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 Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

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: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>