August 12th, 2010
WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, Environment, In the News
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Who needs a time machine when you’ve got frogs?
Secrets of the development of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau have recently been revealed to us by Popeye-forearmed frogs whose evolutional divergences coincide with major tectonic events connected with the raising of the “roof of the world”.
Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and Kunming studied 24 different groups of the tribe Paini, gaining new insights into the collision of India and Asia, which led to the formation of spectacular peaks of the Himalayas and the breathtaking landscapes of the Tibetan Plateau. MSNBC reports:
“Geologists know a lot about that area, but what they haven’t been able to do is give a sequence to the timing of the rise of particular mountain masses and particular ridges and pieces,” David Wake, a herpetologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley and a co-author of a new paper detailing the findings, said in a UC Berkeley statement.
“We use these frogsas a surrogate for a time machine.”
The rather unique frogs live in fast-flowing streams, requiring the male frogs to have strong forelimbs and coarse chests so that slippery females don’t get swept away by swift currents during mating.
The team of scientists found that the Paini originated in the Indochina region of Southeast Asia before moving into western China 27 million years ago, when a divergence occurred creating two new groups of frogs: the lowland Quasipaa frogs of South China and Southeast Asia and their high-altitude cousins, Nanorana in Tibet.
The Quasipaa frogs diverged into South China and Southeast Asian groups with the raising of the Truong Son mountain range on the border between Laos and Vietnam. But the real action was taking place in Tibet roughly nine million years ago, where the Nanorana subgenus was adapting to cold, dry and oxygen-poor conditions. A third group of spiny frogs was also isolated on the Himalayas 19 million years ago as the Tibetan Plateau pushed higher.
As tectonic events separated the frogs, each group evolved different features from other groups, becoming less and less alike.
The story of these frogs illustrates the inseparable relationship between geographical diversity and biodiversity. As Asia’s surface transformed, so did its animal and plant life. This variety of topography, flora and fauna in Tibet, as well as Yunnan and Sichuan, is one of the main reasons that this part of China is where several of WildChina’s most popular tours take place.
WildChina’s Family Adventures in Tibet and Soul of Tibet tours offer unforgettable experiences in this land of diversity. If the roof of the world is a little too high for your tastes, you can always explore the incredibly biodiverse foothills of the Himalayas through our South of the Clouds.
Photo credit: Flickr
February 4th, 2010
Alex G | Categories: Environment, In the News
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On the subjects of climate change, the Tibetan Plateau, and Orville Schell, our friend at New York-based Asia Society, Michael Zhao, recently sent us a video in which he combines and documents all three.
In his 3:35-minute film, Zhao captures the drastic physical changes of Asia’s most famous glacial peaks, shows the importance of glaciers to the livelihood of local cultures, and records Orville Schell’s insights on the importance of Chinese-American collaboration on climate change.
Orville notes in the video, “they’re [the glaciers are] the alarm system, and the alarm system has gone off. The question is, will we hear it?”
Watch the video on Michael Zhao’s YouTube channel. You can also send him a tweet @MikeZhaoYunfeng.
Photo credit: tampabay.com
February 2nd, 2010
Alex G | Categories: WildChina Experts
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Orville Schell recently wrote about his journey to Yunnan with WildChina, discussing the climate change issues on the Tibetan Plateau. However, what is beyond the melting glacial peaks in the region?
WildChina’s Alex Grieves sat down with Jia Liming, WildChina’s Director of Operations, to get a sense of the diverse natural and cultural wonders that exist between the Yangtze and Mekong Rivers.
Alex Grieves: How did you initially get involved in Orville Schell’s trip? Why were you a part of this experience?
Jia Liming: In early 2009, Mei [Zhang, WildChina's founder] told me that Orville [Schell, Asia Society's China scholar] wanted to write about glaciers in China. As a member of the Operations team and someone who is quite familiar with Yunnan, I was asked to explore which routes would be most appropriate for the trip and to travel with the group.
