Transformations towards sustainability – A SEPLS restored by the Gongrong community
Society for Wildlife and Nature (SWAN) International; Gongrong community; Soil and Water Conservation Bureau (SWCB); SWCB Taipei Branch; Biodiversity Research Center, National Taiwan University Branch
DATE OF SUBMISSION
Eco-friendly farming, Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS), Gongrong community,
Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECM)
Jung-Tai Chao1, Yie-Hom Lin2, Chen-Yang Lee3, Chen-Chuan Huang4 and Ling-Ling Lee1, 5
1 SWAN International, 5F-3, No. 184, Section 3, Tingzhou Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100, ROC
2 Gongrong community, No. 6, Neighborhood 2, Baxian Villlage, Sanzhi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 252, ROC
3 Soil and Water Conservation Bureau (SWCB), No. 6, Guanghua Road, Nantou City, Nantou County, Taiwan 540, ROC
4 SWCB Taipei Branch, No. 10, Jingzhong Road, Xindian District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 231, ROC
5 Biodiversity Research Center, National Taiwan University, No. 1, Section 4, Roosevelt Road, Taipei City 106, Taiwan 106, ROC
Corresponding author: Ling-Ling Lee
Once a village with gloomy prospects due to improper land development, habitat degradation, pollution, decreasing income, aging, etc., the Gongrong community was determined in 2003 to transform towards sustainability. The principles undertaken in this transformation were found to be in line with those of the Satoyama Initiative. Based on literature review, observation and interviews with community members and relevant government staff, it is revealed that transformation of the Gongrong community went through three overlapping stages: (1) halting further environmental degradation (2004- 2007), (2) capacity building (2005-2011), and (3) implementation of its strategic plan (2012-2016). With the help of a group of visionary and highly motivated elders, coupled with the capacity building programs provided by the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau (SWCB) and other partners, the Gongrong community was empowered with the capability to plan its vision and goals through participatory processes. Consequently, the community implemented its strategies and actions collectively to stop further land degradation, clean up the environment, initiate environmental friendly activities, revive abandoned agricultural land by cultivating diverse crops that could be harvested in different seasons, thereby bringing back biodiversity and ecosystem services that had once vanished. In addition to an increasing household income, the number of new young farmers in Gongrong has been rising. More importantly, by encouraging and collaborating with the neighbouring Ankang community to revive their Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes (SEPLS) according to the principle of the Satoyama Initiative, the Gongrong and Ankang communities serve as an Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measure (OECM) that have helped to expand the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation of the adjacent Yangmingshan National Park to this human-nature interactive landscape.
Figure 1. Map of the country and case study region. Counterclockwise from top left, relative locations of Taiwan island (from Wikipedia), New Taipei city (dark grey area), Sanzhi (red area), and Gongrong community (pink area within the box area, see also Fig. 2).
Figure 2. Relative locations of Gongrong community, Ankang community, and Yangmingshan National Park
Figure 3. Land use and land cover map of case study site
Figure 4. A bird’s-eye view of the production landscape managed by the Gongrong community. Balian stream (blue line) flows from the Yangmingshan National Park (background) through the Gongrong community (left of the Balian stream) and the Ankang community (right of the Balian stream).
The Gongrong community, which manages a 220 ha production landscape, is located in the Sanzhi District (25 15’06.45”N 121 30’32.27”E to 25 13’30.34N 121 31’16.02”E, see Fig. 1), in the northwest corner of New Taipei City in Taiwan, adjacent to the Yangmingshan National Park (YNP) (see Fig. 2). The Balian stream, with a length of 11 km and a watershed of 15 km2, flows through four communities including the Gongrong and Ankang communities (see Fig. 3). The headwaters of the Balian stream are located in the mountains of the YNP (see Fig. 4).
