Geography of Taiwan

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Geography of Taiwan
Taiwan NASA Terra MODIS 2022-07-21.jpg
Taiwan is mostly mountainous in the east, with gently sloping plains in the west. The Penghu Islands appear in the Taiwan Strait to the west of the main island.
Taiwan (orthographic projection; southeast Asia centered).svg
Region East Asia
Area Ranked 138
  Total36,197 km2 (13,976 sq mi)
  Land89.7%
  Water10.3%
Coastline1,566.3 km (973.3 mi)
Highest point Yu Shan, 3,952 m (12,966 ft)
Climate Tropical marine [1]
Natural resourcesSmall deposits of coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, asbestos, arable land [1]
Environmental issues Air pollution, water pollution from industrial emissions and raw sewage, contamination of drinking water, trade in endangered species, low-level radioactive waste disposal [1]
Exclusive economic zone83,231 km2 (32,136 sq mi)
Climate change in Taiwan has caused temperatures in Taiwan to rise by 1.4 degrees Celsius the last 100 years. [25] The sea around Taiwan is to rise at twice the rate of the global sea level rise. [26] The government pledged to reduce emissions by 20% in 2030 and 50% in 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

Flora and fauna

Before extensive human settlement, the vegetation on Taiwan ranged from tropical rainforest in the lowlands through temperate forests, boreal forest and alpine plants with increasing altitude. [27] Most of the plains and low-lying hills of the west and north of the island have been cleared for agricultural use since the arrival of the Chinese immigrants during the 17th and 18th century. However the mountain forests are very diverse, with several endemic species such as Formosan cypress (Chamaecyparis formosensis) and Taiwan fir (Abies kawakamii), while the camphor laurel ( Cinnamomum camphora ) was once also widespread at lower altitudes.

Formosan serow Chang Zong Shan Yang .jpg
Formosan serow

Taiwan is a center of bird endemism (see List of endemic birds of Taiwan).

Prior to the country's industrialization, the mountainous areas held several endemic animal species and subspecies, such as the Swinhoe's pheasant (Lophura swinhoii), Taiwan blue magpie (Urocissa caerulea), the Formosan sika deer (Cervus nippon taiwanensis or Cervus nippon taiouanus) and the Formosan landlocked salmon (Oncorhynchus masou formosanus). A few of these are now extinct, and many others have been designated endangered species.

Taiwan has 65 species of fireflies, the third highest density after Jamaica and Costa Rica. Fireflies are protected and their numbers are increasing but in the long term they are threatened by climate change. [28]

Taiwan had relatively few carnivores, 11 species in total, of which the Formosan clouded leopard is likely extinct and the otter restricted to Kinmen island. [29] The largest carnivore is the Formosan black bear (Selanarctos thibetanus formosanus), a rare and endangered species. [30]

Nine national parks in Taiwan showcase the diverse terrain, flora and fauna of the archipelago. Kenting National Park on the southern tip of Taiwan contains uplifted coral reefs, moist tropical forest and marine ecosystems. Yushan National Park has alpine terrain, mountain ecology, forest types that vary with altitude, and remains of ancient road. Yangmingshan National Park has volcanic geology, hot springs, waterfalls, and forest. Taroko National Park has marble canyon, cliff, and fold mountains. Shei-Pa National Park has alpine ecosystems, geological terrain, and valley streams. Kinmen National Park has lakes, wetlands, coastal topography, flora and fauna-shaped island. Dongsha Atoll National Park has the Pratas reef atolls for integrity, a unique marine ecology, biodiversity, and is a key habitat for the marine resources of the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. [31]

Natural resources

Taiwan fir (Abies kawakamii) Abies kawakamii Chi-You.jpg
Taiwan fir ( Abies kawakamii )

Natural resources on the islands include small deposits of gold, copper, [32] coal, natural gas, limestone, marble, and asbestos. [1] The island is 55% forest and woodland (mostly on the mountains) and 24% arable land (mostly on the plains), with 15% going to other purposes. 5% is permanent pasture and 1% is permanent crops.