AG: What route did you end up taking?
JL: We essentially went in a large loop. We first drove alongside the Yangtze River to Deqin, and then followed the Mekong River south again, first to Cizhong and then to Weixi. We visited the Mingyang Glaciers and Lijiang’s Jade Dragon Mountain, both of which are, or are home to, low latitude glaciers.
AG: What impressions did you take away with you while on this route?
JL: The journey down the Mekong River is simply incredible; it really is as if one is traveling through time. When you’re on the route, you travel through a myriad of contrasts: high to low altitudes; Tibetan to Lisu culture; buckwheat crops to rice fields; different styles of architecture; and colder to warmer climates. It’s amazing what one can see on just one 9-hour drive.
AG: What was your strongest impression from the trip?
JL: Driving past a Lisu village at sunset. As we passed by, I saw farmers singing in the fading light while working with cows in the rice fields. They seemed incredibly content. That was a really powerful moment. More generally speaking, the drive from Cizhong to Weixi is incredibly beautiful – there is no industry in these areas, and the natural beauty is untouched. One thing really interesting about the this area is that many villages are driven by clean energy and sustainable practices. The government subsidizes their bio-gas for cooking and heating, which enables the community to waste less and preserve their natural surroundings. It’s also very well-organized, and should serve as a model for other rural communities in China.
AG: Tell me more about the Lisu minority and their community.
JL: The Lisu people are an intriguing ethnic group, as about 20 percent of them are Catholic. Many can be found in Myanmar, since a large number of them emigrated to that area in the past.
Want to learn more about Yunnan and the Tibetan Plateau? Send us a tweet @WildChina, or email Jia at email@example.com.
January 27th, 2010
Alex G | Categories: In the News
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China scholar Orville Schell recently published a piece in the February 2010 issue of Conde Nast Traveler entitled ‘China’s Magic Melting Mountain,’ in which he discusses China’s lesser-known Tibetan Plateau, the region’s Buddhist culture, and the physical and cultural effects of global warming on the area’s glacial mountain peaks.
WildChina is proud to be mentioned in the article as Orville Schell’s sole operator for the journey. Orville says of WildChina and traveling through the region:
You’re best off booking your trip through a tour operator who can help you navigate the often-tricky logistics in this remote area. The author booked his trip through WildChina—the founder of which, Mei Zhang , is a Yunnan native and Harvard MBA (888-902-8808; wildchina.com).
Why did Orville Schell decide to travel with WildChina? Find out here.
The February 2010 issue of Conde Nast Traveler is on newsstands now, and you can find the full version of ‘China’s Magic Melting Mountain’ online here.
Photo credit: Abelow PR
For more information about travel to the Tibetan Plateau, please contact Barbara Henderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
October 6th, 2009
Anita | Categories: In the News
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Climate change often seems like an abstract concept to many of us. But as renowned China scholar Orville Schell writes in “The Thaw at the Roof of the World,” his recent New York Times op-ed, the effects of global warming can be clearly seen in a part of China close to WildChina’s heart: Yunnan province in the southwest.
WildChina recently ran a trip for Orville and a few of his friends from the Asia Society to Yunnan and the Tibetan Plateau so that they could examine these environmental changes up close. As he writes, most people visit Yunnan’s majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain for the beautiful views — unaware that the mountain’s Baishui Glacier No. 1 has receded 830 feet over the last 20 years due to climate change. While in the short run, the melting of the glacier will result in plenty of water, in the long run, it will in fact result in water scarcity – a serious issue, given that the glaciers on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain feed water into the uppear reaches of the Yangtze River, a major water resource for much of China.
Given that water resources are already dwindling worldwide, it’s no wonder that conservationists are drawing more and more attention to the pressing need to solve the climate change problem. It certainly becomes much less abstract when you think about the people and lives that will be hugely affected, for the worse, by the environmental changes.