Below the layer of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) temperate rainforest at an altitude of about 2,953 ft (900 m), is the lowland forest, dominated by western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). In areas where forest fires are frequent and conditions are relatively arid, there are also specimens of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). The red silver fir (Abies amabilis) gradually makes its appearance, marking the transition to the mountain forest, where the western hemlock and Douglas fir also occur. In the wetter central part of the park, the subalpine forest starts at about 3,609 ft (1,100 m), and in the drier northeastern area of the Olympic Peninsula, it appears above 4,593 feet (1,400 m). This formation is distinguished by the Alpine fir (A. lasiocarpa) and the Californian hemlock or mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana). At higher elevations, climatic conditions become more severe. The firs in the subalpine layer are shorter and less abundant, and the timber line is at 5,906 ft (1,800 m), above which there are abundant alpine meadows and glacial lakes.

The plant cover provides habitats for a wide range of animals. The fauna of Olympic National Park is very diverse and is relatively intact, except for the local subspecies of wolf (Canis lupus nubilus) which became extinct before the national park was created. Most of the biomass of fauna consists of terrestrial herbivores, such as the Roosevelt deer (Cervus elaphus roosevelti), a form of the red deer, which plays a decisive role in the renewal of the vegetation by grazing and browsing on the shrubs of the forest edges, clearings, and thickets. It was nearly exterminated by uncontrolled hunting. After the creation of the park and the adoption of protective measures, the Roosevelt deer's populations have recovered, and the Olympic Peninsula now contains several thousand specimens, making it the largest coastal population in North America. The area has some endemic species and subspecies, a reflection of past geographical isolation. The most famous endemic animal is the Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus), whose behavior is unusual. Other endemic animals include the shorttailed weasel (Mustela erminea olympica), the Olympic chipmunk (Eutamias [=Ta-mias] amoenus), and the American shrew mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii).

There are about 621 mi (1,000 km) of streams and rivers in the park, which are inhabited by about 20 species of vertebrates, including seven species of anadromous salmonid fish. The aquatic or river fauna also include the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), the American long-tailed otter (Lutra longicaudis), and the North American raccoon (Procyon lotor). Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) can be seen off the coastline during their spring and autumn migrations, and some remain off the coast during summer, in areas further from the shore.

The temperate rainforest of Olympic National Park has a wide diversity of birds. More than 300 species have been recorded, from the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), which can be seen fishing on the rivers, to small birds, like the varied thrush (Zoothera naevia), the wren (Troglodytes tro-glodytes), the pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), and the gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis). Other birds present include the great blue heron (Ardea herodias), the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), and the spotted owl (Strix occidentalis). The spotted owl lives in the old growth forests of this region of the Pacific coastline of North America. Its numbers have declined severely almost everywhere because its original habitat has been lost to logging (see also p. 322). Olympic National Park probably contains the largest continuous areas of undisturbed habitat for this owl, and it is a crucial site for the owl's long-term survival. The park's biologists have recently carried out an ambitious study to assess the population density, breeding, and survival rates of the spotted owl. This research has taken the form of observation of the owls by part of the park staff in 12 areas and along different transects in order to estimate the species' population density within the park.

Management problems

The core of Olympic National Park has remained untouched for a long time. The cities of the Olympic Peninsula that are around the park are relatively small, and are all on the coastline. The largest, Port Angeles, has a population of 19,000. The other cities are Port Townsend (8,000 inhabitants) and Sequim (4,000 inhabitants); all three of them are on the northern coastline of the Juan de Fuca Strait. The park's central offices are in Port Angeles, and have a welcome center with exhibitions, publications, maps, and permanent staff. Sequim is a popular summer resort, famous for its pleasant climate, while Port Townsend, at the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, is one of the favorite tourist destinations in the state of Washington. The Kitsap Peninsula, between Puget Sound to the east and the Hood Channel to the west, is the eastern entrance to the Olympic Mountains. Some small cities and towns have grown up, along the inland bay and the inlets of the Kitsap Peninsula, such as Bainbridge Island, Bremerton, Port Orchard and Poulsbo. Bainbridge Island is a major access point to the national park when approaching from Seattle and other major towns and cities, like Tacoma. The Seattle-Tacoma complex has a population of almost 2 million people, and is only 50 mi (80 km) east of the boundaries of the national park.

There is a large area of protected forest in Washing-ton State, but the distribution of land ownership and management responsibility has not contributed to the conservation of the ridges between the still unexploited watersheds. On the Olympic Peninsula, the ridges have been protected as part of Olympic National Park, but the forests adjacent to the park and to the south were all logged during the nineteenth century. In addition to being completely protected as a national park, by an act of Congress approved on June 29, 1938, the ecological research performed has contributed to the rational management of the forest and the area's other natural resources, which is very much in keeping with the idea of a biosphere reserve. The park administration works in close collaboration with the Olympic Experimental State Forest and the Olympic Natural Resources Center, both of them on land owned by Washington State, to the west of the park. The University of Washington, together with other centers, coordinates research work into the development of methods to maintain forest exploitation while protecting the environment. Since 1971, the park staff's work has often focused on studying the impact of tourism on the surroundings, in order to propose viable alternatives. Other initiatives include the analysis of the ecological role of forest fires and appropriate measures to control them, a study of the population ecology of the Roosevelt deer (Cervus elaphus roosevelti), and the status of the anadromous species of fish, as well as the threat to native alpine plants from the increase in leisure activities.

The black bear (Ursus americanus) is very common in Olympic National Park. It is a highly opportunistic species, and some individuals steal campers' food and garbage. A series of rules for visitors were drawn up to help prevent the bears from getting this "easy food." The rules were also designed to decrease the chances of potentially dangerous encounters between bears and tourists, but it is occasionally necessary to transfer some problematic animals.

Olympic National Park is open to visitors all year round, but some inland roads and services are closed in the winter. On the periphery of the park, there are nine guard stations and some seasonal tourist services. In summer, the staff offers camping facilities, guided walks, and presentations. The park receives more than three million visitors a year, and there is a wide range of programmed activities for visitors, such as horse riding, mountaineering, skiing, excursions along the coastline, and angling. There are a series of dirt trails and paved roads leading inland that give motorists an opportunity to enjoy the rainforests and their fauna. There are some particularly spectacular panoramic views along the roads following the course of the Hoh, Queets, and Quinault Rivers. The Quinault Valley Circuit and the Quinault Lake Circuit allow the visitors to see an interesting transect of the temperate rainforest.

There are an estimated 578 mi (930 km) of trails within the park and in the neighboring areas administered by the Forest Service that connect with the mountainous interior and can only be traveled by foot or on horseback. Mount Olympus is a favorite of experienced mountaineers and can be climbed once the snow has hardened. Fishing, another possible activity, is strictly regulated. The forest cover in the core of Olympic National Park is intact, but in the neighboring areas, there has been some isolated logging. In the areas adjacent to the park, there is a strip of intense forestry usage, where pesticides are used on a large scale, polluting the watercourses running across the main protected area and affecting air and water quality in the coastal areas. The coastal section of the park and the adjacent marine wildlife sanctuary are also vulnerable to oil spills from tankers. Since 1988, there have been two large oil spills from boats navigating near the coastline. The effects of the spills on marine ecosystems are being analyzed and monitored.

