Distribution of Plants & Animals in East Asia

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  • 0:01 Climates of East Asia
  • 0:47 Native Animals
  • 2:31 Native Plants
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you should be able to describe some of the most significant plants and animals of East Asia and where they are found. A short quiz will follow.

Climates of East Asia

Climate varies a lot from place to place, and Asia has the most varied climate in the world. Asia, as a whole, has at least ten main climate types, and there are five climate types even in East Asia alone. East Asia is a part of the continent of Asia, usually considered to include China, Japan, North Korea and South Korea.

Thanks to evolution, plants and animals learn to adapt to their climate. And so, even in East Asia, the flora and fauna are different in the various climatic regions. This gives East Asia an unusually varied array of plants and animals, which isn't seen anywhere else outside of the tropics. In China, in particular, you find climate zones side-by-side in combinations that are hard to find elsewhere. This has created some truly unusual species.

Native Animals

Outside of the tropics, China is the most biologically-diverse country in the world. China contains approximately 4,900 species of fish, 1,300 bird species, 550 mammal species, 400 reptile species and 350 amphibian species. However, humans and animals are constantly affecting each other, and 840 species are threatened.

The giant panda has become a symbol of China's animal life thanks to its beauty and the fact that it's under threat. They are found in south-central China, on the slopes of temperate mountains covered with bamboo forests. However, China is also home to brown bears, black bears and many other mammal species. China also has gibbons, macaques, tigers, leopards, wolves, foxes, deer, a few elephants and smaller mammals like mongoose, otter, badger, weasel, wolverine and bats. Particularly rare are golden monkeys, Chinese alligators (which only reach a length of six feet), white-flag dolphins (one of the few freshwater dolphins on the planet) and red-crowned crane (which live an astonishing 70 years and are a symbol of longevity).

Japan has around 130 species of mammal (including bears, martens, wildcats, deer and foxes), 600 species of birds (many shared with China), 73 species of reptiles (half of which are only found in Japan, especially snakes and turtles), 40 species of amphibians (the Japanese giant salamander is the largest in the world) and over 3,000 types of fish. Less detail is known about the animals in the Korean peninsula, but many of the species we do know about are also found in China. The Koreas are particularly abundant in birds and contain around 515 different species.

Native Plants

The flora of China is diverse and not especially well cataloged compared to some parts of the world. But we believe there are 32,000 species of plants, including 2,800 tree species, especially cypress, fir and larch, many species of which are only found in China. The metasequoia tree, in particular, is one of the rarest and oldest plants in the world. The golden larch is another rare species, found in the Yangtze River Valley. But there are plants of almost every type found in the Northern Hemisphere present in China. The peony is one of the national flowers of China.

Japan is home to at least 5,000 species of plant, many found only in Japan. The plant life varies by climate conditions: the coniferous forest in the north contains very different species to the subtropical forest in the south. In the south, you'll find mangroves and ferns, and in the north, you'll find evergreen trees, beech trees and oak trees. Conifers are found in the mountains and bamboo is found everywhere. While Japan doesn't have an official national flower, many people suggest the chrysanthemum, which was associated with the Japanese emperor, or the sakura (or cherry blossom).

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