Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Stanford researchers show oil palm plantations are clearing carbon-rich tropical forests in Borneo

08.10.2012
Expanding production of palm oil, a common ingredient in processed foods, soaps and personal care products, is driving rainforest destruction and massive carbon dioxide emissions, according to a new study led by researchers at Stanford and Yale universities.

The study, published online Oct. 7 in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that deforestation for the development of oil palm plantations in Indonesian Borneo is becoming a globally significant source of carbon dioxide emissions.

Plantation expansion is projected to contribute more than 558 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2020 – an amount greater than all of Canada's current fossil fuel emissions.

Indonesia is the leading producer of palm and palm kernel oil, which together account for more than 30 percent of the world's vegetable oil use, and which can be used for biodiesel. Most of Indonesia's oil palm plantation expansion is occurring on the island of Borneo, also known as Kalimantan, which occupies a land area nearly the size California and Florida combined. Plantation leases, covering 32 percent of Kalimantan's lowlands outside of protected areas, represent a major land bank that is slated for development over the next decade, according to the study.

In 2010 alone, land-clearing for oil palm plantations in Kalimantan emitted more than 140 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – an amount equivalent to annual emissions from about 28 million vehicles.

Home to the world's third-largest tropical forest area, Indonesia is also one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, due to rapid loss of carbon-rich forests and peatlands. Since 1990, development of oil palm plantations has cleared about 16,000 square kilometers of Kalimantan's primary and logged forested lands – an area about the size of Hawaii. This accounts for 60 percent of Kalimantan's total forest cover loss in that time, according to the study's authors.

"Despite contentious debate over the types and uses of lands slated for oil palm plantations, the sector has grown rapidly over the past 20 years," said project leader Lisa M. Curran, a professor of ecological anthropology at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. By combining field measurements with analyses of high-resolution satellite images, the study evaluated lands targeted for plantations and documented their carbon emissions when converted to oil palm.

The study's researchers generated the first comprehensive maps of oil palm plantation expansion from 1990 to 2010. Using cutting-edge classification technology, developed by study co-author Gregory Asner from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, researchers quantified the types of land cleared for oil palm plantations, as well as carbon emissions and sequestration from oil palm agriculture.

"A major breakthrough occurred when we were able to discern not only forests and non-forested lands, but also logged forests, as well as mosaics of rice fields, rubber stands, fruit gardens and mature secondary forests used by smallholder farmers for their livelihoods," said Kimberly Carlson, a Yale doctoral student and lead author of the study. "With this information, we were able to develop robust carbon bookkeeping accounts to quantify carbon emissions from oil palm development."

The research team gathered oil palm land lease records during interviews with local and regional governmental agencies. These records identify locations that have received approval and are allocated to oil palm companies. The total allocated leases spanned about 120,000 square kilometers, an area slightly smaller than Greece. Most leases in the study occupied more than 100 square kilometers, an area slightly larger than Manhattan.

Using these leases in combination with land cover maps, the team estimated future land-clearing and carbon emissions from plantations. Eighty percent of leases remained unplanted in 2010. If all of these leases were developed, more than a third of Kalimantan's lowlands would be planted with oil palm by 2020.

Despite these large numbers, accurate information about leases is not readily available for public review and oversight, even after the leases are granted. The average Kalimantan resident is unaware of plans for local oil palm development, which can have dramatic effects on residents' livelihoods and environment, Curran said.

"These plantation leases are an unprecedented 'grand-scale experiment' replacing forests with exotic palm monocultures," said Curran. "We may see tipping points in forest conversion where critical biophysical functions are disrupted, leaving the region increasingly vulnerable to droughts, fires and floods."

Combined with results generated from their more detailed district-level study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers emphasize that sustainably producing palm oil – a stated goal of the Indonesian palm oil industry – will require re-evaluation of awarded oil palm plantation leases located on forested lands.

The research study, "Carbon Emissions from Forest Conversion by Kalimantan Oil Palm Plantations," was supported by the NASA Land Cover/Land-Use Change Program, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Santa Fe Institute and the National Science Foundation.

Christine Harrison | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.stanford.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

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: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>