Over 300 years ago, immigrants from western Fujian province of China settled here and formed communities along the Balian stream, which provides quality water for the settlements and irrigation. The hilly terrain was suitable to develop terraced fields for rice growing, and rice became a staple crop of Gongrong. The small community has since depended on agricultural production for its livelihood. However, in the late 1990s, the upstream areas of the Balian watershed were devastated due to illegal landfilling, open-air trash burning, water interception and improper development of steep hillsides in the upstream forest (see Fig. 5), resulting from the neglect of duty and corruption of local officers. Heavy rains brought by Typhoon Babs in 1998 caused a serious landslide in the area, and two people were buried by the mud flow (Sanzhi District Office 2017). Degradation of the upstream environment, together with problems in the midstream settlement, including mismanagement of domestic sewage, overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, increasing abandonment of agricultural land, overfishing and improper stream construction, and clearing of riparian vegetation, resulted in a dying Balian stream and the degradation of production landscapes (Hsieh, Chiu & Chu 2013). This in turn resulted in the diminished quantity and quality of agricultural products, which were much less competitive in the market, and led to a reduction in income from farming activities and the disappearance of traditional knowledge. In addition the ensuing loss of biodiversity posed a threat to the conservation effectiveness of the adjacent YNP, particularly at its northwestern border. At the same time, Taiwan was in the midst of an economic takeoff, where young people began to move to cities seeking better job opportunities, thus leaving Gongrong with an aged population and decreasing productivity.
Although some environmental degradation was apparent, local community members were not aware of the extent of environmental degradation and the disappearance of many local wildlife species. Meanwhile, the Taiwan Water Company planned to withdraw water from the Balian stream and send it somewhere else. Local politicians secretly made a deal with the water company and sold out NTD 40 million (USD 1.6 million) worth of water without the prior consent of the community. When the water company began to construct the water delivery pipeline in the Gongrong community, residents were shocked to find tons of huge pipes ready for installation. Worried about the loss of their water resource and the potential socio-economic impact, the residents of Gongrong took a strong stand against this ”development” project. Following protests and negotiations, the pipeline project came to a halt but was not stopped completely. However, this incident stimulated local awareness of the importance of nature and a healthy landscape and helped ignite the extraordinary environmental transformation of Gongrong that has since occurred.
Determined to reverse the vicious circle of environmental, economic and social devastation and regain the vitality of a production landscape that was once natural and beautiful, a group of elders in the community decided to take advantage of a capacity building opportunity provided by the ”Rural Manpower Training Program” of the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau (SWCB) in 2005, followed by the “Rural Regeneration Incubation Program”  of the SWCB between 2008 and 2011 and a series of ”learning-by-doing” activities (Rural Regeneration E-Portfolio System 2018).
The collective action of the Gongrong community, which has continued for 12 years, has restored local biodiversity and the agricultural production landscape, improved local livelihoods, and inspired its neighbouring Ankang community to take similar actions to revive its production landscape and work together to reduce the threats to and enhance the conservation effectiveness of the adjacent YNP. In this paper, we report the challenges the Gongrong community has faced in reviving its socio-ecological production landscape and seascape (SEPLS), the process and key elements that facilitated the transformation of Gongrong community, the lessons learned from the project, and how such a transformation helped biodiversity conservation, thereby benefiting local livelihoods and enhancing the conservation effectiveness of the adjacent YNP.
Figure 5. Devastated upstream areas of Balian watershed: Clockwise from top left, illegal dumping of waste, illegal open-air trash burning, dead fish in polluted water, and muddy stream due to improper land development in upstream areas.
Methods used in collecting information for this paper included literature review, document search, observation and interviewing of residents of the Gongrong community. Although the process of transformation of the Gongrong community and its SEPLS has spanned more than a decade, the second author Mr. Yie-Hom Lin has maintained good documentation of these processes in the Gongrong community since 2003, including the ”Rural Manpower Training Program” and ”Rural Regeneration Incubation Program”, by keeping records on annual plans for management goals on social, ecological and economic progress and activities for achieving these goals, project reports, as well as annual reviews of results. The SWCB also have kept good records on community development, especially annual budgets and reports on projects implemented by relevant communities, including those of Gongrong.
