Five More Species Added to Payments for Ecosystem Services to Achieve Healthy Farmland Ecosystems

The Forestry and Nature Conservation Agency (FANCA), Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), announced today (November 14th) that five additional protected species will be added to the Payments for Ecosystem Services list, following the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), grass owl (Tyto longimembris pithecops), otter (Lutra lutra), pheasant-tailed jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus), and Formosan black bear (Ursus thibetanus formosanus). These species include the farmland treefrog (Zhangixalus arvalis), Russet sparrow (Passer cinnamomeus), Asiatic banded water snake (Trimerodytes annularis), yellow-margined box turtle (Cuora flavomarginata), and yellow pond turtle (Mauremys mutica). This is to encourage local farmers to manage their farmland using eco-friendly measures and to collectively safeguard agro-ecosystems. Collaborating agencies, including the Taiwan Biodiversity Research Institute (TBRI) of the MOA, the Agriculture and Food Agency (AFA), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Agency (APHIA), and the Yangmingshan National Park Headquarters of the National Park Service, Ministry of the Interior, as well as the farmers of the local communities who have participated in the payments for ecosystem services, were present to attend the event.

Caring for Both Ecology and Production, Expanding the Targets of Payments for Ecosystem Services
FANCA has been promoting the Payments for Ecosystem Services program since 2021, with the government providing “ecosystem salaries” to producers and residents in the habitats of endangered species who are helping to preserve the environment. This means that the cost of conservation is no longer borne only by farmers or local residents, as local farmers are now rewarded for taking action to manage their land in an eco-friendly manner. Now everyone will be able to enjoy the fruits of their conservation efforts.
Lin Hwa-Ching, Director General of FANCA, pointed out that affirmation of the local communities is the key to the conservation of farmland ecosystems. Conservation not only needs to take into account the survival of wild animals and plants, but also the people who co-exist with them. Only through the development of conservation promotion activities that take into account the lives and livelihoods of the residents, and the willingness of local residents to take the initiative to be the frontline guardians, will the conservation work be transformed into practical local action. With the full support of the Ministry of Agriculture and the cooperation of local governments and professional teams, the Payments for Ecosystem Services for Endangered Species and Critical Habitat Promotion Program has established a solid foundation and has received enthusiastic responses from farmers and community partners around Taiwan.
FANCA announced the addition of five new conservation targets (farmland treefrog, Russet sparrow, Asiatic banded water snake, yellow-margined box turtle, and yellow pond turtle) to the Payments for Ecosystem Services today. The most significant difference compared to the previously listed species is that these species are not celebrity species well-known to the public. Instead, these are all amphibian, reptile and bird species that are also a part of the low-elevation mountain farmland ecosystem and are facing serious threats to their survival, but have seldom been given much attention. Due to changes in agricultural land use, land development, climate change, and habitat degradation, these species need to be protected by all people so that their habitats can continue to exist.

Customized Approach Based on Species Characteristics and Threats Faced to Safeguard Farmland Ecosystems
FANCA explained formulating the payment for each species requires fully understanding the ecological habits and habitat characteristics of different species, while the conflicts between the species and the residents must be carefully evaluated. In the process, through interviews with scholars, experts, and local residents, the design of the payment program was customized to meet the needs of the local community.
The payments for the new species follow the existing structure, maintaining three major payment categories: eco-friendly farmland, active notification, and patrol and monitoring. The actual incentive contents are then designed based on the threats faced by each species and their ecological habits. For the five newly listed species, as long as they are located in the target implementation area and have a farmland area of at least 0.1 hectares (at least 100 square meters for the Asiatic banded water snake), with no usage of herbicides, rodenticides, or non-eco-friendly barrier nets, and comply with pesticide safety inspection standards, the maximum incentive of NT$30,000 will be issued per hectare per year.
In addition to the above friendly farmland payment, if farmers further create a suitable breeding or living habitat for these species and provide better shelter, they will be given an additional incentive payment of up to $30,000 per year per person.

Farmland Treefrog
Bamboo forests should be maintained at 60% crown closure with a leaf cover of 4 centimeters, while water breeding habitats should be created and water levels should be maintained in the field during the breeding season from April to October.

Russet Sparrow
Tea plantations should not use pesticides that are highly toxic to birds, millet should be planted during the winter season from October to January, or nesting boxes should be set up on farmland and irregularities should be reported according to the instructions from implementation agencies. This will allow the russet sparrows to breed, grow, and leave their nests successfully. Residents can also actively participate in the notification payment system by reporting the natural nesting sites such as natural tree holes and holes in buildings on self-owned land where russet sparrows are found breeding, as well as proactively reporting nesting site irregularities. Furthermore, they can cooperate with implementation agencies to monitor the situation until the end of August of the same year. An incentive payment of NT$3,000 will be given for each nest.

Asiatic Banded Water Snake
Farmlands must maintain water storage throughout the year and not use pesticides that are highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Farmers should create ecological ponds or ditches that store water and with vegetation coverage throughout the year, keep 10% of the field area unplowed, obtain the Green Conservation Label, and plant native floating or emergent plants. Non-production farmland such as ponds, lakes, and marshes are also eligible for payments for ecosystem services, with the incentive payments based on the standard for rice paddies.

Yellow-Margined Box Turtle
There should be no usage of blade-type mechanical weeding tools. Leaf coverage and good drainage should be retained in winter for farmland located at the edge of forests. Moreover, farmers should obtain the Green Conservation Label.

Yellow Pond Turtle
There should be no usage of blade-type mechanical weeding tools. Farmers should install drowning prevention measures such as lids for water storage facilities, wooden ramps, and floats. They should also create ecological ponds or ditches covered with vegetation, and obtain the Green Conservation Label.
In addition, for areas where these five species are likely to be found, local community groups can form patrol teams and apply for patrol and monitoring payments, in order to patrol the potential habitats of conservation target species and conduct conservation advocacy. For example, in response to the illegal poaching of yellow pond turtles and yellow-margined box turtles, the patrol teams can assist in the reporting and the removal of illegal cages or nets. Each team can receive up to NT$60,000 in incentive payments per year.

Local Farmers and Communities Responding to Local Conservation Efforts
Today, the farmers, friends, and communities located in the habitats of these species all attended the event to show their support. They included Alishan Rui-Feng Tea from Production Cooperatives (ARTPC), Vegetable and Fruit Production Cooperative from Chiayi County, Watch Nature Ecological Consultation, Tse-Xin Organic Agriculture Foundation (TOAF), Taichung City Wildlife Conservation Association, as well as Hutian Community (Taipei City), Yongan Community (New Taipei City), Hushan Community (Yunlin County), Shanglin Community (Chiayi County), Mizhan Community (Hualien County), and farmers from Taichung. It is hoped that the promotion of the payments for ecosystem services for the new species will allow communities to work together to protect wildlife and plant habitats and improve the local ecosystems. Furthermore, eco-friendly agricultural production can help to increase the connection between the local people and endangered species, allowing them to take pride in coexisting with endangered species. Through these efforts, local value can be created by working together through local cultivation and local implementation.
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