The Forestry Bureau of the Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, recently held the "Seminar and Strategy Workshop for the Promotion and Application of Native Plants”, and invited more than 80 representatives from over 30 organizations including landscape and horticulture associations, native plant-related associations, as well as central and local government departments to discuss the future promotion and applications of native plants, as well as to share their views and challenges in the promotion work. The Forestry Bureau will also actively promote and establish a cross-domain integrated information platform to strengthen the link between production and demand to ensure information transparency and systemization, and stimulate the healthy development of the native plant industry.
There are many beautiful and easy-to-cultivate native plants in Taiwan that are worthy to be known and used more comprehensively by the public. Not only is it easier to provide these plants with the right environment and prevent problems caused by highly invasive plants, but they can also improve our ecosystems. Therefore, the Forestry Bureau has been promoting the application of native plants in horticulture and landscaping, food processing, and other fields since this year (2019), inventorying plants with potential and carrying out plant specimen collection across the country. In order to facilitate the exchange of opinions from professionals in related fields from both the public and private sectors, and to further understand the needs of the industry, the Forestry Bureau held the two-day "Seminar and Strategy Workshop for the Promotion and Application of Native Plants" on February 4 and 5, 2021. The objectives of this event were to help establish a communication channel between the industry and the government, to promote the popularization of native plants, and to lay down the foundation for a mutually beneficial development of these industries.
In his speech at the seminar, on February 4, Director General Lin Hwa-Ching of the Forestry Bureau said that there were many beautiful and easy-to-cultivate native plants in Taiwan that deserve to be known and used more often. He did not mean to say that foreign species should be excluded, but that native plants were also worthy of our attention. The national forests under the management of the Forestry Bureau contain most of the native tree species in the country. From the perspective of industrial applications, the Forestry Bureau should assist in providing high-quality native trees to meet the needs of public works and landscape design operators; furthermore, they should support the efforts to revitalize the seedling supply market to help break the critical bottleneck of Taiwan's native plant usage in the industrial chain.
Director General Lin Hwa-Ching further explained that the Forestry Bureau has been collaborating with academic experts since last year to compile a preliminary list of native plants in various regions of Taiwan with potential for development to serve as a source of reference for the public, and added that they will continue to develop new ways to use native tree species. In addition, in order to provide the industry with the necessary plant resources, the "Taiwan Native Tree Seedling Network" was established at the end of last year to serve as a convenient channel for the industry to obtain seedlings and saplings for cultivation.
Lan Li-Chu, Chairperson of the Taiwan National Federation of Landscape Trade Associations, was one of the industry representatives who attended the seminar. She openly showed her support to the Forestry Bureau by saying that the government is finally willing to promote and pay attention to the native plant industry, and that only with the government's support can the industry continue to grow confidently. With the government spearheading the industry's development, trade associations will also be willing to help members of this industry. Whether it's the public or private sector, everyone can work together to promote the native plant industry. Lin Chun-Hung, Honorary Chairperson of the Taiwan National Federation of Horticulture & Flower Trade Associations, also supported the Forestry Bureau's policy. He said that it is necessary to clarify the reasons for the shortage of native plants, and suggested that government departments should integrate professional division of labor and establish an integrated information platform, from tree seedling cultivation, channel sales, and landscape design, to actual construction and planting management. This will allow open and transparent information to be provided to all links of the industrial chain, which can help prevent the spread of inaccurate information and commercial exploitation. Pan I-Ju, Vice Chairperson of the Taiwan Institute of Landscape Architects, said that the real problem faced by the industry was that landscape designers prioritized satisfying the clients' needs due to commercial considerations, and that the most critical issue was effectively communicating and guiding clients to integrate native plant elements into their designs. In addition, strengthening the promotion of scientific knowledge and education will also help clients learn more about Taiwanese native plants. Therefore, a mechanism needs to be established to boost the usage of native plants, so that the industrial chain can operate in a virtuous cycle to meet the needs of the public and reduce clients' concerns, thus enabling the public to recognize the beauty of the environment by themselves, and in turn understand the importance of native plants within the ecosystem.
The seminar and workshop represented a step forward in this direction and a rare opportunity for relevant government agencies and the industry to communicate. In addition to sharing past experiences, representatives from relevant central government departments also explained, from their respective professional fields, the directions that the promotion and handling of native plants should take. For example, the Ministry of Education presented their plans to hold tree planting activities and tree care education in schools. The Freeway Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications spoke about landscape design in highways, and pointed out the problems faced by the promotion of native plants, including insufficient seedling sources, difficulties obtaining price quotations of the designs, and lack of understanding regarding the landscape characteristics of native plants, as well as issues related to construction and maintenance of these landscapes. The Construction and Planning Agency of the Ministry of the Interior discussed some of the issues they take into consideration when designing urban road planting tasks, and strongly suggested that suitable tree species should be carefully selected before planting. The Public Construction Commission spoke from the perspective of the life cycle of complete projects, pointing out that for projects with planting needs, planting-related information should be carefully collected and evaluated in the initial stages of planning, and ecological inspection items should be included in the design scope. They also suggested that planting alternatives could be included in the evaluation and scoring.
After two days of meetings, all representatives expressed their opinions, held discussions in groups, and concluded that the difficulties encountered by the industry in promoting native plants at this stage can be broadly divided into three aspects, including: policy promotion, market supply and demand, and education. Consensus was reached to promote an open cross-domain integrated information platform, which is now the top priority for the promotion of native plants. The Forestry Bureau said that this year they will collaborate with industry and academia to build an integrated information platform dedicated to the promotion of native plants to provide public and private sectors an easy access to accurate information on the market and industry. In addition to the development and optimization of the original "Taiwan Native Tree Seedling Network" services and functions, a database of native plant-related science and technology, recommendation channels for supply sources of seedlings and saplings on the market, information on seedling and sapling specifications, and a list of professional and technical native plant consulting team members will be added for reference to the public.
According to the Forestry Bureau, holding this event was only the first step to promote the usage of native tree species. In the future, more channels and cooperation platforms will be opened to take on valuable suggestions from all sectors. The Forestry Bureau also calls on the public sector to take the lead by demonstrating the use of more native plants in public projects. Furthermore, it is hoped that the industry operators will continue to support the government's determination to promote this task and work together to turn this vision into real landscapes for cities and towns, so that the cultivation of native plants in Taiwan can become the norm.