A new study of the potential ecological impact of various management strategies published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology found that very little can be done to make palm oil plantations more hospitable for local birds and butterflies.
The findings have major implications for the booming market in biofuels and its impact on biodiversity.
Dr Lian Pin Koh of ETH Zürich looked at the number of birds and butterflies in 15 palm oil plantations in East Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. He found that palm oil plantations supported between one and 13 butterfly species, and between seven and 14 species of bird. Previous research by other ecologists found at least 85 butterfly and 103 bird species in neighbouring undisturbed rain forest.
Management techniques – such as encouraging epiphytes, beneficial plants or weed cover in palm oil plantations – increased species richness by only 0.4 species for butterflies and 2.2 species for birds. Preserving remaining natural forests – for example by creating forest buffer zones between plantations – made a little more impact, increasing species richness by 3.7 in the case of butterflies and 2.5 for birds.
According to Dr Koh: “Rapid expansion of oil palm agriculture onto forested lands, even logged forests, poses a significant threat to biodiversity. This study shows that to maximise biodiversity in oil palm plantations, the industry and local governments should work together to preserve as much of the remaining natural forest as possible, for example by creating forest buffer zones around oil palm estates or protecting remaining patches of forest. Even then, the industry's impact on biodiversity is enormous.”
The study is particularly important because it comes at time when rising demand for both food and biofuels is putting mounting pressure on biodiversity. “The rapid expansion of oil palm agriculture in Southeast Asia raises serious concerns about its potential impact on the region's biodiversity. Unless future expansion of oil palm agriculture is regulated, rising global demand is likely to exacerbate the high rates of forest conversion in major oil palm-producing countries,” says Dr Koh.
Palm oil plantations currently cover around 13 million hectares worldwide, producing 40 million tons a year. Malaysia and Indonesia account for around 56% of this cultivated area and 80% of production. Between 1960 and 2000, global palm oil production increased 10-fold (from 2 million tons in 1960 to 24 million tons in 2000). As well as biofuel, palm oil is used in food additives, cosmetics and industrial lubricants.
Lian Pin Koh (2008). Can palm oil plantations be made more hospitable for forest butterflies and birds? Journal of Applied Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01491.x, is published online on 9 July 2008.
1. For further information, please contact Dr Lian Pin Koh, ETH Zürich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), tel: +41 (0) 44 632 6836, mob: +41 (0) 78 884 9055, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The research was conducted while Dr Koh was at Princeton University.
2. Copies of the paper are available from Dr Gill Kerby, Managing Editor, Journal of Applied Ecology, tel: +44 (0)1780 752833, email: japplecol@BritishEcologicalSociety.org.
3. The Journal of Applied Ecology is published by Wiley-Blackwell for the British Ecological Society. Contents lists are available at www.blackwellpublishing.com/jpe.
4. The British Ecological Society is a learned society, a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. Established in 1913 by academics to promote and foster the study of ecology in its widest sense, the Society has 4,000 members in the UK and abroad. Further information is available at www.britishecologicalsociety.org.
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences