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Successful habitat experiment Shei-pa National Park rebuilds the home of the Guanwu Salamander
2012/03/23

Shei-pa National Park Headquarters has successfully established Guanwu Salamander (Hynobius fuca) habitat on burned land in the Guanwu area and salamander have already taken up residence there.

The increasing frequency of typhoons and torrential rain caused by climate change is having a serious impact on the entire ecosystem at Guanwu and this, plus human interference, is damaging and causing the loss of the habitat of the Guanwu Salamander. As a counter measure, Shei-pa National Park Headquarters began planning to use the ecological restoration method to carry out a Guanwu Salamander habitat experiment on burned land near Guanwu Management Station in 2008. An area of barren land covered in silver grass has been transformed into an animal heaven and ecological classroom covered in vegetation. In the future, the area will be opened to members of the public on a pre-booking basis, with specialized personnel serving as interpreters. 
The Headquarters aimed to use the ecological restoration method to rebuild and increase the habitat of the Guanwu Salamander. In this habitat restoration experiment the main issues to be faced were the environmental form of the habitat and food source stability.Understanding of the Guanwu Salamander’s life history is very limited so researchers first investigated the state of its original habitat, finding that the animal’s preferred habitat is the moist floor layer of mixed coniferous and broad leaved forest with good cover and humus soil. Thus, when planting the experimental habitat’s vegetation, native evergreen plants that were in the original habitat of the salamander, such as Formosan apple (Malus formosana), Green maple (Acer serrvlatum), Rice-paper tree (Tetrapanax papyriferus), Taiwan Pieris(Pieris taiwanensis), Taiwan Lily(Lilium formosanum) and Devol’s Balsamine (Impatiens devolii), were planted, creating a rich and multi-layered environment. In addition to careful selection of suitable plants for the habitat, as the Guanwu Salamander likes to spend its time in dark and moist places in and around mountain streams, laying their eggs in the water, rocks and rotten wood were placed in the experimental habitat and a suitable water environment was also built in which the salamander can live and breed.

Ecological restoration involves humans actively interfering to accelerate the recovery of the structure and functions of a damaged ecosystem and allowing the ecosystem to develop in a sustainable way, that is, it aims to use human power to create an ecological environment similar to the original habitat so that a species can replenish its low population numbers in a safe environment. The Guanwu Salamander experimental habitat restored by the Headquarters using restoration ecology passed examination by the Society for Ecological Restoration International in 2011 and has been listed in the Restoration Project Showcase section of the society’s website. In Taiwan there have, to date, been few cases of the restoration of the habitat of rare and endangered species, giving this experiment real conservation significance.

Shei-pa National Park Headquarters will continue to monitor and adjust the Guanwu Salamander experimental habitat and it has not yet been opened to the public. The restored habitat will be opened at the same time as the Guanwu Salamander Ecological Center. Visits will be on a pre-booked basis and visitors will be guided by specialized interpreters, on the one hand giving visitors an understanding of the amphibian’s living environment and ecology and, on the other, avoiding excessive human interference having a negative impact on this species once again.