2.3 The biosphere reserves in the evergreen broadleaf forests

Twelve of the biosphere reserves in the temperate rainforest biome contain evergreen broadleaf forests. Ten are in eastern Asia; seven are in China (Mount Dinghu, Wolong, Mount Fanjing, Mount Wuyi, Shennongjia, Jiuzhaigou Valley, and Tianmuchan), and three are in Japan (Mount Hakusan, Mount Odaigahara, and Mount Omine and Yaku-shima (Yaku Island). The other two are in the European part of the Russian Federation (the Caucasus Biosphere Reserve), and one is in Spain (El Canal y Los Tiles), on the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands. The most representative is Yaku Island.

Yaku-shima Biosphere Reserve

The designation as a biosphere reserve of part of Yaku-shima (Yaku Island) was preceded by a long history as a more or less protected space. Before World War II, the Japanese government, under a law for the protection of cultural values, declared 10,732 acres (4,343 ha) of yakusugi forest a special natural monument. Yakusugi is the name given to the oldest specimens of the Japanese red cedar, or sugi (Cryptomeria japonica), on Yaku Island, most of which were over 1,000 years old. Part of the island, an area of 44,232 acres (17,900 ha), was included in the Kirishima-Yaku National Park (which also includes several areas of the southern tip of Kyushu Island) when it was created in 1964.

Around 1970, as a consequence of a campaign against the logging of the natural forests of yakusugi, a forest reserve was established on the island. In 1972, the regional forestry department established a forest ecosystem reserve that covered much of the national park, with the aim of preserving the few remaining forests of yakusugi and the other natural forests. In 1975, thanks to an environmental protection law, an area of 3,012 acres (1,219 ha) of the Kirishima-Yaku National Park on Yaku Island was declared a total reserve. In 1980, part of Yaku Island was declared a biosphere reserve. This reserve is divided into a core area (about 17,300 acres [7,000 ha]) that includes a total reserve, a special protection area (intended for the preservation of endemic species), and an intermediate zone that surrounds the core, consisting of the special areas and the ordinary areas of the national park, together with some areas that are exploited for wood. The total area of the biosphere reserve is about 47,000 acres (19,000 ha). It includes all the different terrestrial formations and marine formations of Yaku Island and the adjacent waters. In 1993, the island was designated a World Heritage Site.

Natural features and values

Yaku Island is at the northern tip of the Ryukyu Archipelago. It covers about 124,000 acres (50,000 ha) and is separated from Sata-misaki Point (the southernmost point of Kyushu Island) by the Osumi-kaikyo Strait, which is about 37 mi (60 km) wide and has a maximum depth of 394 ft (120 m). It is the ninth largest island in Japan and has a coastline about 78 mi (126 km) long.

In the Pacific Ocean, about 106 mi (170 km) from the eastern shore, is the Ryukyu Trench, an extension of the fault that runs parallel to the Japanese coastline and that reaches a depth of more than 13,123 ft (4,000 m). In the East China Sea, on the northwestern side of the island, is the Okinawa Trough, which lies along a volcanic front where there is still active expansion of the ocean floor. Yaku Island, like the neighboring Tanega Island (Tanega-shima), arose as a partial rising of the shelf running south from the Osumi Peninsula. In the center of the island there are many peaks over 5,906 ft (1,800 m), including the highest mountain in this area of Japan, Mount Miyanoura at 6,348 ft (1,935 m). Lower ranges, but still over 3,281 ft (1,000 m), surround the highest central peaks. Thus, it is an almost circular mountainous island with extremely sharp relief, rising very sharply from the coastline to the highest peak. Yaku Island has been called a "floating Alpine ocean."

The main geological substrate is granite. At the base of the central mountain areas, there are outcrops of alternating layers of sandstones and marls. The climate changes with increasing elevation from subtropical to hot temperate to temperate. The average temperature is high over the course of the year, with an average of 68[degrees]F (20[degrees]C) in the coastal lowlands. Temperatures rarely fall below 32[degrees]F (0[degrees]C), even in winter. Average annual rainfall varies between 157 in (4,000 mm) and 394 in (10,000 mm), increasing with altitude, with rain falling on 60% of the days of the year. Humidity is high, averaging 73-75%, but exceeding 80% in June, during the rainy season. On Yaku Island, more than 1,500 taxa of vascular plants have been recorded, including 300 ferns. The deep Tokara Strait, which separates Yaku Island from the mainland of Kyushu Island, acts as a biogeographical barrier, and as a result, Yaku Island is the southern limit of the range of more than 200 plant species, and the northernmost limit for others species. Ninety-four species of plant are endemic to the island, among them the ferns Asplenium x kensoi and the rare Athyrium yakusimense, and Eurya yakushimensis (Theaceae) and Rhododendron tashiroi (Ericaceae). Other species on the island have a discontinuous distribution, shared partly with Taiwan, southern China, and Indochina, such as the ferns Angiopteris lygodiifolia, Osmunda banksiaefolia, and Cyathea hancockii, and the orchid Dendrobium moniliforme. Plants with a mainly southern distribution, such as the grass Spinifex littoreus, Ipomoea pes-caprae (Convolvulaceae) and Kandelia candel (Rhizophoraceae) also grow on the shores of Yaku Island.

The highest areas of the island contain more than 200 species of plants from the northern mountainous regions of Japan, including the momi fir (Abies firma); the akamatsu, or Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora); and the kuromatsu, or Japanese black pine (P. thunbergii), among others. In contrast, the flora of the lowland evergreen broadleaf rainforests, consists of plants typical of the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, southeastern China, and tropical Asia. Yaku Island is one of the largest areas of natural forest in Japan. The distribution of the forests with altitude, ranging from coniferous to evergreen broadleaf forests, is mainly the result of the climatic conditions determined by the warm currents of the Pacific Ocean. The upper altitudes between 3,281 ft (1,000 m) and 5,577 ft (1,700 m) (a total area of about 30,300 acres [12,250 ha]) are covered with mixed coniferous forests of sugi (Cryptomeria japonica) and Japanese hemlock (Tsuga sieboldii), and broadleaf trees, such as yamaguruna (Trochodendron aralioides), the only member of the family Trochodendraceae. The evergreen broadleaf forests of Yaku Island occur at the lower elevations, are among the largest in Japan, and are considered of global importance. One of the distinctive features of the island's vegetation is the large number of epiphytes, including many ferns. At higher elevations, the numbers of epiphytes increases, and in the mountain areas where the climate is hot and wet, the tree trunks are often covered with bryophytes.

The yakusugi forests are particularly noteworthy, as these trees can live for thousands of years and reach a diameter of 10-16 ft (3-5 m) in Yaku Island's mild climate. The large old specimens of sugi (Cryptomeria japonica) are known as yakusugi, and those that are not so old and large are known as kosugi. The yakusugi in the reserve grow at altitudes between 1,969 ft (600 m) and 5,906 ft (1,800 m), a much wider range than on the other Japanese islands. Their age and size makes the trees of Yaku Island one of the most notable examples of primary vegetation in the world, of both ecological and morphological interest. The oldest known specimen of yakusugi was discovered in 1966 and was called the jomonsugi. It is 83 ft (25.3 m) tall, has a circumference of 54 ft (16.4 m) at chest height, and 65 ft (19.8 m) at the base, and is estimated to be more than 7,000 years old (dating back to the Jomon era).

