Indonesia’s precious peatlands under oil palm fire

31 05 2009
© Cockroach Productions

© Cockroach Productions

A small opinion piece about to be published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (June 2009 issue) discusses a major concern we (Lian Pin Koh, Rhett Butler and I) have with Indonesia’s decision to allow peatlands less than 3 m 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 plantations)?

Why is this such a big deal? Well, we list five main reasons why it’s a bad idea for Indonesia, the world in general and biodiversity:

  1. Peatlands are amazing carbon sinks, so their destruction necessarily equates to a large release of carbon into the atmosphere (Page et al. 2002)
  2. Tropical peatlands take a hell of a long time to generate – 100s to 1000s of years (Chimner and Ewel 2005)
  3. Tropical peatlands harbour a massive biodiversity, but they are still poorly described and their ecosystems only superficially understood
  4. The burning of peatlands to provide the conditions necessary to plant oil palm will contribute to the massive ‘haze’ problem in South East Asia (Lohman et al. 2007)
  5. The decision goes against the principles of ‘reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation‘ (REDD), which means it will be more difficult to implement carbon trading schemes that intrinsically value intact forests

More detail can be found in the Write Back piece that will be published shortly in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. For more information on oil palm and its conservation implications, see the following:

CJA Bradshaw

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5 responses

12 09 2011
When you have no idea, you should shut up «

[…] is planted forest – It is not, either in terms of the amount of carbon it sequesters (see also here) or the biodiversity it supports (see above and Edwards et al. […]


18 08 2011
Recognising differing viewpoints in a rapidly changing world «

[…] oil palm. To environmentalists, it is an evil crop destroying vast areas of tropical rainforest and killing endangered wildlife such as orangutans in the process. To others it is an important source of economic development. […]


25 06 2009

Peat land actually is not very suitable for palm oil plantation.. the output is low and maintenance especially transportation is difficult.. I dont know why they choose this difficult area for cultivation..


10 06 2009
Palm Plantation - BSP

Palm plantation can be devastating to the environment. However, not all palm oil companies are ignorant to the green movement. New methods are developed to make palm plantations more friendly to their surroundings and the future.


3 06 2009

The opinion piece:

KOH, LP, RA BUTLER, CJA BRADSHAW. 2009. Conversion of Indonesia’s peatlands. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7: 238

is now available. Click above link for access.


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