A marine landform at Taiwan’s Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area is famous for its distinctive candleshaped rocks. (Courtesy of Ke Zhih-cheng)
- Taiwan’s Jade Mountain is the highest peak in East Asia.
- Around 20 percent of the country’s land area is protected.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) is situated in the West Pacific between Japan and the Philippines. Its jurisdiction extends to the archipelagoes of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, as well as numerous other islets. The total area of Taiwan proper and its outlying islands is around 36,197 square kilometers. At about the size of the Netherlands, but with a population of some 23 million,
Taiwan is more populous than three-quarters of the
world’s nations. Taiwan proper has more than its share
of natural splendor. Mountain ranges with many peaks
reaching over 3,000 meters—including East Asia’s
highest, Jade Mountain (Yushan)—and forested foothills
occupy more than half of its area. The island also features volcanic mountains, tablelands, coastal plains
and basins. The Diaoyutai Islands, which lie northeast
of Taiwan, and a number of islands in the South China
Sea, including those in the Tungsha (Pratas), Nansha
(Spratly), Shisha (Paracel) and Chungsha (Macclesfield
Bank) islands, are also part of the territory of the ROC.
Sitting in the path of warm ocean currents off the east
coast of continental Asia, Taiwan proper is uniquely
blessed with a wide range of climatic zones from tropical to temperate. This, in combination with fertile
soil and abundant rainfall, makes it an agricultural paradise
where virtually any kind of fruit or vegetable can be
cultivated. It also makes the island a recreational wonderland.
In the winter, one can watch the snow fall on
the slopes of Hehuan Mountain in Nantou County and
then travel a mere 200 kilometers to balmy Pingtung
County to enjoy skin diving at coral reefs along the
island’s southern tip.
The smaller islands, meanwhile, have their own unique
natural features, such as the columnar basalt on the
Penghu Islands and the marine hot springs along the
shores of Green Island and Guishan Island.
Flora and Fauna
Taiwan’s tropical-to-temperate spectrum of climatic
zones and wide range of topographies have endowed
the island with a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Some
125 species of mammals, 788 species of birds, 134
species of reptiles, 42 species of amphibians, 454 species
of butterflies and 3,265 species of fish are known
to inhabit Taiwan. The island’s plant life comprises 881
species of ferns, 4,875 species of angiosperms and 36
species of gymnosperms. To protect the ecosystems in
which these plants and animals reside, the government
has reserved about 20 percent of the nation’s land area as protected areas, comprising nine national parks and
one national nature park, 22 nature reserves for special
ecosystems, six forest reserve areas, 20 wildlife refuges
and 37 major wildlife habitats.
Among the most famous Taiwan species of fauna is the
Formosan landlocked salmon (Oncorhynchus masou
formosanus). The fish is believed to have become
trapped in the frigid mountain waters of central Taiwan during the last ice age when ocean levels dropped dramatically
and the salmon could no longer migrate back
and forth between fresh water and salt water. To protect
the endangered species, the Formosan Landlocked
Salmon Refuge was established in the upper reaches of
the Dajia River in Shei-Pa National Park.
A female leopard cat receives treatment for an eye infection
at the Endemic Species Research Institute in central
Taiwan’s Nantou County before its release back into the wild.(Chen Mei-ling)