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The four southern islands of Penghu, endowed with rich marine resources, wholesome coral reefs and unique basaltine geology, also archive the history of Taiwanese immigration across the Black Ditch. And after the Dongsha atoll, the four islands are now sanctioned as the second marine national park of Taiwan.
Imagine a peaceful fishing village looking out onto the turquoise blue in glorious sunshine, an undersea wonderland of vivid coral reefs, a landscape featured by towering columnar basalt as well as walled-in vegetable terraces with a gentle ascent, and all the while, sedentary seabirds are gliding in the air ever so effortlessly. Where exactly is this paradise on earth that exudes such poignant charm? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the South Penghu Marine National Park

Mainly composed of basalt, the geology of the four Penghu southern islands archives the last volcanic eruptions in Taiwan Strait during the Cenozoic and Mesozoic.
Mainly composed of basalt, the geology of the four Penghu southern islands archives the last volcanic eruptions in Taiwan Strait during the Cenozoic and Mesozoic.
(The spectacular basaltine columns of Siji Islet, photograph courtesy of Marine National Park Headquarters)

Ever since the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park in 1872, others started to mushroom around the globe, as governments set them up to conserve precious natural and cultural resources for future generations.

In Taiwan, the official furtherance of national park establishment and nature conservancy dates back to 1961, and in 1972, as the National Park Law was enacted; Kenting, Yushan, Yangmingshan, Taroke, Shei-Pa, Kinmen, Dongsha Atoll and Taijiang National Parks were designated one after another. In addition, there is also a ShouShan National Nature Park. And now, as the South Penghu Marine National Park the ninth and the second marine park, opens its gate to the public in October 2014, Taiwan landmass covered by national parks
reaches 8.6%, and territorial waters covered expands to 6.74%. Evidently, the establishment of these national parks that keep natural resources and cultural assets intact attests to the governmental efforts of environmental conservancy and sustainability.

Ocean Conservancy Cannot Wait
National parks serve the purpose of preserving ecology, geology and cultural landscapes. However, as nature conservancy used to center on land biodiversity, while the worldwide national parks already cover 12% of the Earth's land surface, less than 3% of the Earth’s ocean is sheltered. (Note: based on statistics from IUCN in 2013, about 2.8% of the Earth’s ocean is demarcated in ocean conservancy zone.) However, it’s now high time to establish more ocean conservancy zones, as marine biodiversity and resources are on sharp decline. In this light, setting up marine national parks is the most crucial step to further ocean conservancy, as a national park serves marine aesthetics and scientific research, nature and cultural sustainability, historical and even entertainment purposes. Moreover, conjoining habitat protection that saves biodiversity from deteriorating, proper regulations can then encourage the sustainability of fisheries.

(A sea cave near Siji Islet, photograph courtesy of MNPH)
(A sea cave near Siji Islet, photograph courtesy of MNPH)

Pristine yet Dazzling Pearls
Administratively, the South Penghu Marine National Park belongs to Wang’an Township, Penghu County. It is located to the south of the Penghu archipelago, consisting of 4 main islets and 9 neighboring reefs. While its landmass is about 370 hectares, approximately the size of 14.6 Da-An Forest Parks, its waters occupy 35,000 hectares, about one-third the size of Taipei City. And while there are around 50 inhabitants, most of whom make a living from fishery, on Dongji Islet, Dongyu-Ping Islet, Siyu-Ping Islet, Siji Islet and all other reefs remain unpopulated. (Note: The village on Siji Islet was relocated in 1978, but the settlement architecture remains intact to this day.)

On one hand, the National Park is endowed with rich marine and land biodiversity as well as spectacular basaltine geology; on the other hand, it is also home to traditional architecture full of regional charms, housing settlement culture and history. Hence, with precious natural resources and unique cultural assets, the National Park, well worthy of its designation, is the pristine, yet dazzling jewel on the crown of the Pescadores archipelago.

World-class Basalt Landscapes
Mainly composed of basalt, the geology of the four Penghu southern islands, featured by obelisk mountains, columns, and dykes, archives the last volcanic eruptions in Taiwan Strait during the Cenozoic and Mesozoic. The columnar basalt sea-cliff stretching 800 meters northwest of Siji Islet and the basaltine spit of Dongyu-Ping Islet tailing off into the sea are both characteristic examples of the four islands’ epic geological wonders. Furthermore, as the basaltine coast that hems about the four islands and neighboring reefs is chiseled by nature itself, the jagged seashore spans the complete spectrum of marine abrasion landforms, including pillars, bridges,
arches, caves and tunnels.