In addition, we visited and interviewed more than 20 members of the Gongrong and Ankang communities, township and county government staff, and staff of the SWCB between May 2017 and February 2018. Interviews covered social, ecological and economic conditions prior to initiatives and during and after the transformation, as well as the key elements considered to be important for the transformation to happen. The concept of area-based conservation was investigated on site with reference to rural regeneration efforts implemented by the Gongrong community over the past 12 years. More information about the Gongrong project can be found at: http://san-chih. blogspot.com/.
The transformation of the Gongrong community went through three overlapping stages: (1) halting further environmental degradation, (2) capacity building, and (3) implementation of a strategic plan, which are reported as follows.
(1) Halting further environmental degradation (2004- 2007)
Before reviving its SEPLS, the Gongrong community had to stop further pollution and land degradation. This was done by persistently appealing to the township office, township representatives, and the county government to strengthen law enforcement and stop illegal activities in the Balian watershed. Beginning in 2007, the Balian stream was closed to all fishing as fisheries and aquatic resources had dwindled due to overexploitation and pollution. Residents of the Gongrong community voluntarily formed the Balian Stream Conservation Watch (BSCW) and began to regularly patrol along the stream to prevent illegal activities of resource exploitation and pollution.
(2) Capacity building (2005-2011)
To build up people’s capacity to revive their community, residents of Gongrong participated in a series of training workshops offered by the SWCB. From 2005 to 2007, training courses were provided under the SWCB’s ”Rural Manpower Training Program” (Appendix 1). Under the ”Rural Regeneration Incubation Program” of the SWCB from 2008-2011, additional members of Gongrong community received more than 96 hours of training together with residents of neighbouring Ankang community (see Fig. 1, 2; Appendix 2). At Stage 1 (Local Concern Stage) of the ”Rural Regeneration Incubation Program”, residents learnt basic concepts and policies of rural development programs and gained a better understanding of the place where they live. In 2009, they moved on to the Intermediate Stage to learn about environmental issues common to rural communities, as well as the causes and consequences of environmental problems. At the Core Competency Stage in 2010, residents of both communities were taught to conduct local resource surveys and to improve their agricultural environments. All of these ”learning-by-doing” activities were decided upon and implemented by residents themselves, but the labour cost and material purchased were covered by the SWCB. At the Final Regeneration Stage in 2011, residents of both communities respectively learnt to draft and outline visions, goals, strategies and action plans to regenerate their communities based on survey results and collective discussion. As a result, several trial activities were initiated.
(3) Implementation of rural regeneration plan (2011- 2016)
The final draft of the Gongrong community’s regeneration plan, resulting from the processes of the ”Rural Regeneration Incubation Program”, was submitted to the SWCB for review. Following approval of the plan and its budget by the SWCB in 2011, the Gongrong community was able to implement this regeneration plan from 2011 to 2016. Training from the workshops enabled the residents of the Gongrong community to identify issues that needed to be addressed before the vision and goals of their strategic plan could be realized and to find the necessary assistance, e.g. experts, partners and resources, and solutions by themselves. Since 2010, residents have met at least once every month to discuss community affairs. They keep good documentation on their achievements each year and plan out actions to be taken in the following year. The draft plan of the Gongrong community was highly acclaimed, winning first place in the New Taipei City Rural Regeneration Draft Plan Contest in 2012.
After completing the training programs provided by the SWCB, residents of the Gongrong community continued to invite experts to offer trainings to enhance their knowledge, skills and capacity in identifying and solving the key issues and problems affecting their environment and production. Continuous participation in community training programs also helped to enhance collective decision-making and strengthen cohesiveness among community members in realizing the vision of their rural regeneration plan, i.e. ”making a good living on your home landscape”, which is in line with the vision of the Satoyama Initiative, namely, ”living in harmony with nature”.
The transformation of the Gongrong community through collective effort can be witnessed in many aspects. For instance, in 2005, when the first year’s training courses offered by the SWCB became available, 20 residents registered but only six completed the training. To improve attendance, the elders asked residents to choose the kind of training courses they needed and wanted by themselves. The result was a well-received training program with increased participation. Nowadays the community continues to hold training workshops or courses based on its annual plan and the community needs. They are regularly attended by more than 100 residents, or 25 percent of the Gongrong population, and aim to improve the farming and management skills of participants. Transformation with respect to the environment, economy and society is reported as follows, although improvement in these three aspects is inter-related.
