Committed carbon emissions, deforestation, and community land conversion from oil palm plantation expansion in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
ABSTRACT: Industrial agricultural plantations are a rapidly increasing yet largely unmeasured source of tropical land cover change. Here, we evaluate impacts of oil palm plantation development on land cover, carbon flux, and agrarian community lands in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. With a spatially explicit land change/carbon bookkeeping model, parameterized using high-resolution satellite time series and informed by socioeconomic surveys, we assess previous and project future plantation expansion under five scenarios. Although fire was the primary proximate cause of 1989-2008 deforestation (93%) and net carbon emissions (69%), by 2007-2008, oil palm directly caused 27% of total and 40% of peatland deforestation. Plantation land sources exhibited distinctive temporal dynamics, comprising 81% forests on mineral soils (1994-2001), shifting to 69% peatlands (2008-2011). Plantation leases reveal vast development potential. In 2008, leases spanned ?65% of the region, including 62% on peatlands and 59% of community-managed lands, yet <10% of lease area was planted. Projecting business as usual (BAU), by 2020 ?40% of regional and 35% of community lands are cleared for oil palm, generating 26% of net carbon emissions. Intact forest cover declines to 4%, and the proportion of emissions sourced from peatlands increases 38%. Prohibiting intact and logged forest and peatland conversion to oil palm reduces emissions only 4% below BAU, because of continued uncontrolled fire. Protecting logged forests achieves greater carbon emissions reductions (21%) than protecting intact forests alone (9%) and is critical for mitigating carbon emissions. Extensive allocated leases constrain land management options, requiring trade-offs among oil palm production, carbon emissions mitigation, and maintaining community landholdings.
Project description:The potential of palm-oil biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared with fossil fuels is increasingly questioned. So far, no measurement-based GHG budgets were available, and plantation age was ignored in Life Cycle Analyses (LCA). Here, we conduct LCA based on measured CO2, CH4 and N2O fluxes in young and mature Indonesian oil palm plantations. CO2 dominates the on-site GHG budgets. The young plantation is a carbon source (1012?±?51?gC?m-2?yr-1), the mature plantation a sink (-754?±?38?gC?m-2?yr-1). LCA considering the measured fluxes shows higher GHG emissions for palm-oil biodiesel than traditional LCA assuming carbon neutrality. Plantation rotation-cycle extension and earlier-yielding varieties potentially decrease GHG emissions. Due to the high emissions associated with forest conversion to oil palm, our results indicate that only biodiesel from second rotation-cycle plantations or plantations established on degraded land has the potential for pronounced GHG emission savings.
Project description:Rising global demands for food and biofuels are driving forest clearance in the tropics. Oil-palm expansion contributes to biodiversity declines and carbon emissions in Southeast Asia. However, the magnitudes of these impacts remain largely unquantified until now. We produce a 250-m spatial resolution map of closed canopy oil-palm plantations in the lowlands of Peninsular Malaysia (2 million ha), Borneo (2.4 million ha), and Sumatra (3.9 million ha). We demonstrate that 6% (or ?880,000 ha) of tropical peatlands in the region had been converted to oil-palm plantations by the early 2000s. Conversion of peatswamp forests to oil palm led to biodiversity declines of 1% in Borneo (equivalent to four species of forest-dwelling birds), 3.4% in Sumatra (16 species), and 12.1% in Peninsular Malaysia (46 species). This land-use change also contributed to the loss of ?140 million Mg of aboveground biomass carbon, and annual emissions of ?4.6 million Mg of belowground carbon from peat oxidation. Additionally, the loss of peatswamp forests implies the loss of carbon sequestration service through peat accumulation, which amounts to ?660,000 Mg of carbon annually. By 2010, 2.3 million ha of peatswamp forests were clear-felled, and currently occur as degraded lands. Reforestation of these clearings could enhance biodiversity by up to ?20%, whereas oil-palm establishment would exacerbate species losses by up to ?12%. To safeguard the region's biodiversity and carbon stocks, conservation and reforestation efforts should target Central Kalimantan, Riau, and West Kalimantan, which retain three-quarters (3.9 million ha) of the remaining peatswamp forests in Southeast Asia.
