Oil Palm Research in Context: Identifying the Need for Biodiversity Assessment

The expansion in oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) cultivation is frequently cited as being a major factor driving deforestation and biodiversity loss in tropical countries. The area under oil palm has increased dramatically in recent decades and covers over 10.7 million hectares worldwide; an increase of 168% since 1960. Oil palm-derived oil is now the world’s major source of vegetable oil and fat, with over 37 million metric tons produced in 2005, around 27% of the total global production. The oil is ubiquitous in the food industry as well as the oleochemical industry, where it is used for making soaps and detergents. Oil palm is a tropical crop and is cultivated in lowland areas from South America to Africa and Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia are the leading producers of palm oil, exporting 15.0 and 14.1 million metric tons respectively in 2005. Oil palm production is therefore centered on highly biodiverse regions with high levels of endemism. Higher levels of palm oil production are also generally associated with a higher number of endangered species. Malaysia has by far the highest levels of palm oil production per unit area and the highest relative number of endangered species. Recent decades have seen a diversification in the uses of palm oil, for example in feed for livestock and fisheries. Alternative uses for the oil and for byproducts of the plantation system are also being investigated, with interest focusing on their potential as a source of biofuel. With the heightened demand for palm oil as its uses expand, oil palm production is set to increase in the future.  Potentially this has extensive negative consequences for biodiversity in these areas. Here we investigate whether sufficient research is being done on the impacts of oil palm cultivation on ecosystems. We find that while the focus of oil palm research has changed over the last thirty years, far more still needs to be carried out to quantify the impacts of this important crop on biodiversity.

Read the full article here in PDF format.

Citation: Turner EC, Snaddon JL, Fayle TM, Foster WA (2008) Oil Palm Research in Context: Identifying the Need for Biodiversity Assessment. PLoS ONE 3(2): e1572. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001572

One Response to “Oil Palm Research in Context: Identifying the Need for Biodiversity Assessment”
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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brigitte Goddemeyer, Brigitte Goddemeyer. Brigitte Goddemeyer said: Oil Palm Research in Context: Identifying the Need for #Biodiversity Assessment http://bit.ly/91SjZ4 #Biofuel #palmoil via @konzultant […]

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