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Renewable energy, agricultural production and biodiversity conservation: a study on socio-ecological systems resilience and governance

Investigators at CIRES:

I Fang Sun, Hsing-Sheng Tai, Shih-Chieh Chang, Chun-Hung Lee, Yu-Yun Chen, Wen-Yen Chang, Yu-Cheng Hsu


Global climate change may directly influence ecosystem services and functioning. As a consequence, this will change land use pattern which will again alters ecosystem services. In addition to climate change, government policies, such as food production, energy production or forest management, directly cause land use change, thus impacting biodiversity, ecosystem services and the livelihoods of local communities. Land use change also alters the interactions between ecosystem service and biodiversity, which feeds back to local livelihoods and decisions of land use. This feedback loop further complicates the interactions among climate change, policies, local livelihoods, and ecosystem services.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the impact of global climate change are the most urgent yet challenging issues facing sustainable development in Taiwan and the world today. To tackle such an issue, highly industrialized countries have made progress on the transition from carbon-based energy to renewable energy. However, renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, can also be accompanied by negative impacts, including competition for land with agriculture, loss of biodiversity and a reduction in agricultural productivity.

In Taiwan, local food supplies only meet 30% of total food consumption, while the energy self-sufficiency rate is only 3%. This poses a great threat to national security as well as to societal stability. Since policies on renewable energy will inevitably compete with other policies for limited natural and governmental resources, understanding how to optimize food and energy production, while maintaining adequate ecosystem services and human well-being, is one of the most urgent tasks at hand. Solutions for this challenge lie with the collaboration between experts in both natural and social sciences and stakeholders, who could integrate scientific, social and economic knowledge. However, little progress has so far been made in such a high-degree integration of expertise.

This project invites five experts of social and natural sciences in the College of Environmental Studies, National Dong Hwa University to form a research team to address these issues. Our aim is to understand the impacts of global change and governmental policy on local land use change, ecosystem services, food and energy production and the livelihoods of local communities. We plan to build a socio-ecological resilience model that incorporates all of the above mentioned variables, and use their feedbacks to inform initial model construction. Such an integrated project is the first of its kind, and requires interdisciplinary collaboration. We plan to bridge the gap between theory and practice by exploring relevant study cases in the first year and developing a concrete joint research project to carry out in the following three years. Our goal is to construct a comprehensive model that advances our knowledge on the resilience of socio-ecological systems and to achieve better governance outcomes that consider environmental, economic and social concerns.

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