Yaku Island is at the southern tip of the Ryukyu Islands. As a result, the basic components of the fauna are not very different from those of Kyushu Island. Most of the mammals, reptiles, and amphibians present are at the southern limit of their range. Yaku Island has been separated from Kyushu for about 15,000 years, and its broad range of habitats has led to the evolution of a large number of endemic subspecies. Sixteen species of mammal, from nine families, have been recorded on the island, including four endemic subspecies, such as the Yaku subspecies of Sika deer (Cervus nippon yakushimae) and the Yaku subspecies of Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata yakui). There are also four endemic subspecies that occur on both Yaku Island and Tanega Island, such as the Yaku subspecies of wood mouse (Apodemus speciosus dorsalis).

Forty families and 150 species of birds have been recorded, with four endemic subspecies, including the Yaku subspecies of the Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius orii) and the Yaku subspecies of the Izu thrush (Turdus celaenops yakusimensis). There are also some endemic subspecies shared with Tanega Island, such as the Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus insularis) and the Japanese woodpecker (Picus awokera takatsukasae). The Ryukyu robin (Erithacus komadori) and the Japanese laurel pigeon (Columba janthina) are considered to be "natural monuments." There are 15 species of reptiles, belonging to seven families, including the endemic Gekko yakuensis. There are eight species of amphibians, belonging to four families, including the endemic subspecies Rana togoi yakushimensis. There is also a small zone of sandy beach that find suitable for laying their eggs some marine turtles, such as the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta).

The number of recorded insect species totals 1,896, which belong to 240 families, and 20 or so orders. This includes 26 species of odonates, the dragonfly order, belonging to seven different families, and including the endemic species Rhipidolestes aculeatus; eight species of cicadas; 67 species (belonging to nine different families) of butterflies; and 139 species of wood-boring, or longhorn, beetles (Cerambycidae). Seventy-one species of terrestrial mollusks (belonging to 16 families) have been recorded, and 14 of them are endemic.

Management and problems

Yaku Island has a population of about 14,000 people, including the small (about 9,390 acres [3,800 ha]) neighboring Kuchinoerabu Island, which it administers. The local people's main activities are agriculture, forestry, fishing, production of wood, forestry work related to tourism, forest management, and local administration. In 1990, the workforce was 6,246, of whom 1,459 worked in the public sector, 1,640 in industry, and 3,147 in services. The island covers 133,375 acres (53,975 ha)-120,792 acres (48,883 ha) of it covered by forest, 4,132 acres (1,672 ha; 3.1%) are cultivated, 2,469 acres (999 ha) are grazing land, 1,305 acres (528 ha) are occupied by roads, 1,191 acres (482 ha) by constructions, 516 acres (209 ha) by rivers and other water bodies, and 2,968 acres (1,201 ha) are used for other purposes. Thus, the island is largely forested, and forestry and forest-related tourism are important sources of income for the island. The proportion of plantations and replantings (27.4%) is relatively low, compared to the average for Kagoshima Prefecture (56%), and a large proportion of relatively intact forest has been preserved.

Until World War II, government policies toward the yakusugi were prudent. They could not be logged, as it had been shown that the trees did not reproduce quickly. However, the economic and social conditions of the post-war period favored thoughtless exploitation, and around 1970, conservation groups, together with the local administration, started a campaign against the felling of the yakusugi. The campaign created a serious conflict with the logging industry, but accomplished its aims. The forestry administration has now banned the logging of yakusugi trees, except in the case of the trunks that have remained in the forest since the time when hiragi production still occurred; hiragi are roof shingles made from sugi wood that contain a lot of resin and are waterproof (see also figure 210). A management plan ensures the administration, land planning, and active management of the island. There is a core area of 17,300 acres (7,000 ha), where the existing paths (the only trace of human actions in the zone) are retained, as well as a specially protected area. An intermediate area, which is part of the ordinary area of the national park, surrounds this core and leaves out the areas where some logging is permitted, depending on the forest's condition. The exceptional yakusugi forests are very well preserved, and in 1968 and 1969, the Japanese committee of the International Biological Programme (IBP) carried out several research programs, including one into wood. The management of the fauna includes a study begun in 1975 by Kyoto University into the ecology of the Yaku subspecies of Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata yakui), an endemic species.

The number of visitors to the Yaku Island has increased from a little over 50,000 persons a year in 1969 to more than 200,000 in the 1990s. The main activities offered to visitors are climbing, excursions to see the fauna, and to visits the natural forests, waterfalls, coastline, and old yakusugi. The average length of stay on Yaku Island is three to five days, and most of the visitors are from Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu. For leisure purposes, in 1974, the forestry department created two recreational forest areas. The increase in the number of tourists is a source of concern for the island's inhabitants, especially because of their impact on the natural forests. In summer 1994, the local branches of the state agencies took a series of countermeasures that particularly affected three government policies. These measures included a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of environmental quality in attracting tourism, increasing vigilance in the zones near the jomonsugi and outside the park, and the building of portable sanitary facilities. The over-exploitation of the yakusugi and the possible construction of new hydroelectric installations (apart from the dam in the eastern tip of the island, which has an installed power output of 23,000 kw) are causes of growing concern.

2.4 The biosphere reserves in the mixed temperate rainforests

Fourteen of the biosphere reserves in the temperate rainforest biome (or 15, including the New Jersey Pinelands Biosphere Reserve mentioned earlier) are mixed formations. Five are in Australia (Croajingo-long, Kosciusko, Southwest Tasmania, Hattah-Kulkyne and Murray-Kulkyne, and Wilson's Promontory); five are in the United States (Big Thicket, Central Gulf Coastal Plain, Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain, Carolina Coast, and New Jersey Pinelands); three are in Chile (the Torres del Paine, Laguna San Rafael, and La Campana-Penuelas National Parks); one is in Argentina (Yaboti); and another is in China (Maolan).

Southwest Tasmania National Park Biosphere Reserve

Southwest Tasmania National Park covers an area of 1,503,131 acres (608,298 ha) and is situated in the southwest of the island state of Tasmania. The national park was created in 1968, as an extension of, and new name for, Lake Pedder National Park, which had been created on March 23, 1955, and had formed part of the Port Davey State Reserve, which was established on October 24, 1951. The Tasmanian State Law of 1970 on National Parks and Fauna confirmed the establishment of Southwest National Park, which was extended on November 3, 1976, with the addition of 919,670 acres (372,300 ha). New areas were also added on November 17, 1990, namely an area to the north of Nye Bay, the South Bay area, Mount Bobs and Mount Boomerang, Adamson's Peak, Mount Picton, the Gallagher Plateau and Mount Weld, the headwaters of the Weld River and Mount Bowes.

The western tip of Tasmania contains a conglomerate of protected areas including the Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Clair, Franklin-Lower Gordon Wild Rivers, and Southwest National Parks, which were collectively registered as a World Heritage Site in 1982: the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Part of Southwest National Park, covering 996,424 acres (403,240 ha), was declared a biosphere reserve in 1977.

Southwest Tasmania National Park consists of a set of contiguous reserves that covers much of southwest Tasmania, but does not include the headwaters of the Gordon River and its tributaries, or Lake Gordon, which are in the center of the network. The national park includes some islands near the coast, such as Sle du Golfe, De Witt Island, Maatsuyker Island, and Flat Witch Island. It is located between 41[degrees]35'S and 43[degrees]40'S, and between 145[degrees]25'E and 146[degrees]55'E, and ranges in altitude from sea level to 5,305 ft (1,617 m) at the peak of Mount Ossa, the highest mountain in Tasmania.

