Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Expanding rubber plantations 'catastrophic' for endangered species in Southeast Asia

17.04.2015

Demand for natural rubber fuelled by the tyre industry is threatening protected parts of Southeast Asia - according to research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

A new study published today predicts that up to 8.5 million hectares of additional rubber plantations will be required to meet demand by 2024.


Demand for natural rubber fueled by the tyre industry is threatening protected parts of Southeast Asia -- according to University of East Anglia research. Up to 8.5 million hectares of additional rubber plantations will be required to meet demand by 2024.

Credit: Eleanor Warren-Thomas, University of East Anglia

But expansion on this scale will have 'catastrophic' biodiversity impacts, with globally threatened unique species and ecosystems all put under threat.

Researchers say that the extent of the problem is comparable to oil palm and that it is closely linked to the growing tyre market.

They urge manufacturers such as Goodyear and Michelin to support and strengthen sustainability initiatives and drive change in the industry.

Lead researcher Eleanor Warren-Thomas, from UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: "The tyre industry consumes 70 per cent of all natural rubber grown, and rising demand for vehicle and aeroplane tyres is behind the recent expansion of plantations. But the impact of this is a loss of tropical biodiversity.

"We predict that between 4.3 and 8.5 million hectares of new plantations will be required to meet projected demand by 2024. This will threaten significant areas of Asian forest, including many protected areas.

"There has been growing concern that switching land use to rubber cultivation can negatively impact the soil, water availability, biodiversity, and even people's livelihoods.

"But this is the first review of the effects on biodiversity and endangered species, and to estimate the future scale of the problem in terms of land area."

The study focuses on four biodiversity hotspots in which rubber plantations are expanding - Sundaland (Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali), Indo-Burma (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, most of Myanmar and Thailand, and parts of Southwest China, including Xishuangbanna and Hainan Island), Wallacea (Indonesian islands east of Bali and Borneo but west of New Guinea, plus Timor Leste) and the Philippines.

"Rubber can thrive across a wide range of climate and soil conditions across Southeast Asia, and could replace a whole range of forest types containing large numbers of globally threatened and unique species.

"Protected areas have already been lost to rubber plantations. For example, more than 70 per cent of the 75,000 hectare Snoul Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia was cleared for rubber between 2009 and 2013.

"In Cambodia, forest areas earmarked for further rubber plantations contain critically endangered water birds like the White Shouldered Ibis, globally threatened mammals like Eld's deer and Banteng, and many important primates and carnivores.

"Macaques and gibbons are known to disappear completely from forests which have been converted to rubber, and our review shows that numbers of bird, bat and beetle species can decline by up to 75 per cent.

"Conversion to rubber monoculture also has a knock on effect for freshwater species because fertilisers and pesticides run off into rivers and streams. In Laos, local people have reported dramatic declines in fish, crabs, shrimps, shellfish, turtles and stream bank vegetation. In Xishuangbanna, China, well water was found to be contaminated.

"These findings show that rubber expansion could substantially exacerbate the extinction crisis in Southeast Asia.

"There has been huge pressure on companies to clean up their act when it comes to oil palm - with certification schemes and commitments from major players like Unilever to source sustainably grown products. But right now, there is almost no attention at the consumer level to the negative impacts rubber plantations can have.

"Rubber grown on deforested land is not treated any differently in the market to rubber grown in a more sustainable way. This is misleading, especially when some products made from natural rubber are labelled as an 'eco-friendly' alternative to petrochemicals.

"We also found that because oil palm growers cannot get sustainability certification and access to major markets if they plant on deforested land, they are replacing rubber plantations with oil palm, displacing the rubber elsewhere, and adding to the total demand for land.

"A Sustainable Natural Rubber Initiative (SNR-i) was launched in January 2015 - this now needs support from large tyre manufacturers, and attention from sustainability researchers to ensure it gains traction.

"There may be ways to integrate biodiversity into rubber plantation landscapes that should be researched and put into practice, and at the very least, companies that convert legally protected forests and protected species habitats to rubber should face restrictions to market access through a sustainability certification.

"Indo-Burma's dry forests used to be called 'The Serengeti of Asia' - full of thousands of wild cattle, deer, tigers and leopards. The animal populations are low these days after overhunting, but the habitat remains and there's the potential to restore these landscapes to their former glory - rubber is a key threat to this ever being a possibility."

###

'Increasing demand for natural rubber necessitates a robust sustainability initiative to mitigate impacts on tropical biodiversity' by Eleanor Warren-Thomas, Dr Paul Dolman (both UEA) and Dr David Edwards (University of Sheffield), is published in the journal Conservation Letters.

Media Contact

Lisa Horton
l.horton@uea.ac.uk
44-016-035-92764

 @uniofeastanglia

http://comm.uea.ac.uk/press 

Lisa Horton | EurekAlert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology

22.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Stretchable biofuel cells extract energy from sweat to power wearable devices

22.08.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New technique to treating mitral valve diseases: First patient data

22.08.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>