Project description:Deforestation and oil palm expansion in Central Kalimantan province are among the highest in Indonesia. This study examines the physical and monetary impacts of oil palm expansion in Central Kalimantan up to 2025 under three policy scenarios. Our modelling approach combines a spatial logistic regression model with a set of rules governing land use change as a function of the policy scenario. Our physical and monetary analyses include palm oil expansion and five other ecosystem services: timber, rattan, paddy rice, carbon sequestration, and orangutan habitat (the last service is analysed in physical units only). In monetary terms, our analysis comprises the contribution of land and ecosystems to economic production, as measured according to the valuation approach of the System of National Accounts. We focus our analysis on government-owned land which covers around 97 % of the province, where the main policy issues are. We show that, in the business-as-usual scenario, the societal costs of carbon emissions and the loss of other ecosystem services far exceed the benefits from increased oil palm production. This is, in particular, related to the conversion of peatlands. We also show that, for Central Kalimantan, the moratorium scenario, which is modelled based on the moratorium currently in place in Indonesia, generates important economic benefits compared to the business-as-usual scenario. In the moratorium scenario, however, there is still conversion of forest to plantation and associated loss of ecosystem services. We developed an alternative, sustainable production scenario based on an ecosystem services approach and show that this policy scenario leads to higher net social benefits including some more space for oil palm expansion.
Project description:The upcoming global mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries should include and prioritize tropical peatlands. Forested tropical peatlands in Southeast Asia are rapidly being converted into production systems by introducing perennial crops for lucrative agribusiness, such as oil-palm and pulpwood plantations, causing large greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Guidelines for GHG Inventory on Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Uses provide an adequate framework for emissions inventories in these ecosystems; however, specific emission factors are needed for more accurate and cost-effective monitoring. The emissions are governed by complex biophysical processes, such as peat decomposition and compaction, nutrient availability, soil water content, and water table level, all of which are affected by management practices. We estimate that total carbon loss from converting peat swamp forests into oil palm is 59.4 ± 10.2 Mg of CO(2) per hectare per year during the first 25 y after land-use cover change, of which 61.6% arise from the peat. Of the total amount (1,486 ± 183 Mg of CO(2) per hectare over 25 y), 25% are released immediately from land-clearing fire. In order to maintain high palm-oil production, nitrogen inputs through fertilizer are needed and the magnitude of the resulting increased N(2)O emissions compared to CO(2) losses remains unclear.
Project description:Our society faces the pressing challenge of increasing agricultural production while minimizing negative consequences on ecosystems and the global climate. Indonesia, which has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from deforestation while doubling production of several major agricultural commodities, exemplifies this challenge. Here we focus on palm oil, the world's most abundant vegetable oil and a commodity that has contributed significantly to Indonesia's economy. Most oil palm expansion in the country has occurred at the expense of forests, resulting in significant GHG emissions. We examine the extent to which land management policies can resolve the apparently conflicting goals of oil palm expansion and GHG mitigation in Kalimantan, a major oil palm growing region of Indonesia. Using a logistic regression model to predict the locations of new oil palm between 2010 and 2020 we evaluate the impacts of six alternative policy scenarios on future emissions. We estimate net emissions of 128.4-211.4 MtCO2 yr(-1) under business as usual expansion of oil palm plantations. The impact of diverting new plantations to low carbon stock land depends on the design of the policy. We estimate that emissions can be reduced by 9-10% by extending the current moratorium on new concessions in primary forests and peat lands, 35% by limiting expansion on all peat and forestlands, 46% by limiting expansion to areas with moderate carbon stocks, and 55-60% by limiting expansion to areas with low carbon stocks. Our results suggest that these policies would reduce oil palm profits only moderately but would vary greatly in terms of cost-effectiveness of emissions reductions. We conclude that a carefully designed and implemented oil palm expansion plan can contribute significantly towards Indonesia's national emissions mitigation goal, while allowing oil palm area to double.
Project description:The recent expansion of oil palm (OP, Elaeis guineensis) plantations into tropical forest peatlands has resulted in ecosystem carbon emissions. However, estimates of net carbon flux from biomass changes require accurate estimates of the above ground biomass (AGB) accumulation rate of OP on peat. We quantify the AGB stocks of an OP plantation on drained peat in Malaysia from 3 to 12 years after planting using destructive harvests supported by non-destructive surveys of a further 902 palms. Peat specific allometric equations for palm (R2?=?0.92) and frond biomass are developed and contrasted to existing allometries for OP on mineral soils. Allometries are used to upscale AGB estimates to the plantation block-level. Aboveground biomass stocks on peat accumulated at ~6.39?±?1.12?Mg ha-1 per year in the first 12 years after planting, increasing to ~7.99?±?0.95?Mg ha-1 yr-1 when a 'perfect' plantation was modelled. High inter-palm and inter-block AGB variability was observed in mature classes as a result of variations in palm leaning and mortality. Validation of the allometries defined and expansion of non-destructive inventories across alternative plantations and age classes on peat would further strengthen our understanding of peat OP AGB accumulation rates.
Project description:Southeast-Asian peat swamp forests have been significantly logged and converted to plantation. Recently, to mitigate land degradation and C losses, some areas have been left to regenerate. Understanding how such complex land use change affects greenhouse gas emissions is essential for modelling climate feedbacks and supporting land management decisions. We carried out field research in a Malaysian swamp forest and an oil palm plantation to understand how clear-felling, drainage, and illegal and authorized conversion to oil palm impacted the C cycle, and how the C cycle may change if such logging and conversion stopped. We found that both the swamp forest and the plantation emit centuries-old CO<sub>2</sub> from their drainage systems in the managed areas, releasing sequestered C to the atmosphere. Oil palm plantations are an iconic symbol of tropical peatland degradation, but CO<sub>2</sub> efflux from the recently-burnt, cleared swamp forest was as old as from the oil palm plantation. However, in the swamp forest site, where logging had ceased approximately 30 years ago, the age of the CO<sub>2</sub> efflux was modern, indicating recovery of the system can occur. <sup>14</sup>C dating of the C pool acted as a tracer of recovery as well as degradation and offers a new tool to assess efficacy of restoration management. Methane was present in many sites, and in higher concentrations in slow-flowing anoxic systems as degassing mechanisms are not strong. Methane loading in freshwaters is rarely considered, but this may be an important C pool in restored drainage channels and should be considered in C budgets and losses.
Project description:More than half the world's rainforest has been lost to agriculture since the Industrial Revolution. Among the most widespread tropical crops is oil palm (Elaeis guineensis): global production now exceeds 35 million tonnes per year. In Malaysia, for example, 13% of land area is now oil palm plantation, compared with 1% in 1974. There are enormous pressures to increase palm oil production for food, domestic products, and, especially, biofuels. Greater use of palm oil for biofuel production is predicated on the assumption that palm oil is an "environmentally friendly" fuel feedstock. Here we show, using measurements and models, that oil palm plantations in Malaysia directly emit more oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds than rainforest. These compounds lead to the production of ground-level ozone (O(3)), an air pollutant that damages human health, plants, and materials, reduces crop productivity, and has effects on the Earth's climate. Our measurements show that, at present, O(3) concentrations do not differ significantly over rainforest and adjacent oil palm plantation landscapes. However, our model calculations predict that if concentrations of oxides of nitrogen in Borneo are allowed to reach those currently seen over rural North America and Europe, ground-level O(3) concentrations will reach 100 parts per billion (10(9)) volume (ppbv) and exceed levels known to be harmful to human health. Our study provides an early warning of the urgent need to develop policies that manage nitrogen emissions if the detrimental effects of palm oil production on air quality and climate are to be avoided.
Project description:Tropical forests are being rapidly altered by logging, and cleared for agriculture. Understanding the effects of these land use changes on soil fungi, which play vital roles in the soil ecosystem functioning and services, is a major conservation frontier. Using 454-pyrosequencing of the ITS1 region of extracted soil DNA, we compared communities of soil fungi between unlogged, once-logged, and twice-logged rainforest, and areas cleared for oil palm, in Sabah, Malaysia. Overall fungal community composition differed significantly between forest and oil palm plantation. The OTU richness and Chao 1 were higher in forest, compared to oil palm plantation. As a proportion of total reads, Basidiomycota were more abundant in forest soil, compared to oil palm plantation soil. The turnover of fungal OTUs across space, true ?-diversity, was also higher in forest than oil palm plantation. Ectomycorrhizal (EcM) fungal abundance was significantly different between land uses, with highest relative abundance (out of total fungal reads) observed in unlogged forest soil, lower abundance in logged forest, and lowest in oil palm. In their entirety, these results indicate a pervasive effect of conversion to oil palm on fungal community structure. Such wholesale changes in fungal communities might impact the long-term sustainability of oil palm agriculture. Logging also has more subtle long term effects, on relative abundance of EcM fungi, which might affect tree recruitment and nutrient cycling. However, in general the logged forest retains most of the diversity and community composition of unlogged forest.
Project description:Palm oil is the world's most important vegetable oil in terms of production quantity. Indonesia, the world's largest palm-oil producer, plans to double its production by 2020, with unclear implications for the other national priorities of food (rice) production, forest and biodiversity protection, and carbon conservation. We modeled the outcomes of alternative development scenarios and show that every single-priority scenario had substantial tradeoffs associated with other priorities. The exception was a hybrid approach wherein expansion targeted degraded and agricultural lands that are most productive for oil palm, least suitable for food cultivation, and contain the lowest carbon stocks. This approach avoided any loss in forest or biodiversity and substantially ameliorated the impacts of oil-palm expansion on carbon stocks (limiting net loss to 191.6 million tons) and annual food production capacity (loss of 1.9 million tons). Our results suggest that the environmental and land-use tradeoffs associated with oil-palm expansion can be largely avoided through the implementation of a properly planned and spatially explicit development strategy.