Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Smithsonian scientist warns that palm oil development may threaten Amazon

26.03.2009
Oil palm cultivation is a significant driver of tropical forest destruction across Southeast Asia.

It could easily become a threat to the Amazon rainforest because of a proposed change in Brazil's legislation, new infrastructure and the influence of foreign agro-industrial firms in the region, according to William F. Laurance, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

Laurance and Rhett A. Butler, founder of environmental science Web site Mongabay.com, warn in the open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science, that oil palm expansion in the Brazilian Amazon is likely to occur at the expense of natural forest as a result of a proposed revision to the forest code that requires landowners to retain 80 percent forest on lands in the Amazon. The new law would allow up to 30 percent of this reserve to consist of oil palm.

Expansion may be driven by economics. As the world's highest-yielding oil-containing seed source, oil palm is likely to offer better financial returns and to employ larger numbers of people than cattle ranching and mechanized soy farming, the dominant agricultural activities in Brazilian Amazon. Furthermore, oil palm producers will benefit from a "logging subsidy," whereby timber harvested from a tract of land helps to offset the cost of establishing a plantation. Before the recent run-up in palm oil prices, logging had been a factor in the profitability of oil palm plantations in Southeast Asia.

"Oil palm expansion could be accelerated by, as well as contribute to, the drivers promoting forest loss by buoying the price of land, encouraging infrastructure expansion and offering a new form of land use in the region," said Laurance. "Oil palm plantations are effectively biological deserts relative to even logged forests; research in Asia suggests an 80 percent drop-off among major animal groups."

Expansion of oil palm cultivation could also have an impact on the climate. According to research by scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center, the 2.3 million square kilometers of land in the Brazilian Amazon suitable for oil palm cultivation store 42 billion tons of carbon. Conversion of primary forest to plantations releases at least 60 percent of above-ground biomass.

While Laurance and Butler are concerned that oil palm development could spur large-scale forest conversion in Amazonia, they propose ways to temper the most serious environmental impact of the expansion.

"Developers can be encouraged to adopt cultivation methods promoted by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry-led initiative to improve its environmental performance. These include using natural pest control and composting in place of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers whenever possible, implementing no-burn policies and creating catchment ponds to reduce water pollution," said Butler. "The Brazilian government could require oil palm plantations to establish riparian buffer zones, maintain habitat corridors and protect wetlands areas to reduce impacts on biodiversity."

"Because oil palm plantations offer higher yields on a per hectare basis than either soy or beef production, one could argue that the replacement of existing cattle pasture with oil palm—without displacing ranchers or farmers into forest areas—might not be such a bad thing," said Butler. "But it is absolutely critical that the transition be managed responsibly. Otherwise, destruction of the Amazon by industrial forces will continue apace."

STRI, headquartered in Panama City, Panama, is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The institute furthers the understanding of tropical nature and its importance to human welfare, trains students to conduct research in the tropics and promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of the beauty and importance of tropical ecosystems. Web site: http://tropicalconservationscience.mongabay.com/content/v2/09-03-23_butler-laurance_1-10.pdf.

Beth King | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.si.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>