As mentioned above, the self-organized BSCW has been patrolling along the stream regularly since 2007 to clean up the waterway and stop illegal fishing (see Fig. 6). The BSCW reports any illegal activities to the district office, city government, or through the media. Having cleaned up the stream, restored stream bank vegetation, and put a stop to illegal fishing, the patrol team found that the migratory Japanese mitten crab (Eriocheir japonicas) reappeared in upstream areas of Balian. Populations of other native fishes such as the Taiwan shovel-jaw carp (Varicorhinus barbatulus) and ray-finned fishes (Zacco pachycephalus and Acrossocheilus paradoxus) have also become much more abundant than before.
The Gongrong community, sponsored by the SWCB, also built several small-scale, low-cost, constructed wetlands to treat domestic wastewater by themselves (see Fig. 7). A series of five ponds were installed alongside farmhouses to change wastewater into water with a high concentration of dissolved oxygen, that is low in temperature and has a minimal bacteria content, so that wastewater can be purified before flowing back into the Balian stream. In addition to minimizing the impact of farmhouse wastewater on downstream residents and the agricultural environment of the Balian stream, these wastewater treatment ponds (constructed wetlands) also serve environmental education purposes. By now a total of five constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment have been built along the Balian stream and many more in other rural areas of Taiwan.
By controlling pollution and cleaning up the environment, farmers were able to cultivate land that had been abandoned for years. Cultivated land doubled from less than 21 ha in 2011 to 52 ha in 2017. Farmers were encouraged to apply eco-friendly or organic farming practices and farmers still practicing conventional farming were taught not to overuse pesticides and fertilizers. The area of eco-friendly or organic farms in the Gongrong community increased from 1.3 ha in 2011 to 23 ha in 2017, indicating a dramatic reduction in pesticide application.
Improvement in environmental conditions together with eco-friendly production measures helped bring back the once-vanishing biodiversity in Gongrong, evidenced by more wild plants in the fields, more snails, crabs, and fishes in the stream and more frogs in the ponds, as well as more dragonflies and less mosquitos. Residents also noticed more species of birds, including the crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela) that is a protected species, over the landscape (see Fig.8 and 9). A survey on aquatic organisms will be conducted in 2019.
Figure 6. Members of Balian Stream Conservation Watch (BSCW) regularly patrol along the stream to stop illegal fishing activities (left). Illegal fishing nets with fish found by members of BSCW (right).
Figure 7. Constructed wetlands built by members of Gongrong community to treat domestic wastewater (left). Constructed wetlands are now used for environmental education (right), in addition to their wastewater treatment function.
Figure 8. Beautiful landscape of the Gongrong community after restoration.
Figure 9. Samples of species diversity in Gongrong after restoration: Clockwise from top left, Taiwan blue magpie (Urocissa caerulea), crested serpent eagle (Spilornis cheela), Japanese mitten crab (Eriocheir japonicas), and Swinhoe’s brown frog (Odorrana swinhoana).
In addition to the expanded cultivation of once-abandoned farmland and application of eco-friendly or organic farming practices, the number of crops planted by farmers also increased from 1 to 12 during the same period. This crop diversification has helped expand production-related activities on various crops, as well as reduced pest outbreak risk and market risk. The numbers of full-time farmers increased from 24 to 46 and part-time farmers from 17 to 52, with most of the new farmers being young people. A farmers’ market was opened in Gongrong in 2012. The market sells eco-friendly and organic farming products on weekends with the intent to provide incentives to local farmers engaging in eco-friendly farming practices to sell their products and provide consumers with access to fresh and zero residue products. An increasing number of consumers are willing to drive from urban areas to Gongrong to buy fresh food and spend some leisure time there. The average annual income of farmers that were willing to disclose information (N = 19) increased from NTD 10,000 in 2011 to NTD 170,000 in 2016. This amount of income may seem low; however, it represents huge progress compared to hardly any cash income earned from agricultural production on the part of these farmers before 2005.
