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      Shennongjia Nature Reserve
     

    Shennongjia National Nature Reserve is located at the juncture of three counties in Hubei Province - Badong, Xingshan and Fangxian. It borders Xiangfan City, Yichang City and Wanxian County. The 71,000 hectare reserve was established in 1982. Map of Shennongjia

    The reserve encompasses three vertical vegetation zones. They include subtropical, warm and cold areas. Scientists say it is an ideal place for ecological research on biodiversity, allowing growth of typical vegetation and plants that transition between areas. The reserve was accepted into the International Man and Biosphere Reserve Network under UNESCO in 1990.

    The Reserve lies in transitional northern subtropical to mid-subtropical regions. It is cool, moist and rainy with an average temperature of 7.9 C. It has extreme high temperatures of 36.4 C and lowest temperatures of about 17.7 C below zero. Its yearly precipitation averages 1,440 millimeters. July and August are the rainy season. Generally speaking, it is in a glacier period from the end of September through April and is covered with precipitation year round. Complicated terrain, plenty of rain, big relative height differences and other reasons make the reserve a mysterious place.

    Located between Daba Mountain and Wudang Mountain, Shennongjia is a part of the Qinba Mountains, and extends from southwest to northeast. The highest peak in he reserve is known as Shennongding and is 3,105.4 meters above sea level while the lowest area is just 398 meters. The area's average altitude is 1,700 meters and there are six peaks with an altitude topping 3,000 meters. Shennongjia has been called "the roof of central China."

    The unique geographical location has provided the reserve with opportunities to preserve precious plants and animals. There are 2,062 species of pteridophyte and seed plants. Among them, 32 species, including dove trees, Katsura trees, and ginkgoes, which are under the state protection; 33 species are indigenous Shennongjia plants. There are more than a 1,000 medicinal plants including Magnolia officinalis, Gastrodia elata and Coptis chinensisŁ¬so the reserve is called a natural medicinal park. In addition, it is rich in domesticated wild plants and their close relatives.

    From 1986-1990, as many as 163 crop species were collected, including the yangtao, Chinese gooseberry and Hubei Hawthorn, all of great value for breeding new varieties or improving species, botanists say.

    Living in the area are 336 species of terrestrial vertebrates, 200 species of birds, 30 species of reptiles and 27 orders of insects. They account for 81.8 percent the total life. Forty species of animals such as golden monkeys, South China tigers, golden eagles and giant salamanders are under top State protection. White bears, white monkeys and white toads are found now and then.

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