Natural features and values

In contrast with the Australian mainland, Tasmania is very mountainous, with folds in the western half of the island and fault structures in the eastern zone. The southwestern fold structures are steep zones with dense plant cover, with a mountain range running north-south and valley systems that are more or less parallel.

The age of the geologic material varies. Some materials are pre-Cambrian and Devonian and have suffered two main geomorphological events: the Frenchmannian and Tabberaberanian orogenies. The pre-Cambrian formations are very widespread and consist of quartzites, schists, conglomerates, sedimentary stones, and sandstones. The most resistant sequences, such as those of quartzite, form most of the tallest ranges, while the schists and conglomerates (which are less resistant) are found in the valleys and plains. The climatic changes have also affected the development of the landscape, especially the most recent ones, since the last glacial and periglacial events of the Cenozoic and Pleistocene. Ice caps, glacial cirques, and valley glaciers are present, generally confined to high mountains and plateaus. Glacial erosion has contributed to the shaping of a spectacular relief, with chimneys, ridges, U-shaped valleys, and rocky basins, or "tarns," where cirque lakes form. These formations are frequent in Frenchman's Cap, and in the Franklin, Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Ironbound Ranges.

Below 1,969 ft (600 m), sedimentary forms are typical, with moraines and other materials transported and deposited by glaciers. In extra-glacial areas, periglacial activities have made the slopes unstable, causing landslides that leave deposits at the base. The coastline was subject to many changes in sea level during the glaciations and provides a classic example of a submerged landscape, as shown by the southern coastline of Port Davey and Bathurst Harbor. The drainage system is a complex grid, and only the largest rivers, such as the Franklin and the Gordon, have managed to cut their way through the mountain ranges, giving rise to spectacular passes. The dissolving away of carbonate-containing rocks, such as (pre-Cambrian) dolomites and (Ordovician) limestones, is associated with a karstic relief, with spectacular cave systems natural arches, clints, and grikes, potholes, karrens, rises, and blind valleys. There is also a large Pleistocene meteorite crater in the valley of the Andrews River, whose impact is considered to have been of global importance.

Southwestern Tasmania is the most consistently rainy area of Australia. It is subject the strong westerly winds of the roaring forties (between 40[degrees]S and 50[degrees]S), where winds are very strong, the amount of rainfall is very high, skies are overcast, and temperatures are cold. Average annual precipitation in the basin of the Gordon River and the Franklin River ranges from 71 in (1,800 mm) in the headwaters of the Franklin River to 134 in (3,400 mm) around the Serpentine Reservoir.

Tasmania is recognized by the IUCN as a center of plant diversity. The flora of the World Heritage Site in western Tasmania (where the Southwest National Park Biosphere Reserve is located) includes more than 3,400 species of flowering plants. The vegetation has more features in common with that of the temperate and cold regions of South America and New Zealand than with that of mainland Australia. In addition to having the normal adaptations to soil and climatic conditions shown by all types of vegetation, Tasmania's vegetation has also developed other adaptations in response to fires. For the last 30,000 years, the main cause of fires has been the human population, until the nineteenth century the Aborigines, and more recently river anglers, logging companies, campers, prospectors, and outright pyromaniacs.

The increasing frequency and size of the areas affected by fires in the World Heritage Area are the product of deliberate actions. Considering the plant communities identified in Tasmania, the southwestern area contains 33 of the 43 alpine communities, 30 of the 34 temperate rainforest communities, 31 of the 65 wet sclerophyllous communities, 15 of the 35 dry sclerophyllous communities, 19 of the 25 marsh communities, and 9 of the 37 prairie and tree prairie communities. There is also low coastal scrub, both wet and dry, and excellent examples of Sphagnum bogs, of which little is known.

The temperate rainforests cover less than 30% of the area of the biosphere reserve below the timberline. They are dominated by Antarctic tree species, with a generally low diversity of vascular plants and a rich cryptogam flora. They differ from the tropical and subtropical rainforests in the low number of dominant tree species, the absence of lianas, a relative scarcity of epiphytes (except for mosses and lichens), the total absence of the morphological adaptations typical of wet forests (drip tips on leaves, cauliflory, buttress roots), and by the small leaf size of the dominant species. These features are shared with the temperate rainforests of New Zealand and South America but have their own distinctive variants. In most of the rainforests in Australia, the dominant species is the myrtle beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii). The co-dominant species are the Huon pine (Dacrydium franklinii), which lives on the forest edges and is one of Australia's most long-lived trees (2,000 years old or more); the King Billy pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides); the alpine celery-top pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius [=P. alpinus]); and the horizontal shrub (Anodopetalum biglandulosum, Cunoniaceae), which grows on the poorest soils at the highest altitudes. Other trees include the leatherwood (Eucryphia lucida) and the Tasmanian sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum).

Several species of Eucalyptus, including the messmate stringybark (E. obliqua) and the Smithton peppermint (E. nitida) are typical of the mixed temperate rainforests and the sclerophyllous wet forests, where laurel-leaved trees and sclerophyllous trees coexist. The evergreen broadleaves grow on the more fertile soils in the east, while the sclerophyllous forests grow on the poorer soils, mainly in the west. In addition to dominating the mixed forests, Eucalyptus spp. dominate other communities; subalpine scrub, forests, and dry sclerophyllous scrub, with an age-diversified understory and small-leaved spiny shrubs; wet sclerophyllous forests with an understory of uniform age, broadleaf shrubs and ferns, and some shrub communities and peat bogs. Of particular importance to conservation are the magnificent specimens of large primary forest with Eucalyptus, such as the Tasmanian blue gum (E. globulus) and the Tasmanian mountain ash (E. regnans).

Tasmanian mountain ashes are the world's tallest flowering plants. Their crowns may rise 197-295 ft (60-90 m) above a wet sclerophyllous understory 33-66 ft (10-20 m) tall consisting of musk daisy bush (Olearia argophylla, Asteraceae), dogwood (Pomaderris apetala, Rhamnaceae), Acacia dealbata (Fabaceae), and blackwood (A. melanoxylon). The typical species of the temperate rainforest, such as the myrtle beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii), Tasmanian sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum), and tree ferns displace the wet sclerophyllous understory where fires are infrequent.

Southwest Tasmanian National Park also contains large areas of wetlands on poor waterlogged soils, where button grass (Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus, Cyperaceae) is the dominant species, and which are generally surrounded by scrub and heaths, often dominated by "tea trees" (Leptospermum, Melaleuca, Myrtaceae). Meadows are limited to small clearings in the middle of the temperate rainforests, some due to fires and others probably due to soil factors. Specialized communities occupy sites with unusual environmental conditions, and there is a wide range of river and lake aquatic ecosystems. Lake Sydney and Lake Timk have developed interesting herbaceous communities on their banks due to their unusual hydrological properties, while in the Snowy Mountains, there are concentric rings of cushion plants growing around the bogs and reflecting their fluctuations.

The meromictic lakes (see vol. 9, pp. 377-378) and the coastal wetlands, with their unusual microorganisms, are also important wetlands. On a larger scale, the southwestern coastline of Tasmania has a wide range of plant communities typical of saline pools, coastal cliffs, coastal dunes, and large colonies of sea birds, which provide specialized niches for rare endemic plants with restricted ranges. The limestone and dolomite substrates in the lowlands, on the cliffs of the middle stretches of the rivers, and in the high mountains, are also habitats for threatened endemic species.