As farmlands were restored and water sources cleaned up, more types of crops, other than the traditional wild rice, are being cultivated, and the Gongrong community is preparing for the next stage of further production diversification. For example, they are learning to raise chickens, practice aquaculture, and to process and add value to their agriculture products to suit farmers’ individual differences and increase their income. In addition, with the clean and beautiful landscape, the eco-friendly produce, and its successful story of transformation, the Gongrong community has been covered in the news media and has attracted many visitors who are willing to pay for an interpretation tour guided by residents. This source of increased income was not included in the above-mentioned income increase from primary agriculture production. Therefore, it is foreseeable that the income generated after the transformation of the community will continue to increase.
During the 1990s when the Gongrong community dwindled, a majority of the male residents became addicted to drinking and gambling, reflecting a depression in the local people in general. To stop this social erosion, a dance teacher was invited to teach housewives dancing in the evenings. The housewives then encouraged their husbands to join the dancing class. This strategy turned out to be effective in replacing the gambling habits with a healthier habit without much conflict. In response to an aging society, the Gongrong community has also developed a network of eldercare. The District Public Health Center and neighbouring hospitals have been providing volunteer medical consultation and a free clinic. Likewise, elders are encouraged to participate in physical activity as a routine.
Residents have found success in initiating such community programs, e.g. dancing, eldercare and physical activity, as well as other types of social activities, and in encouraging people to take the training courses that they need and in which they have interest. Residents have found participating in community activities, discussing community affairs, learning among themselves and from invited experts, planning, finding solutions and working together to solve problems collectively to be more and more enjoyable, thus enhancing the cohesiveness of the community.
During implementation of the rural regeneration plan from 2012 to 2016, Gongrong’s transformation drew the attention of the news media. The increasing number of tourists provided an opportunity for environmental interpretation and education. The farming field trips and ecological camps offered by the Gongrong community have been attended by many families and school children from Taipei. These activities have helped to raise public awareness on conservation, as well as sustainable use of biodiversity.
3.4 Expansion of SEPLS and OECM with Ankang community
Witnessing the transformation of Gongrong, the neighbouring Ankang community, facing similar social, environmental and economic challenges, was stimulated and encouraged to revive its SEPLS. The Ankang community collaborated with Gongrong to maintain their Balian irrigation ditch, which has a history of nearly 200 years (first built during the reign of Emperor Daoguang of the Qing Dynasty from 1820 to 1850). The tradition of regular maintenance activity has dual functions: economically, to safeguard the water source for irrigation, and culturally, to provide a heritage that connects generations amongst themselves and with the land (Lin 2014). Recognition and protection of the associated cultural value have also led to positive biodiversity outcomes (see Fig. 10).
The Ankang community, with an area of 1,520 ha, shares the Balian stream with the Gongrong community. Therefore, a clean Balian stream associated with community health, productivity and regeneration has been of long-standing interest to both communities. Gongrong and Ankang have maintained close ties, and residents of the two communities meet regularly to discuss and coordinate efforts to deal with common issues of concern. They also continue to take training courses provided by the SWCB and other partners together, though each community drafted and implemented its own rural regeneration plan separately.
A large part of the Ankang community is located within the boundary of the YNP. Geographically, the Gongrong community, Ankang community and the YNP form a continuous landscape (see Fig. 1). Restoration of the SEPLS by the Gongrong and Ankang communities ensured the sustainable use of biodiversity that is complementary to the aims of the adjacent YNP as a protected area, i.e. conservation of biodiversity. The area of the YNP, Ankang community, and Gongrong community is 11,340 ha, 1,520 ha, and 220 ha., respectively. In other words, the combination of eco-friendly management of the SEPLS of the Gongrong and Ankang communities (1,740 ha) significantly increases the effective conservation area of the YNP.
Figure 10. Residents voluntarily maintaining trail and irrigation ditch (left) and fixing trails in the field (right) using traditional technology.