Pristine Vivid Paradise Undersea and on Land
The National Park is home to 6 endemic plants (including Cassia sophora L. var. penghuana Y. C. Liu et F. Y. Lu), and 18 protected wildlife species, three of which are endemic. Moreover, sparrows and swallows, small skylarks and the rare crested mynas endemic to Taiwan, are all common sedentary birds. Also, an important stop for migratory gulls of East Asia, the Park is also their major foraging and breeding ground on Taiwan Strait.

The waters of the four Southern Penghu Islands abound in corals of diverse species and the reefs have a high percentage of coral cover
The waters of the four Southern Penghu Islands abound in corals of diverse species and the reefs have a high percentage of coral cover
(photograph courtesy of MNPH).

As the waters of Southern Penghu enjoy mild temperatures and the reef foundation is attached mostly to solid basalt floor that befits corals’ growth, the National Park possesses one of the most wholesome coral habitats deserving prioritized protection in Taiwan. According to MNPH, the coral reefs of the National Park within 30 meters below sea surface have 50% of coral cover, and the colonies of single or mingled species all form large marine habitats. It is quite an undersea landscape, wowing snorkelers with magnificent visuals, more so than most of Taiwan’s coral reefs. In addition, the sea near Penghu is an intersection zone where fish in northern and southern Taiwan seas meet. According to our study, 39 fish families and 254 species are found in the waters of the National Park, and among the 254, 28 are newly documented only in recent years. It is evident that the fish diversity and fishery resources are rich in and around the park.

Outpost before the Black Ditch
As the four southern islands were the connecting landmass between the mainland and Southwest Taiwan in New Stone Age, it is a potential archaeological site for studying prehistoric interactions between the two lands. Moreover, during the early Qin Dynasty, as Tainan’s Luermen port was the only gateway open to ships from Amoy, Penghu which had long been a historical hub of maritime traffic and trade became the relay in-between, and Dongyu-Ping Islet as well as Siyu-Pin Islet especially carried geographical import of entryways to the seafaring routes on the Black Ditch.


Traditional Island Settlements and Architecture
In the mid 19 century, as inhabitants started to gather on the four islands, characteristic settlements also developed consequentially. Other than adopting the courtyard vocabulary of traditional architecture, inhabitants also made use of local reef limestone and basalt as construction materials. To this day, settlement architecture made of the two materials still stands surrounding the bay of Dongyu-Ping Islet. In addition, as fishery booms brought prosperity to inhabitants during the Japanese reign, traditional housings are remodeled and turned into western villas full of Baroque flair. These villas have become another architectural feature on the four islands. Also, the Dongji lighthouse which was built during the Japanese regime still illuminates, piloting northbound as well as southbound ships on Taiwan Strait.

Also, from October onward until March of the following year, as Penghu is stricken by the winds of northeast monsoon, most plantations fail to survive. In order to protect vegetables from the freezing wind and salty rain, ancestors of the islanders made use of local reef limestone or basalt and build wind-barrier walls. Traditionally called “house embankments”, or “veggie houses”, these walls form an agricultural landscape local to Penghu. And because of easy access to construction materials, these veggie houses still stand in large numbers, and among them are the terraced veggie houses on the foothill of Dongyu-Ping Islet.

The sea surrounding Taiwan is our most intimate friend and dearest gift. The preservation of marine ecosystems means saving the marine florae and faunae from diminishing as well as protecting biodiversity. Consequentially, we shall attain the sustainability of our marine resources. In the future, the “Southern Penghu Four Islands National Park“ administration will keep on advancing toward “resource conservancy”, “green islets”, and “national entertainment”, making the National Park a sustainable asset for people of Taiwan and the whole human race. In this way, we will safeguard a pristine and vibrant marine park for generations to come.

Traditionally called “veggie houses”, these wind-barrier walls form an agricultural landscape local to Penghu. Made from reef limestone or basalt, they protect the vegetables that islanders grow.
Traditionally called “veggie houses”, these wind-barrier walls form an agricultural landscape local to Penghu. Made from reef limestone or basalt, they protect the vegetables that islanders grow.
(Settlement and veggie houses on Dongyu-Ping Islet, photograph courtesy of MNPH).

(This article is written by the Department of Information Services, Executive Yuan, and references are provided by the Ministry of the Interior)

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