Wildlife in trouble from oil palm plantations, according to scientists

May 20, 2011
Oil palm plantations are having a devastating effect on biodiversity. Photo by Matthew Struebig.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Forest fragmentation driven by demand for palm oil is having a catastrophic effect on multiple levels of biodiversity, scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered.

The researchers are worried that unless steps are taken to safeguard and manage the remaining forest, then certain species will struggle to survive.

The study, which focused on as an indicator of , was published in one of the leading scientific journals, Ecology Letters.

The team conducted bat surveys in pristine forest and also in forest patches of varying size in central Peninsular Malaysia. They recorded the numbers of different species present and also assessed the level of genetic diversity within populations of some species.

Lead author Matthew Struebig, jointly based at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Kent, said: “We found that smaller forest areas support fewer species, and that those species that remain face an eventual decline, potentially leading to local extinction in the long-term.”

When the team compared the number of species present to genetic diversity within populations they found that fragmentation appeared to have an even greater impact on genetic loss, which might also be important for long-term population viability.

“We found that in order to retain the numbers of bat species seen in pristine forest, forest patches had to be larger than 650 hectares, however to retain comparable levels of , areas needed to be greater than 10,000 hectares,” he said.

Co-author Stephen Rossiter, also at Queen Mary, emphasised that the findings could have important implications for forest management in the face of the ever-growing demand for oil palm plantations.

He said: “We found that while more species existed in larger forest patches, even small fragments contributed to overall diversity. Therefore, conservation managers should aim to protect existing small fragments, while seeking to join up small areas to maximise diversity.”

Explore further: An uphill climb for mountain species?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rare bat found in oil palm plantation's oasis

Nov 08, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The discovery of a rare bat species in a tiny fragment of rainforest surrounded by an oil palm plantation has demonstrated that even small areas of forest are worth saving.

Biofuels and biodiversity don't mix, ecologists warn

Jul 09, 2008

Rising demand for palm oil will decimate biodiversity unless producers and politicians can work together to preserve as much remaining natural forest as possible, ecologists have warned. A new study of the potential ecological ...

Recommended for you

An uphill climb for mountain species?

9 hours ago

A recently published paper provides a history of scientific research on mountain ecosystems, looks at the issues threatening wildlife in these systems, and sets an agenda for biodiversity conservation throughout ...

Extinctions during human era worse than thought

11 hours ago

It's hard to comprehend how bad the current rate of species extinction around the world has become without knowing what it was before people came along. The newest estimate is that the pre-human rate was ...

Robotics to combat slimy pest

15 hours ago

One hundred years after they arrived in a sack of grain, white Italian snails are the target of beleaguered South Australian farmers who have joined forces with University of Sydney robotics experts to eradicate ...

Migratory fish scale to new heights

15 hours ago

WA scientists are the first to observe and document juvenile trout minnow (Galaxias truttaceus Valenciennes 1846) successfully negotiating a vertical weir wall by modifying their swimming technique to 'climb' ...

User comments : 0