The large size and diversity of the reserve ensures that it contains a large number of different habitats with many different plant communities and taxa. Two hundred and forty species, two-thirds of all the vascular species endemic to Tasmania, occur within the reserve. For about half of them, the area represents most of their range. The biosphere reserve is probably equally important for the nonvascular plants and fungi about which little is yet known. Some preliminary studies of bryophytes and lichens have shown the presence of at least one new endemic taxon.

The reserve's fauna is of world importance, as it includes an exceptionally high number of endemic and relict species. The level of endemism in Tasmania is very high, ranging from 20-100% in the invertebrate groups. The diverse relief, geology, vegetation, and the harsh climatic conditions have combined to create an impressive series of animal habitats and an equally diverse fauna. Tasmania's insularity, and that of the biosphere reserve, have contributed to its exceptional nature. They have helped to protect it from the impact of introduced species that has had such negative effects for the native fauna of the Australian mainland.

There are two major groups of animals. The first includes the marsupials and the Tasmanian burrowing crayfish (Parastacoides tasmanicus), which are relics of the fauna of Gondwana. The second group includes the rodents and bats that immigrated to Australia from Asia millions of years after Gondwana broke apart. There are 32 species of mammals on Tasmania (including four endemic to the island), and 27 are present in the biosphere reserve. The endemic mammals include the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), the world's largest marsupial carnivore. Another species, the Tasmanian wolf, or thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), is extinct, having last been seen in 1936, though there are unconfirmed suggestions that it may survive.

The reserve contains more than 150 species of birds (13 of them endemic), including the rare orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster), one of Australia's rarest and most endangered birds, with a current population of 150 to 200 birds. There are also 11 species of reptile, four of them endemic. One reptile, the Pedra Branca skink (Pseudomoia palfreymanii) lives only on the small island of Pedra Branca, far off the coast. There are also six species of frog, two of them endemic, including the Tasmanian tree frog (Litoria burrowsi), which is almost completely restricted to the area of the biosphere reserve, and five species of freshwater fish, four of them endemic. Two native fish, the marsh mosquito fish (Galaxias parvus) and the Lake Pedder mosquito fish (G. pedderensis), also known as the Lake Pedder trout though it is not a true trout, occur in the lakes. Introduced species, such as the common trout (Salmo trutta) and the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), have contributed to the decline of the populations of some native species. Of the mammals, only the Tasmanian long-tailed mouse (Pseudomys higginsi) lives mainly in the rainforests. The lack of a mammal fauna specific to the rainforests shows similarities to the situation in New Zealand and South America, where the forests are dominated by southern beeches (Nothofagus). There is not a single species of bird, reptile, or amphibian that is restricted to this habitat.

Three species of arboreal mammals live in the closed forests--the common ring-tailed possum (Pseu-docheirus peregrinus), the common brush-tailed possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), and the dormouse possum (Cercartetus nanus), as well as species of birds like the green rosella (Platycercus caledonicus), an endemic parrot, and the swift parrot (Lathamus discolor). The Eucalyptus forest shows greater diversity of mammals and birds than the temperate rainforests, the scrub, the heaths, bogs, and high mountains, although in the scrub, heaths, marshes, and bogs there are animals with some notable adaptations. The sedge bogs are home to the orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster), the ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus), and the unusual Mastacomys fuscus. The Tasmanian burrowing crayfish (Parastacoides tasmanicus) lives in burrows under clumps of sedges, despite the highly acidic water. Its burrows are also colonized by a series of extraordinary endemic invertebrates, such as the primitive syncarid malacostracan crustaceans Allanaspides helonomus and A. hickmani, both of which are restricted to the area around Lake Pedder. Five million slender-billed shearwaters (Puffinus tenuirostris) return every year to breed in the coastal zones of Tasmania and some offshore islands.

The invertebrate fauna, including cave-dwelling species, is also very diverse, and that of the temperate rainforests includes many groups of Gondwanan origin. Sand fleas (talitrid amphipod) have undergone adaptive radiation in the forests of Tasmania, and are represented by about 15 species that make the biosphere reserve one of the world's richest areas in species of this family. The larvae of the endemic dragonfly Synthemiopsis gomphomacromioides live in the mud around the clumps of sedge in the marshes. Crustaceans are very important in the freshwater habitats, as many of the groups, such as amphipods, isopods, and burrowing crayfish are relics of the Gondwanan fauna. Three meromictic lakes in the lower basin of Gordon River have become world famous because they are permanently stratified (despite being shallow), and because they contain a high diversity of unusual aquatic microorganisms.

The streams, rivers, coastal pools, and estuaries maintain many species of native fish and a large number of endemic aquatic invertebrates. The largest rivers, such as the Old River and the Davey River in the southwest of the island, and the New River in the southern forests, are very important as a scientific reference for the study of certain data as they are relatively undisturbed. The lakes on Mount Denison are also of great interest for their physical and chemical properties. Analysis of their chemical properties, light regime, and of the endemic algal flora of Tasmania show that these lakes are especially important in terms of the division between the east and west of the island. The caves contain many endemic invertebrates, such as crickets, spiders, beetles, and aquatic crustaceans, and in some sites, especially the Exit cave and Entrance cave, there are wonderful displays of luminous insects, such as the dipteran Arachnocampa tasmaniensis (see figure 216).

The cultural heritage and human population

Tasmania was separated from the Australian mainland when the Bass Strait formed roughly 8,000 years ago, isolating its Aboriginal inhabitants from the Australian mainland. Until the arrival of the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642, the Aborigines of Tasmania were the most isolated of all human groups (roughly 500 generations without external influences). Archeological data show that a hunter-gatherer society has been in the interior of the southwest region of the island for at least 30,000 years. This population survived the last ice age, which finished here about 11,500 years ago. This caused a change in the vegetation, climatic conditions became milder, and the open grasslands and woodlands were replaced by temperate rainforests. About 30 caves have been located with remains of these inhabitants, such as Judds Cave and Wargata Mina Cave, which is one of the largest and has more than 2.2 mi (3.5 km) of explored galleries; it is the most southerly known cave with Paleolithic paintings. The coast seems to have been occupied by the Aborigines from about 3,000 years ago until European colonization in the nineteenth century. However, according to other hypotheses, they might have occupied the coast about 6,000 years ago, when the sea level stabilized at its current level.

When the first Europeans arrived, what is now the Southwest Biosphere Reserve was basically occupied by two main tribal groups: the Big River tribe in the central highlands, and the Port Davey tribe, who lived mainly in the southern and southwestern coastal regions. (The higher and steeper areas of western Tasmania separating them were uninhabited.) Each tribe is thought to have consisted of about 300-400 people. The Aboriginal population was severely affected by the illnesses brought by the British colonists in the early nineteenth century, and the last Tasmanian Aborigines were transferred to Flinders Island (northeast of Tasmania), thanks to a reconciliation policy promoted by the missionary G.A. Robinson. The first British incursions into the area of the current biosphere reserve started at the beginning of the nineteenth century (1803-1804), mainly to obtain information on whaling and logging the Huon pine (Dacrydium franklinii) for shipbuilding. What is now the Sarah Island Historical Site, for example, was chosen in 1821 as a penal colony, because of its remote location and the accessibility of the trees. Whaling ended before the end of the nineteenth century, but logging of Huon pines continued to a greater or lesser extent until the recent past in some areas.