Because of the intensive exploitation throughout Taiwan's pre-modern and modern history, the island's mineral resources (e.g. coal, gold, marble), as well as wild animal reserves (e.g. deer), have been virtually exhausted. Moreover, much of Taiwan's forestry resources, especially firs were harvested during Japanese rule for the construction of shrines and have only recovered slightly since then. To this day, forests do not contribute to significant timber production mainly because of concerns about production costs and environmental regulations.

Agriculture

The few natural resources with significant economic value remaining in Taiwan are essentially agriculture-associated. Sugarcane and rice have been cultivated in western Taiwan since the 17th century. Camphor extraction and sugar refining played an important role in Taiwan's exports from the late 19th century through the first half of the 20th century. [33] The importance of these industries subsequently declined mainly due to the reduction of international demand rather than exhaustion of related natural resources. [34]

Domestic agriculture (rice being the dominant kind of crop) and fisheries retain some importance, but they have been greatly challenged by foreign imports since Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organization in 2002. Consequently, upon the decline of subsistence, Taiwan's agriculture now relies heavily on the marketing and export of specialty crops, such as bananas, guavas, lychees, bell fruits, and high-mountain tea. [35]

Energy resources

Wind turbines in Taichung Wind power-Kaumei.jpg
Wind turbines in Taichung

Taiwan has significant coal deposits and some insignificant petroleum and natural gas deposits. As of 2010, oil accounts for 49.0% of the total energy consumption. Coal comes next with 32.1%, followed by nuclear energy with 8.3%, natural gas (indigenous and liquefied) with 10.2%, and energy from renewable sources with 0.5%. Taiwan has six nuclear reactors and two under construction. [36] Nearly all oil and gas for transportation and power needs must be imported, making Taiwan particularly sensitive to fluctuations in energy prices. Taiwan is rich in wind energy resources, with wind farms both onshore and offshore, though limited land area favors offshore wind resources. [37] By promoting renewable energy, Taiwan's government hopes to also aid the nascent renewable energy manufacturing industry, and develop it into an export market.[ citation needed ]

Human geography

Population density map of Taiwan Taiwan population density map.svg
Population density map of Taiwan

Taiwan has a population of over 23 million, the vast majority of whom live in the lowlands near the western coast of the island. [5] The island is highly urbanized, with nearly 9 million people living in the Taipei–Keelung–Taoyuan metropolitan area at the northern end, and over 2 million each in the urban areas of Kaohsiung and Taichung. [38]

Taiwanese indigenous peoples comprise approximately 2% of the population, and now mostly live in the mountainous eastern part of the island. [39] [40] Most scholars believe their ancestors arrived in Taiwan by sea between 4000 and 3000 BC, most likely from southeastern China. [41]

Han Chinese make up over 95% of the population. [42] Immigrants from southern Fujian began to farm the area around modern Tainan and Kaohsiung from the 17th century, later spreading across the western and northern plains and absorbing the indigenous population of those areas. Hakka people from eastern Guangdong arrived later and settled the foothills further inland, but the rugged uplands of the eastern half of the island remained the exclusive preserve of the indigenous peoples until the early 20th century. [43] A further 1.2 million people from throughout China entered Taiwan at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. [44]

Environmental issues

Motor scooters are a very common means of transportation in Taiwan and contribute to urban air pollution. Scooters in taipei.jpg
Motor scooters are a very common means of transportation in Taiwan and contribute to urban air pollution.

Some areas in Taiwan with high population density and many factories are affected by heavy pollution. The most notable areas are the southern suburbs of Taipei and the western stretch from Tainan to Lin Yuan, south of Kaohsiung. By the late 20th century, Taipei suffered from extensive vehicle and factory air pollution, but after the government required mandatory use of unleaded petrol and established the Environmental Protection Administration in 1987 to regulate air quality, the air quality of Taiwan has improved dramatically. [45] Motor scooters, especially older or cheaper two-stroke versions, which are ubiquitous in Taiwan, contribute disproportionately to urban air pollution. [46] [47] The Taichung Power Plant also contributes significantly to air pollution, producing more CO2 than the country of Switzerland. [48]

