Oil palm plantations destroying tropical biodiversity

18 09 2008

This one from MongaBay.com

Conversion of primary rainforest to an oil palm plantation results in a loss of more than 80 percent of species, reports a new comprehensive review of the impacts of growing palm oil production. The research is published in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

“By compiling scientific studies of birds, bats, ants and other species, we were able to show that on average, fewer than one-sixth of the species recorded in primary forest were found in oil palm,” said led author Emily Fitzherbert from the Zoological Society of London and University of East Anglia. “Degraded forest, and even alternative crops such as rubber and cocoa, supported higher numbers of species than oil palm plantations.”

The results confirm that oil palm plantations are a poor substitute for natural forests when it comes to conservation of biological diversity.

The study warns that burgeoning demand for palm oil for use in foods, household products, and biodiesel will continue to fuel expansion in the tropics. Because planters can subsidize operations by the initial logging for forest plots, it seems likely that forests will continue to fall for new plantations despite the availability of large tracts of degraded and abandoned land.

“There is enough non-forested land suitable for plantation development to allow large increases in production without large impacts on tropical forests, but as a result of political inertia, competing priorities and lack of capacity and understanding, not to mention high levels of demand for timber and palm oil from wealthy consumers, it is still often cheaper and easier to clear forests. Unless these conditions change quickly, the impacts of oil palm expansion on biodiversity will be substantial,” the authors conclude.

See also Koh & Wilcove. 2008. Is oil palm agriculture really destroying tropical biodiversity? Conservation Letters 1: 60-64

CJA Bradshaw



8 responses

23 08 2011
How buggered are our hairy red cousins? « ConservationBytes.com

[…] know that the biggest threat to our hairy red cousin is actually human eating and hygiene habits? Palm oil (oil extracted from the kernel of Elaeis spp.) is used in many foods – particularly snack foods […]


31 05 2009
Indonesia’s precious peatlands under oil palm fire « ConservationBytes.com

[…] deep to be converted to oil palm. Is nothing immune to the spread of this crop (see previous posts here and here on oil palm […]


22 12 2008

You can see an ant overseas, but you can’t see an elephant in front of your eyes………..
Indonesia is very-very democracy nation…. every body from around the world welcome to visit and study “an ant” here. International NGO’s, researchers, scientists, analysts welcome to Indonesia…. but they (visitors) may be forget to remember what is going on in their country…. GHG is from forest degradation? Burning the forest? Naive ….. air pollution is mostly come from energy combustion in many industrialized countries and we (forest owner) to blame because of decreasing capacity of rainforest to absorb pollutans….. he he he you enjoy the money from industry, but we suffer and hungry….. it’s not include of unfairness in the international trade of agriculture products…. the farmer in industrialized countries received a huge of subsidy to clearing the forest for cultivated area, they receive subsidy in the downstream and also subsidy in export…. wow….. in the other side, farmer in Indonesia suffer from subsidy, lack of capital and must be compete with white collar farmer….. please refer to Doha Round of GATT ……….

We are very appreciate HE Prince Charles, which take a real action to save the erth by helping poor countries to greening the log-over area and degraded land. And what is very interesting is that he never say worse, blaming and stubborn analysist about rain forest….

PhD in the forest is nothing….. and a wise man said: “hollow drum always has a loudly voice”, it must be filled with the real action.


20 12 2008
Corey Bradshaw


Most of my comment details can be found here in response to your other post, but I will add the following:

The entire world must engage in GHG emission reductions – all of us are guilty there. If I can interpret your poor English correctly, you seem to suggest that industrial emissions are the principal culprits. They’re not – mass deforestation is certainly one of the major contributors, and since Indonesia has some of the highest deforestation rates in the world, I suggest you point that holier-than-thou finger right back at your own chest.


18 12 2008

The big problem is global warming…. and the culprit is rainforest conversion by oil palm expansion….. it’s what a wise man talk to me: you can look an ant overseas, but you can’t see an elephant in your eyes. Let’s talk by data and fact:

1. How large area in your country? How many % of that area to be conserve as a
forest or national park? So, please compare to Indonesia… which one more
environmental friendly?

2. Which countries throw away GHG and which countries to be the heart of the earth?

3. Orangutan just live in Sumatra and Borneo, why they’re not live in the rest? Please
open your History Book about colonial ….. Gold, Glory and Gospel….. by invade
to the other countries… by whom? by your fucking grandfather…. they destroyed
culture, civilization and also forest…. why don’t you plant a tree in your countries
to make forest? And don’t interfere outside if in your country there are no
conservation are…. or no donation for “real action” of planting tree, not just
donate NGO to campaigne, buying laptop, travelling abroad etc. It is
very recommended for your country to involve in Carbon Trading…..

4. Poorly, the big and dominant oil palm players actually from Europe and
America….. so up to you to argue….. you attacked the wrong enemy…. he he he

5. I love orangutan, but I also love orangbeneran (human being). The problem is
how to save both of them…… no trade off.

If you have a good idea to solve the problem, I appreciate it. Of not, shut up!


3 12 2008
Corey Bradshaw

Another study showing how bad and inappropriate expansion of oil palm plantations really is:



30 09 2008

Oops. “pigs and chickens” should be “livestock” in my preceding comment. Cattle
eat about the same amount of grain as the combined intake of pigs and chickens.


30 09 2008

Palm oil is appearing frequently on those little cookies that are dotted
around delis. Some will give you your entire recommended allowance
of saturated fat in one go (and some of us reckon the
recommended allowance is way too high). So, as a food, this stuff is
junk. As a biofuel? I don’t know.

But it always pays to compare. The
Koh paper puts global palm oil at 13.2 million hectares. Amazon
deforestation between 2001 and 2004 alone was
about 93,700 sq km (9.3 million hectares), and 13.2 mha is about
half the area we crop annually in Australia, so in a bad year, the total
global palm oil cropped area is about the size of the area we crop to feed
pigs and chickens for our domestic population of 21 million.


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