Fireflies to get protected area in forest park

A major firefly habitat will be placed under protection in an area slated to become one of Shanghai's biggest forest parks.

A major firefly habitat will be placed under protection in an area slated to become one of Shanghai’s biggest forest parks.

An ecological protection zone for fireflies will be established at the Central Forest in Fengxian New City, one of five suburban satellite towns planned by the city government, its construction management committee said yesterday.

A restricted-entry zone will be built around the firefly habitat, founded by local environmental protection volunteers, the committee said. A viewing area will be set up nearby where visitors can watch the fireflies from afar.

The forest, located in the Jinhai Community of the “new city” in Fengxian District, is said to have the highest concentration of fireflies in Shanghai. It is also one of the last remaining local inhabits of wild fireflies as urbanization continues apace with environmental degradation.

Wild fireflies can now only be seen in outlying areas of Qingpu, Fengxian and Pudong as well as the city’s zoo and botanical garden, said Jiang Long, a senior environmental protection volunteer.

At the forest in Fengxian, there are some 2,400 fireflies, or about 20 in every square meter, Jiang said. The forest once belonged to a village, the residents of which have been relocated to make way for the area’s development.

The development company behind the future forest park has invited foreign designers to plan the area. The key concept is to protect existing forest resources and biological diversity, including the fireflies, according to the committee.

An evaluation of the animals and insects living in the forest will be carried out soon to support planning, it added.

The Central Forest park will cover some 4 square kilometers to become one of the city’s biggest suburban forest parks. The park will become the “core ecological zone” for the new city along with the Shanghai Fish, or Jinhai Lake, the city’s largest artificial lake which is set for completion soon, according to the district government.

Fireflies feast on pests like river snails which destroy crops. They are also an essential part of the food chain and are themselves eaten by larger creatures. Their decimation could upset the area’s ecological balance.

“As long as we offer clean water, wetland or forest, the fireflies can live with us and provides light in the darkness,” said Jin Xingbao, an insect expert and former deputy curator of the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum.

“It is not too late to raise the public awareness and protect the firefly,” Jin said.

There are approximately 2,000 firefly species around the world. One of the most common species found in Shanghai is Luciola substriata, an aquatic species also known as the Japanese firefly.

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