Oil palm surging source of greenhouse gas emissions

Apr 26, 2012

Continued expansion of industrial-scale oil palm plantations on the island of Borneo will become a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 unless strong forest and peatland protections are enacted and enforced, according to a National Academy of Sciences study.

The study, conducted by Yale and Stanford researchers, found that about two-thirds of lands outside of protected areas in the Ketapang District of West Kalimantan Province in Indonesian Borneo are leased to agribusiness companies. If these leases are converted to oil palm at current expansion rates, by 2020 monotypic palm stands will occupy more than a third of regional lands and intact forests will decline to less than 5 percent from approximately 15 percent in 2008.

The researchers were surprised to learn that 50 percent of oil palm plantations were established on peatlands through last year. When peat soils are drained for oil palm cultivation, they begin to release , a . The study found that if oil palm expansion continues, with no restrictions on peatland development, almost 90 percent of oil palm's will come from peatlands by 2020.

"Preventing oil palm establishment on peatlands will be critical for any greenhouse gas emissions-reduction strategy," said Kimberly Carlson, a doctoral candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and co-author of the study with Lisa Curran, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University.

Carlson pointed out that even if future oil palm expansion is halted in forests and peatlands, greenhouse will decline by only 3 percent to 4 percent. She said that instead of simply placing a moratorium on oil palm expansion, "protecting secondary and logged forests, as well as peatlands, is the strategy that most effectively reduces carbon emissions and maintains cover."

The researchers argue that regional emissions could be reduced by up to 21 percent by 2020 through the prevention of oil palm encroachment, wildfire, logging, and agricultural expansion on intact and previously logged forested lands and . But even in the best-case scenario for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, 28 percent of 1 million acres of community lands will be converted to oil palm.

"Unfortunately forest and peatland protection does not automatically generate benefits for local communities," said Curran. "To become truly sustainable, oil palm companies must not only protect existing forests and carbon stocks, but should ensure that any land acquired from resident smallholder farmers and communities meets the criteria for free, prior and informed consent, and is equitably and transparently compensated."

Incorporating people, forests and carbon in their assessment required building a spatially explicit simulation model from scratch. The researchers started with a model of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon developed by co-author Britaldo Soares-Filho and his team, and rebuilt it for the drastically different environment of Indonesian Borneo.

Palm oil is a form of edible vegetable oil used in many products, including cookies, crackers, popcorn, frozen dinners, low-fat dairy, candy, soap and cosmetics. Indonesia, currently the global leader in palm-oil production, aims to increase the area for oil palm cultivation to 45 million acres by 2020 from 24 million acres in 2009, yet little is known about the influence of oil palm expansion on people and ecosystems.

"Early on we decided to include people in our assessment," said Carlson. "Local residents and their lands are often forgotten in conversations about forests."

Explore further: Five anthropogenic factors that will radically alter northern forests in 50 years

More information: The study is titled "Committed Carbon Emissions Deforestation, and Community Land Conversion from Oil Palm Plantation Expansion in West Kalimantan, Indonesia."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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 ...

Palm oil putting orangutans at risk

Oct 22, 2007

Conservationists meeting at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago say growing demand for palm oil is putting Sumatran orangutans at risk of extinction.

Recommended for you

More, bigger wildfires burning western US, study shows

16 hours ago

Wildfires across the western United States have been getting bigger and more frequent over the last 30 years – a trend that could continue as climate change causes temperatures to rise and drought to become ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Davecoolman
3 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2012
The NEVER ending green screw up = Green foot in mouth disease = the solution is worse than the problem!!!
The Indonesian Government increased the planting of palm oil trees, to benefit from the bio fuel gold rush, palm oil is used in biodiesel production.
Palm oil is used as an ingredient in the production of biofuel and is also burnt in power stations to produce electricity causing elevated levels of Co2 not less!!!!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2012
Beware.
Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind.
-- Terry Pratchett


The Indonesian Government increased the planting of palm oil trees, to benefit from the bio fuel gold rush, palm oil is used in biodiesel production.

What did you expect? Corporations to have a green conscience? Welcome to the real world.
Terriva
5 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2012
palm stands will occupy more than a third of regional lands and intact forests will decline to less than 5 percent from approximately 15 percent in 2008
Welcome into free market economy.
kaasinees
3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 27, 2012
They are going to fuck the soil up by killing off biodiversity and the soil will start outputting methane and co2 gasses...
This is just as worse as oil.
NotParker
1 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2012
Yumm. Palm oil. Very tasty.

And more CO2 which has caused all kinds of cooling the last 15 years.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (36) Apr 28, 2012
If so, then why isn't this "cooling" visible in the global temperature data?

http://www.woodfo.../to:2012

"And more CO2 which has caused all kinds of cooling the last 15 years." - ParkerTare

Poor mentally ill Parker Tard. You need to see a psychologist and get your mental disease treated.
gregor1
1 / 5 (2) Apr 30, 2012

More news stories

Six Nepalese dead, six missing in Everest avalanche

At least six Nepalese climbing guides have been killed and six others are missing after an avalanche struck Mount Everest early Friday in one of the deadliest accidents on the world's highest peak, officials ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...