4. Discussion and conclusion
An ”other effective area-based conservation measure” (OECM), as referenced in Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, is defined as ”a geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained outcomes for the insitu conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem functions and services and, where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio-economic, and other locally relevant values” (CBD/SBSTTA/22/5). The core difference is that while protected areas (PAs) should have a primary conservation objective, an OECM should deliver the effective and enduring in-situ conservation of biodiversity, regardless of its objectives (IUCN WCPA, 2017). Laffoley et al. (2017) suggested that for a given measure to count as an OECM under Aichi Target 11, the measure needs to simultaneously meet ALL of the following principles: (1) achieves the in situ conservation of biodiversity; (2) is additional to existing protected area designations; (3) is long-term in implementation; (4) provides demonstrable evidence of conservation outcomes; (5) applies to a definable and describable area; and (6) has active governance that delivers measures to achieve conservation. Criteria for identifying an OECM include: (a) area is not currently recognized as a protected area, (b) area is governed and managed, (c) achieves sustained and effective contribution to in-situ conservation of biodiversity, and (d) associated ecosystem services are supported and cultural and spiritual values are identified, respected and upheld (CBD/SBSTTA/22/6, Annex III).
The SEPLS managed by the Gongrong and Ankang communities is largely privately owned and has a welldefined area that has persisted for centuries. The primary objective of management of this SEPLS is agricultural production rather than conservation. This SEPLS, which is not recognized as a protected area, has been restored by the collective action of the residents living in these two communities. Pollution was eliminated, pesticide residue in the soil disappeared, the stream became clean and the environment much more natural than before. The SEPLS began to deliver effective and enduring in situ conservation of biodiversity through eco-friendly or organic farming and sustainable use of biodiversity. Migratory crabs, fishes, dragonflies, frogs, lizards, snakes, birds, and mammals have come back and diverse crops have been planted. The cohesiveness of the both communities, the regular meetings and discussion among them, and the continuing education and training courses to improve their knowledge and skills, have helped to ensure commitment to actions to fulfil their vison of ”making a good living on your home landscape” and to attaining the goal of maintaining healthy ecosystems. These area-based, long-term measures have achieved and can continue to achieve the in-situ conservation of nature as a whole. In other words, the SEPLS managed by the Gongrong and Ankang communities simultaneously meets all six principles of Laffoley et al. (2017) and the four criteria identified in CBD/SBSTTA/22/6. It can thus be considered as an OECM, particularly in the category of ”ancillary conservation”, which refers to areas that deliver conservation outcomes as a by-product of management activities even though biodiversity conservation is not a management objective (IUCN WCPA 2017).
The lack of connectivity between PAs has been considered a major issue that needs to be resolved in enhancing their conservation effectiveness. Therefore, there are a large number of global initiatives aiming to develop corridors between PAs to enhance exchange and gene flow of wildlife populations (Leadley et al. 2014). However, the establishment, management or maintenance of corridors between PAs can be expensive and may be ineffective in achieving conservation goals (Simberloff and Cox 1987). If, however, restored SEPLS are adjacent to PAs, they can enhance and expand the conservation effectiveness of PAs to a wider landscape without the additional cost of developing corridors. The Gongrong and Ankang communities are physically and biologically connected to the YNP and their restored SEPLS expands the effective conservation area of the YNP and buffers the YNP from anthropogenic pressures such as habitat degradation (Aichi Target 11 without any additional cost for biodiversity conservation or establishing and maintenance of a corridor. The restored SEPLS also helps enhance the resilience of the two communities and of the YNP, store more carbon in this area (Aichi Target 15), and prevent extinction and aid recovery of threatened species, e.g. the crested serpent eagle (Aichi Target 12). In other words, a SEPLS serving as an OECM adjacent to a PA can be much more cost-effective in conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services than establishing a corridor for conservation purposes only. Such cost-effective measures ought to be evaluated to help provide incentives for promoting ancillary conservation leading to OECMs near PAs in the future.
