After 14 years studying fish ecology in Kaohsiung County's Nantzuhsien River (楠梓仙溪), a group of Taiwanese marine biologists have discovered that the habitat of the Taiwan ku fish, which thrives in warm water, is moving toward higher altitudes, while the Taiwan shoveljaw carp, which prefers cooler waters, is also migrating to higher altitudes.
The results of the study, which will soon be published in the internationally renowned publication Ecology of Freshwater Fish, will have far-reaching consequences for predicting biological changes and possible extinctions as global warming accelerates as well as for formulating preservation strategies.
Kaohsiung County Government commissioned the study and funded nine of the 14 years it took to complete. The study was conducted by Fang Lee-hsing (方力行), former president of the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium and now a professor at Cheng Shiu University in Kaohsiung County together with Han Chiao-chuan (韓僑權) and Chang Guey-shin (張桂祥), assistant researchers at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium.
The protected Taiwan ku fish is unique to Taiwan, and lives along the middle reaches of the Kaoping River (高屏溪) in southern Taiwan and the Hsiukuluan (秀姑巒溪) and Peinan (卑南溪) rivers in eastern Taiwan.
Fang said the study showed that the habitat of the Taiwan shoveljaw carp has changed from an altitude of 500m to an altitude of 690m or higher, while the Taiwan ku fish has extended its habitat from 400m or lower to as high as 690m above sea level.
Fang added the study discovered that typhoons have grown stronger over the past 15 years, and that this has brought more damage to the higher-level habitats of the Taiwan shoveljaw carp.
Han said the study disproves the past conception that global warming would only have a biological impact over a period of 50 to 100 years, while Fang stressed that biological changes had been far more rapid than expected, leaving no buffer period in which to implement preservation policies, and this should act as a warning to human kind.