Management and problems

The management of the protected zone has raised many questions, ranging from the conservation of wildlife to the impact of visitors. Before the creation of the biosphere reserve, the natural park suffered an extremely controversial change, the flooding of Lake Pedder. Lake Pedder had formed part of Lake Pedder National Park, a smaller predecessor of the current Southwest Park. The lake covered an area of 3.5 mi2 (9 km2), and was surrounded by beaches and dunes. It was located at the base of the Frankland Mountains, with Lake Maria to the east and the Serpentine River descending a narrow bed running northwest. A strip of temperate forest of southern beech (Nothofagus), with leatherwood (Eucryphia lucida), Tasmanian sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum), and other endemic evergreen broadleaf trees and large Eucalyptus grew from the Coronets area to the northern bank of Lake Pedder. The plains of sedges in the region had immense accumulations of peat, whose highly acidic discharges made the water of the lakes and streams in the area a very distinctive dark amber color. The Simmonds peppermint (Eucalyptus simmondsii), the tea trees (Leptospermum and Melaleuca), and banksias (Banksia) grew together in the dunes on the shores of the lake and along the Serpentine River, forming a dense scrub with yellow-flowered mimosas (Acacia) and red-flowered waratah (Telopea, Proteaceae).

The lake used to contain several caddis flies, such as Taskiria mccubbini and Taskiropsyche lacustris, stone flies, such as Newmanoperla prona and Kimminsoperla williamsi, crustaceans that are genuine living fossils, tiny snails, aquatic worms, crayfish, and the endemic Lake Pedder "trout" (Galaxias pedderensis). There was also an endemic oligochete worm, the Lake Pedder earthworm (Perionychella pedderensis), which has not been seen since the lake was flooded. The shoreline was also inhabited by the wombat (Vombatus ursinus), the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), the Tasmanian pademelon wallaby (Thylogale billardierii), the mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda), the duck-billed platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), Swainson's marsupial mouse (Antechinus swainsonii), the brush-tailed possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus, D. maculatus), the black swan (Cygnus atratus), the ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus), and the southern emu wren (Stipiturus malachurus). In 1972, as part of the hydroelectric plan for the middle stretches of the Gordon River and despite protests from all over Australia, this beautiful lake and all its biodiversity were drowned under 66 ft (20 m) of water in the Serpentine Reservoir, a large artificial water mass that has been given the name of the former Lake Pedder. Although it is artificial, this lake has become one of the main tourist attractions of the biosphere reserve.

Despite its remote location, the reserve contains many prejudicial introduced plants and animals, such as cats, dogs, feral goats, rabbits, fallow deer, and the sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps), a gliding marsupial originally from the north of Australia. The introduced birds, generally restricted to the coastal areas or areas disturbed by humans, are the European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), the European greenfinch (C. chloris), the skylark (Alauda arvensis), the house sparrow (Passer domesticus), and the blackbird (Turdus merula). Myrtle wilt, a fungal disease caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, also has destructive effects, attacking the entire area of southern beeches, but is particularly frequent after impacts such as logging or road construction. Heavy use by visitors, even from walking along the paths, causes clear local degradation of the environment, including soil erosion and the development of holes in the peat bogs, silting of the fords over streams, problems of water quality, and the spread of P. cinnamomi and other pathogens.

The Tasmania World Heritage Site receives about 500,000 visitors a year. Most also visit Southwest National Park. In comparison, the Kakadu National Park receives about 240,000 visitors, and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta (see also vol. 4, pp. 279-286) receives about 250,000 visitors a year. Southwest National Park offers a wide range of natural and cultural leisure activities. Many visitors travel by car or bus to Strathgordon and Scott's Peak. Other popular destinations include the Hartz Mountains, Liffey Valley, Markaoopa Cave, and Devil's Gullet. Farmhouse Creek, Cokle Creek, and Lemonthyme are also accessible by road. A large proportion of the visitors cross the Gordon River on the ferry, and fishing in the new Lake Pedder has become a very popular activity. Many people camp, both in the accessible areas and in the more remote areas, and a growing number of tourists visit the park to practice leisure activities, such as hiking, potholing, mountaineering, rock-climbing, rafting, horseback riding, cycling, canoeing, and cross-country skiing. Long-established paths, such as the Overland Track and one running parallel to the southern coastline, guarantee high quality experiences for the hikers.

There are exhibitions and information points in Melaleuca, Geeveston, along the Lyell road, on the Franklin River and at the Nelson Waterfalls, at Derwent Bridge, and at Lake Saint Clair. In Strahan, the former Customs House has been transformed into an exhibition area and center. There are three large information services at Heritage Landing, in the lower stretches of the Gordon River, and on Sarah Island. In the more remote areas, information can only be obtained from the forest wardens, in the form of travel guides and a few information signs. In general, there are no services in the virgin areas, as this would be in contradiction with the management objectives. Tourist pressure has caused degradation in many areas of the park, including the edges of the roads to Gordon, Scott's Peak, and Mueller, the trail to Farmhouse Creek, the footpaths, the camp sites, the shores of Lake Pedder, the surroundings of the Scott's Peak landing strip, the Melaleuca zone, and the area around Ida Bay. In general, the local elements forming the World Heritage Site are well protected, but the forests of the northwest are threatened, and it has been proposed that this area should be made into a reserve.

200: The extraordinary diversity of plants of the temperate rainforests is protected in several nature reserves and natural parks, some of which were created specifically to preserve this ecosystem, while others include other plant formations. The temperate rainforests are one of the most important biomes to protect, not only for their great diversity of plants (among the highest on the planet, and in some cases higher than the tropical rainforests), but also because this formation was typical and widespread during the Tertiary. It has been in retreat since the Tertiary (25 million years ago), and is the last stronghold of many relict species that have survived since then. Thus, it contains many endemic species. The temperate rainforest biome is also highly fragmented, broken up into lots of little areas, almost all of them in densely populated regions. This means that the temperate evergreen broadleaf forest ecosystems are subject to intense human pressure and are severely threatened by human activities. Fortunately, there are several protected areas and natural parks that ensure the preservation of their flora and fauna. Some of these parks, such as Olympic National Park (shown in the photo), at the western and wettest tip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington (United States), have become famous and attract many visitors every year.

[Photo: Adam Jones / Planet Earth Pictures]

201 The biosphere reserves in the temperate rainforest area, showing their areas (in hectares) and the year they were declared a biosphere reserve. The total number of reserves in 1998 was 35, and they protect an area of about 17 million acres (7 million ha); almost two-thirds of them in North and South America. Many include other plant formations as well as temperate rainforests. The largest reserves are Glacier Bay-Admiralty Island in the United States, and the Laguna San Rafael National Park in Chile, which contain more than half the total protected area. The smallest reserves (all four in the United States) are the Cascade Head Experimental Forest (17,423 acres [7,051 ha]), the H.J. Andrews Experi-mental Forest (15,073 acres [6,100 ha]), the Southern Atlantic Coastal Plain Reserve (15,135 acres [6,125 ha]), and the Stanislau-Toulumne Experi-mental Forest, with just 1,500 acres (607 ha), the smallest of all those in the Americas. [Drawing: IDEM, based on data supplied by the MAB Programme / UNESCO]

202 Mount Olympus (7,966 ft [2,428 m]), the highest point in the Olympic Moun-tains and the highest point in the Mount Olympus Bio-sphere Reserve, rises above large areas of forests that used to cover the area completely, broken only by the watercourses. The intense logging of these forests has opened relatively large gaps, and the plant cover is only continuous inside Olympic National Park. Several plots of land in the area, a total of 247,000 acres (100,000 ha), have been added to the list of protected areas, but only one of these protected areas is more than 9,900 acres (4,000 ha). The majority of the forest is now a mosaic of logged areas, regenerating forests, and the remaining intact forests.