Other environmental issues include water pollution from industrial emissions and raw sewage, contamination of drinking water supplies, trade in endangered species, and low-level radioactive waste disposal. [1] Though regulation of sulfate aerosol emissions from petroleum combustion is becoming stringent, acid rain remains a threat to the health of residents and forests. Atmospheric scientists in Taiwan estimate that more than half of the pollutants causing Taiwan's acid rain are carried from China by monsoon winds. [49]

Taiwan historically had a serious problem with the illegal dumping of household and industrial waste which became so severe that Taiwan was known as "garbage island." This high level of pollution led to civil and government action, by 2022 the recycling rate was one of the highest in the world at 55%. Community activism was key to this change along with innovations such as garbage trucks which play music. [50]

Illegal extraction by Chinese sand dredging vessels has caused significant damage to the marine environment of Taiwan's outlying areas. The Taiwan Banks are a particularly hard hit target. [51]

Notes

    Related Research Articles

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    Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a country in East Asia, at the junction of the East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the northwest, Japan to the northeast, and the Philippines to the south. The territories controlled by the ROC consist of 168 islands, with a combined area of 36,193 square kilometres (13,974 sq mi). The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa, has an area of 35,808 square kilometres (13,826 sq mi), with mountain ranges dominating the eastern two-thirds and plains in the western third, where its highly urbanised population is concentrated. The capital, Taipei, forms along with New Taipei City and Keelung the largest metropolitan area of Taiwan. Other major cities include Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. With around 23.9 million inhabitants, Taiwan is among the most densely populated countries in the world.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Taiwan independence movement</span> Political movement advocating the independence of the island of Taiwan

    The Taiwan independence movement is a political movement which advocates the formal declaration of an independent and sovereign Taiwanese state, as opposed to Chinese unification or the status quo in Cross-Strait relations.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Taiwan Strait</span> Strait between Mainland China and Taiwan

    The Taiwan Strait is a 180-kilometer -wide strait separating the island of Taiwan and continental Asia. The strait is part of the South China Sea and connects to the East China Sea to the north. The narrowest part is 130 km wide.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Kinmen</span> County of the Republic of China (Taiwan)

    Kinmen, alternatively known as Quemoy, is a group of islands governed as a county by the Republic of China (Taiwan), off the southeastern coast of mainland China. It lies roughly 10 km (6.2 mi) east of the city of Xiamen in Fujian, from which it is separated by Xiamen Bay. Kinmen is located 187 km (116 mi) west from the shoreline of the island of Taiwan across the Taiwan Strait.

    The Republic of China (Taiwan) is divided into multi-layered statutory subdivisions. Due to the complex political status of Taiwan, there is a significant difference in the de jure system set out in the original constitution and the de facto system in use today.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Matsu Islands</span> County in Fukien, Republic of China

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    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Penghu</span> Island group and county of Taiwan

    The Penghu or Pescadores Islands are an archipelago of 90 islands and islets in the Taiwan Strait, located approximately 50 km (31 mi) west from the main island of Taiwan, covering an area of 141 square kilometers (54 sq mi). The archipelago collectively forms Penghu County of Taiwan and is the smallest county of Taiwan. The largest city is Magong, located on the largest island, which is also named Magong.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Hualien County</span> County in Republic of China

    Hualien County is a county on the east coast of Taiwan. It is the largest county by area, yet due to its mountainous terrain, has one of the lowest populations in the country. The county seat and largest city is Hualien City.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Taiwan (1945–present)</span> History of Taiwan since 1945

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    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Yu Shan</span> Highest mountain in Taiwan

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    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of Taiwan</span> Overview of and topical guide to Taiwan

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    <span class="mw-page-title-main">1987 Lieyu massacre</span> Mass killing of Vietnam War refugees by the ROC (Taiwanese) military

    The 1987 Lieyu massacre occurred on 7 March 1987, at Donggang Bay, Lieyu Island, Kinmen, Fujian, Republic of China. ROC military officially denied the massacre, and defined it as an incident of “mistaken killings” (誤殺事件), hence named as the March 7 Incident (三七事件) or Donggang Incident (東崗事件). There may have been more than nineteen deaths, including several families of ethnical Chinese Vietnamese.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Water supply and sanitation in Taiwan</span>

    Water supply and sanitation in Taiwan is characterized by uneven distribution of precipitation and a dense population.

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    Works cited

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