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Synergies for improving oil palm production and forest conservation in floodplain landscapes

Abram, Nicola K., Xofis, Panteleimon, Tzanopoulos, Joseph, MacMillan, Douglas C., Ancrenaz, Marc, Chung, Robin, Peter, Lucy, Ong, Robert, Lackman, Isabelle, Goossens, Benoit, Ambu, Laurentius and Knight, Andrew T. 2014. Synergies for improving oil palm production and forest conservation in floodplain landscapes. PLoS ONE 9 (6) , e95388. 10.1371/journal.pone.0095388

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Abstract

Lowland tropical forests are increasingly threatened with conversion to oil palm as global demand and high profit drives crop expansion throughout the world’s tropical regions. Yet, landscapes are not homogeneous and regional constraints dictate land suitability for this crop. We conducted a regional study to investigate spatial and economic components of forest conversion to oil palm within a tropical floodplain in the Lower Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. The Kinabatangan ecosystem harbours significant biodiversity with globally threatened species but has suffered forest loss and fragmentation. We mapped the oil palm and forested landscapes (using object-based-image analysis, classification and regression tree analysis and on-screen digitising of high-resolution imagery) and undertook economic modelling. Within the study region (520,269 ha), 250,617 ha is cultivated with oil palm with 77% having high Net-Present-Value (NPV) estimates ($413/ha−yr–$637/ha−yr); but 20.5% is under-producing. In fact 6.3% (15,810 ha) of oil palm is commercially redundant (with negative NPV of $-299/ha−yr-$-65/ha−yr) due to palm mortality from flood inundation. These areas would have been important riparian or flooded forest types. Moreover, 30,173 ha of unprotected forest remain and despite its value for connectivity and biodiversity 64% is allocated for future oil palm. However, we estimate that at minimum 54% of these forests are unsuitable for this crop due to inundation events. If conversion to oil palm occurs, we predict a further 16,207 ha will become commercially redundant. This means that over 32,000 ha of forest within the floodplain would have been converted for little or no financial gain yet with significant cost to the ecosystem. Our findings have globally relevant implications for similar floodplain landscapes undergoing forest transformation to agriculture such as oil palm. Understanding landscape level constraints to this crop, and transferring these into policy and practice, may provide conservation and economic opportunities within these seemingly high opportunity cost landscapes.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Biodiversity; conservation science; ecosystems; flooding; forests; mangrove swamps; oil palm; rivers.
Additional Information: © 2014 Abram et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Publisher: Public Library of Science
ISSN: 1932-6203
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Date of Acceptance: 26 March 2014
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2019 17:09
URI: http://orca-mwe.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/61422

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