Jianfengling tropical-forest visit

      Jianfengling is China’s largest tropical forest.  If one drives counterclockwise from Hainan’s capital, Haikou, the trip is across flat, savanna land bordering on the Gulf of Tonkin to the west.  At Hainan Island’s southwest, the Jianfengling mountains rise sharply on the east.  The drive upward in the mountains followed a tight, winding road to the Tropical Forest Conservancy Station, which was established at Tianchi in 1976.  I made this trip in 1990 to the Station to exchange information with the staff and discuss problems and opportunities related to the preservation of tropical forests.  In 1992, the government proposed to establish the 60 hectare Jianfengling National Forest Park with a goal to preserve the rainforest and its rare animals.   The entire forest was about ten times that size.  The park opened in 2011.  In the distance, were numerous mountain tops but the sharp peak of Jianfengling Mountain was the most prominent reaching, 1412 m asl (4632 ft).  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jianfengling peak, Hainan (credit Sichuanfun)

      The car ride up the mountains cut through a dense, tropical-forest cover; some trees are estimated to be at least 700 years old.  Widespread bedrock exposures showed a deeply weathered, decomposed granite of Triassic age.  The Station had an on-and-off staff of not more than 26.  The Head Engineer, Chang Zhongcai who had worked at the Station for 29 years, shared their annual rainfall-data with me for the years 1980 through 1989.  The data show that the average annual precipitation to be 2275 mm/yr (~90 in).  We discussed the 53 unpublished reports they had developed that contained the forest ecological data – fauna, flora, the forest’s origin, soil, water and other relevant data.  The Station lacked the funds (~$10,000) to publish the reports; the cost to publish in English would have even been higher.

      Mr. Chang said that the tropical forest contained some 1900 species and that, when forest cutting began in 1958 (during the Cultural Revolution), changes were noted in the forest’s humidity and microclimate but data from this period are sparse.  Since then, visiting scientists come here to collect data but none have engaged in collaborative research with the Station.

      Five of us, including a Forest Station guide, spent a few hours climbing down into a steep v-shaped valley to observe the vegetation and the stream below.  In the distance, we saw a few columns of smoke, probably arising from scattered, slash-and-burn sites even though such agricultural practices were prohibited.  The guide told us to tuck our pant legs into our socks so that we would not be bitten by leaches.  In open areas, we encountered small clouds of non-buzzing, tiny, black mosquitoes. 

Jianfengling, Hainan Island: heading into rainforest with stockings to protect against leeches (W. Parham photo, 1990).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tropical forest vegetation in a Jianfengling deep valley (W. Parham photo, 1990)

      Trees and other dense, tropical vegetation covered the valley sides; we saw no soil erosion.  The stream water was strikingly clear suggesting that it was spring fed.  We all picked up leeches on our clothes.

Virgin rainforest in Jianfengling, Hainan, and clear-water stream (W. Parham photo, 1990).   

      Though the visit was short, it was a unique, first-hand experience to see the Jianfengling forest.  We thanked the guide and and Mr. Chang, headed down the mountains through the forest, and drove on to Sanya.

W. Parham, 2021

 

 

 

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