[Photo: Keith Gunnar / Bruce Coleman Collection]

203 Lichens and mosses are the most conspicuous organisms in the forests of Olympic National Park in Washington (USA). They also grow on the soil and on rocks, but they have also successfully colonized the branches of the trees, which are often completely covered in lichens and mosses. This permanently wet, green, spongy layer provides a very suitable habitat for other epiphytes, such as ferns, fungi, and climbing plants. The white color of the alders (Alnus), is not due to pigments in the bark, but to microscopic white lichens, a symbiosis of three organisms instead of the normal two. The most spectacular mosses and lichens, and those most characteristic of the Olympic forests, are the ones growing from the branches of the trees, such as those in this photo of a forest in the Hoh Valley.

[Photo: Brigitte Marcon / Bios / Still Pictures]

204 The western skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanum, Araceae) is one of the most unusual and distinctive plants of Olympic National Park, though it is only abundant in the Quinault Valley. Its shoots appear in early spring in wet marshy sites, consisting of large reticulate-veined leaves and fleshy flowers protected by a bright yellow spathe (sheathing bract), which is in fact a modified leaf. The other leaves will not completely open until after the spathe, and grow to a length of more than 3.3 ft (1 m). Small beetles are attracted to the flowers by their weakly cabbage-like smell, and pollinate them. The local subspecies of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus co-lumbianus), the Roosevelt deer (Cervus elaphus roosevelti), and the black bear (Ursus americanus) eat the skunk cabbage, despite the sharp calcium oxalate crystals it contains.

[Photo: David A. Ponton / Planet Earth Pictures]

205 The Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) is the only rodent endemic to Olympic National Park. It is a highly sociable and tolerant rodent that lives in colonies consisting of an adult male, a pair of females, and the young of their last two litters, since the young live with their parents until they are two years old. The marmot's warren consists of a series of underground galleries, with several entrances, which they dig themselves. The summer galleries are only about 3.3 ft (1 m) deep, but the tunnels where they hibernate may be 23 ft (7 m) deep. Marmots are famous for spending much of their time sleeping. They may spend up to 9 months a year sleeping in the most hidden chamber, though on days that are not too cold they make brief excursions outside. The two marmots in the photo emerged from hibernation some time earlier, since they are shedding their brown spring coats for their yellowish summer coats.

[Photo: Gunter Ziesler / Bruce Coleman Collection]

206 In Olympic National Park the information post-ers for visitors explain the ecological functioning of the forest. The poster in the photo explains the important role of large dead trunks ("nurselogs") in the cyclic regeneration of the forest. The seeds of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and western hemlocks (Tsuga heterophylla), for example, cannot germinate successfully on the forest soil, but can germinate successfully on rotting trunks, which provide support, minerals, moisture, and heat. As the growing saplings absorb the water and nutrients from the trunk, it breaks up and gradually disintegrates. When it has completely rotted away, a row of trees (a "colonnade") is all that is left.

[Photo: Jim Zipp / Ardea London]

207 The saws of the lumberjacks are still cutting down many trees on the Olympic Peninsula. Gigantic old trees that have survived storms and winds for decades have fallen victim to the chainsaws, and now there are almost none left. Large areas of forest of spruce (Picea) and hemlock (Tsuga) covered the Olympic Peninsula before the arrival of the first colonists, but now only about 3% is left, most of it in the national park. A natural area has also been retained for research to the southeast of Lake Quinault and several plots scattered over a wide area. There are corridors of forest between them, but this fragmentation leaves many plants and animals in a single plot. This fragmentation also causes an increase in wind speed and temperature within the forest, and favors the entry of the opportunistic species typical of the first stages of succession.

[Photo: Malcolm Penny / Survival Anglia / Oxford Scientific Films]

208 Miyanoura-dake (6,348 ft [1,935 m]) on Yaku-shima, or Yaku Island (Japan) has been considered a symbol of spirituality since antiquity. The high precipitation falling on Miyanoura-dake and on the slopes of Kyushu (157-394 in [4,000-10,000 mm] a year) has favored growth of large forests. These forests contain several specimens of Japanese red cedar, or sugi (Cryptomeria japonica) more than 1,000 years old, which are known as yakasugi (see also fig. 210). These ancient trees, like the mountains, have been revered since time immemorial as sacred trees. The Japanese follow two religions based on harmony with nature, Shinto and Buddhism, and so nature has always been treated with a sort of reverential fear and great respect. Sites of great beauty, such as Yaku-shima (Yaku Island), are considered sanctuaries. Over the centuries, the combination of the Shinto belief in the spirits of mountains, rivers, and stones favored the creation of chinju no mori, sacred forests that surrounded most sanctuaries (and which were effectively nature reserves). Many areas that were later declared national parks had long enjoyed special treatment and care.

[Photo: Norizo Higeta / Nature Productions]

209 The rhododendron Rhododendron metternichii yakushimanum is a plant endemic to Yaku Island. It is not as famous as the ancient yakasugi (Cryptomeria japonica, see also figure 210), but this rhododendron is definitely one of the most characteristic large shrubs (or small trees) of the forests of Yaku Island. The Yakushima forests contain almost one hundred other endemic species, including many ferns and bamboos. This large number of endemic plants, together with the rich flora (and fauna) that contains plants typical of subtropical, temperate, and alpine zones, has meant that Yaku Island's forests have attracted the attention of scientists from all over the world. The remaining virgin forests are protected to ensure their survival in the future, and major efforts are being made to regenerate the forest areas that previous logging had disturbed or destroyed. In 1993 a strip of forest running from the western coast to the inland mountainous region (representing 20% of the island's surface area) was declared a World Heritage Site. It is now protected in several ways, as a special conservation area, national park, and a forest ecology conservation area.

[Photo: Norizo Higeta / Nature Production]

210 Yakusugi is the name given to the ancient specimens of the Japanese red cedar, or sugi (Cryptomeria japonica). They provide the inhabitants of the Japanese island of Kyushu with high quality wood of great beauty: its growth rings are very thin, and the wood of the over 1,000-year-old trees has an attractive grain. The yakusugi were traditionally considered sacred, but in the seventeenth century, the lord of Satsuma, one of the most powerful feudal lords in southern Japan, started to fell them and sell their wood, This wood was sold as hiragi, shingles used to cover roofs (since sugi wood contains a lot of resin and is waterproof). The lord of Satsuma forced the people of the island to make hiragi in exchange for their rice, but he strictly prohibited the felling of the yakusugi except for his own benefit, and unauthorized logging was severely punished. The very intensive exploitation system imposed by the lord of Satsuma lasted until the Meiji restoration, in the late nineteenth century, when most of the forests of Yaku-shima came under government control. Since then, wood extraction has been controlled. More than half of the wood of the sugi that is extracted from Kyushu Island is transported to Kagoshima and is then sold to purchasers from all over Japan. The wood that remains on the island is used to make furniture and different craft products, such as tables, vases, trays, and a variety of souvenirs.