The collective actions of the two communities in cleaning up their environment, implementing a wastewater purification process and applying eco-friendly farming techniques also help meet Targets 4, 7, and 8. The restored SEPLS provides many important ecosystem services, including: provisioning services such as crops and clean water; regulating services such as regulation of floods, drought, pest and disease; supporting services such as nutrient recycling and pollination; and cultural services such as education, leisure and tourism. The training courses on improving agricultural production skills and knowledge to conserve the SEPLS that are open to all residents helped improve the socio-economic conditions and livelihoods of all members of the communities, including those of women, the poor and the vulnerable (Aichi Target 14). Finally, the SEPLS restored by the Gongrong and Ankang communities has facilitated the maintenance and development of traditional knowledge, innovations, and practices of local communities, and this in turn has helped to achieve Aichi Target 18.
The reviving of the SEPLS and transformation towards sustainability by the Gongrong and Ankang communities did not come easily. It took a group of champions, in this case a group of visionary, highly motivated elders in the communities, to help local residents realize the long-term and devastating impacts of land degradation and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services on their livelihoods, igniting their willingness to make a difference. A series of well-planned capacity building programs met the needs of the communities, empowered residents and enhanced their knowledge and skills in understanding their SEPLS. They identified the threats to their livelihoods and discussed and worked collectively to decide upon and draw up a strategy plan and actions to realize their vision and goals.
In addition, the ”learning-by-doing” practices and collective implementation of their rural regeneration plan helped the Gongrong and Ankang communities increase their awareness on the value of biodiversity and their capacity in taking actions to conserve biodiversity (Aichi Target 1, 19).
Land-use change around PAs often leads to the reduction of their effective size and limits their ability to conserve biodiversity (Hamilton et al. 2013). In the case of the Gongrong and Ankang communities, however, restoration of the SEPLS helped increase the effective size and conservation effectiveness of the YNP. There are many other communities which have patches of farmland of various sizes surrounding the YNP. If these production landscapes could be well managed and deliver conservation outcomes, they could offer great opportunities for the YNP to expand its conservation area further and reduce the external threat to its core area. Now that the successful transformation of the Gongrong and Ankang communities has drawn much attention from the public, many communities, including those nearby the YNP, want to visit Gongrong and Ankang and learn from them. The New Taipei City government has recently expressed an intention to promote eco-friendly farming in the regions surrounding the YNP, using the successful case of Gongrong and Ankang as a model. There is a hope that, with the collaboration of relevant stakeholders, a continuous expansion of SEPLS that correspond to the principles of the Satoyama Initiative and of OECM can be realized in northern Taiwan.
The authors would like to thank Professor Fausto O. Sarmiento of University of Georgia, Mr. Bruno Leles, Ms. Sarah Stephen, Ms. Megan Schmidt, Mr. Patrick Gannon, Ms. Edjigayehu Seyoum-Edjigu, and Ms. Elizabeth Bacon of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Dr. Rajarshi Dasgupta of Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, and Dr. Evonne Yiu of IPSI Secretariat for their constructive feedback on an earlier draft of this paper.
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All figures and tables are prepared by the authors except Figures 2 and 3 (by Mr. Pei-Sheng Gao).
 The Rural Regeneration Incubation Program is a national capacity building program sponsored and regulated by SWCB. Rural communities are required to engage in four stages (levels) of training courses and activities (see Appendix 2), involving at least 96 hours of training, before submitting their 5-year community development funding proposals (Huang 2012, Hsu et al. 2017, Rural Regeneration Incubation Program Implementation Notice 2018).
 Target 11 By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.
 Target 15 By 2020, ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks has been enhanced, through conservation and restoration, including restoration of at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification.4
 Target 12 By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.
 Target 4 Target 4 By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.
 Target 7 By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.
 Target 8 By 2020, pollution, including from excess nutrients, has been brought to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.
 Target 14 By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable.
 Target 18 By 2020, the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources, are respected, subject to national legislation and relevant international obligations, and fully integrated and reflected in the implementation of the Convention with the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, at all relevant levels.
 B&B: Bed and breakfast or minshuku (民宿)