[Photo: Norizo Higeta / Nature Production]

211 The gaps that form in the forests of myrtle beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) in Tasmania usually support scrubs of microphyllous plants and shrubs that develop into secondary forests. In many of these scrubs, such as the one in this photo of the Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Clair National Park, there is an interesting endemic member of the alkali heath family (Epacridaceae), the giant grass tree (Richea pandanifolia). Most members of the alkali heath family have microphyllous leaves that look very similar to those of the true heaths and heathers. However, as its specific name suggests, this alkali heath has leaves more like those of the screwpines (Pandanus), with leaves up to 5 ft (1.5 m) long that form a tuft at the tip of the trunk. It may grow to the size of a tree. This gives the plant a very unusual appearance, as shown in the photo, which shows the very early stages of succession in a gap formed by a disturbance.

[Photo: Dennis Harding / Auscape International]

212 In Tasmania, large areas of forest, like this site in the Franklin Lower Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, are now protected within a series of parks and nature reserves, though this does mean that their conservation is totally guaranteed. In the last two decades, the increase in the number of visitors to these parks has generated serious problems, one of the most serious being the deterioration of many forest paths. The extreme fragility of the Tasma-nian soils, and often of the parent material, makes the problem even worse, especially considering that in many areas the rate of soil formation is very slow. The passage of many people through these areas contributes to rapid soil erosion by the rain. The rain may even wash away all the soil, especially on steep sites, so that no vegetation is able to grow for many years. It is hard to find solutions to these problems, since any management project for these parks must not only ensure the protection of their natural ecosystems, but also must ensure the right of people to have access to nature. Thus, the maximum number of people that can visit the parks has been limited, and a series of measures have been taken to stop soil erosion, including banning access to the sites most vulnerable to erosion, building dykes to retain and divert the water, and constructing stone paths so that hikers' boots do not damage the soil.

[Photo: Jean-Paul Ferrero / Ardea London]

213 On Anne Mountain, in Southwest Tasmania Na-tional Park, the King Billy pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides, Taxodiaceae) still forms large forests. This species is endemic to Tasmania and was formerly widespread throughout the island. It was largely eliminated by logging and fires, and now only grows on the slopes at middle altitudes in the central and western mountains where rainfall is high (31-55 in [800-1,400 mm] a year). It is often the dominant conifer in the mixed alpine forests, where it grows with the myrtle beech (Nothofagus cunninghamii) or the celery top pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius). In favorable conditions, the Tasmanian cedar can easily reach a height of 131 ft (40 m), although it normally does not reach a great height when limited by a harsh climate and it is twisted and stunted in exposed sites. However, it may live for hundreds of years. The redwood-like pinkish wood of the oldest specimens, which has straight, resistant fibers and is easy to work, is widely used for making window frames and ships.

[Photo: ANT / NHPA]

214 The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a mammal endemic to Tasma-nia that occurs in the biosphere reserve of Southwest National Park. In the past this dasyurid marsupial was also present on much of the Australian mainland, but it had almost certainly disappeared when the first Euro-pean colonists arrived, as a result of competition from dingoes (Canis familiaris dingo) introduced by the Aborigines. The Tasmanian devil is a nocturnal animal that spends the daytime hidden among rocks, in a hole in a tree, or among the vegetation, though it sometimes emerges to bask in the sun. It feeds on a wide range of animals, both invertebrates and vertebrates (including poisonous snakes), and its diet also includes some plants. It is not, however, a very efficient hunter, and often consumes its prey as carrion; it leaves the skeletons very clean, even picking the skin and bones. Its favorite prey are wallabies (Macropus, Thylogale), sheep, and rabbits. Obviously, neither sheep nor rabbits formed part of its diet before British colonists introduced them to Australia. This expert carrion feeder might well have fed on the remains of the larger animals caught by the thyalacine, or Tasmanian wolf (Thylacinus cynocephalus), which is now extinct.

[Photo: John Cancalosi / Bruce Coleman Collection]

215 The ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus) is relatively abundant in the South-west Tasmania National Park Biosphere Reserve, where it occurs mainly in reed beds, though it is not uncommon in the alpine meadows and areas of herbaceous vegetation near the coast, and it is also occasionally seen in crop fields and pastures. The photo shows the bird in a wetland area, eating the flower of an alkali heath (Epacridaceae). A relative of parrots and budgerigars, it also occurs in the coastal areas of southeast and southwest Australia, Hunter Island, and the Bass Strait, and in the past it was also present on King Island and Flinders Island, where it no longer occurs. In the rest of its range it is considered vulnerable, and if its populations do not recover soon, the ground parrot will soon have to be added to the list of endangered psittacids, together with another 30 or so species.

[Photo: ANT / NHPA]

216 The thousands of small luminous spheres hanging from the roof of some caves in Tasmania are the tiny luminous larvae of the mosquito Arachnocampa tasmaniensis. These larvae are about 0.5 in (1.25 cm) long and 0.1 in (0.25) cm wide, and belong to the family Mycetophilidae (the fungus gnats). They weave a web of sticky threads that envelop the roof, and which they cover with small lanterns thanks to their modified excretory organs capable of generating light. Sometimes, one tip of the thread breaks, and the thread is left hanging from the other tip, like a necklace of luminous pearls. Outside of caves, Arachnocampa tasmaniensis hangs its luminous threads from the branches of trees and shrubs, but outdoors they are less conspicuous. They are popularly known as fireflies, but these dipteran flies are unrelated to true fireflies (Lampyris noctiluca and other lampyrid beetles), which are in fact beetles. They produce light in a similar way, and in both cases it is only the female who emit light; but true fireflies use their light for matings, while these mosquitoes use it to catch prey. The flying insects living in the caves are attracted to the light and are trapped in the sticky threads, which act as a fishing net, and this is how the larvae feed themselves.

[Photo: Jean-Paul Ferrero / Ardea London]

217 The basin of the Port Davis Estuary, in southwest Tasmania, forms the core of what is now the Southwest National Park Biosphere Reserve. The estuary is in fact a fjord of glacial origin. To the north of its entrance is Point Saint Vincent, and Hillard Head lies to the south. The Davey River has two main arms; the shorter one runs north to form the Kelly Basin, while the longer arm runs east along the Bathurst Cannel and Port Bathurst. The Spring River and the North River also flow into the estuary. The British explorer Matthew Flinders (17741814) was the first European to reach the Port Davey area in 1798, but nobody went inland until 1815, when the region was named after the then Lieutenant of Tasmania, Thomas Davey. The region is inhospitable and inaccessible, and mountains that are covered with forests alternating with reed beds dominate the landscape. The Port Davey Basin was formerly only inhabited by a small tribe of Aborigines, and even now it is only accessible by sea or by foot when coming from inland. It is still nearly uninhabited. As a result, Port Davey Estuary is the only intact large temperate estuary in Australia, and because of its special zoological and geological interest it could also be a research area. Fortunately, the fact that it is within a national park and biosphere reserve and has been designated a World Heritage site, ensures that it will be protected and that major long-term research projects can be carried out.

[Photo: Jean-Paul Ferrero / Ardea London]
COPYRIGHT 2000 COPYRIGHT 2009 Enciclopedia Catalana, SAU
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Encyclopedia of the Biosphere
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:13925
Previous Article:Itaipu.
Next Article:Bibliography.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters