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U.S.-Brazilian-Indonesia Scientists Map Deforestation, Carbon Emissions from Indonesian Oil Palm

A team of scientists from the U.S., Brazil and Indonesia evaluated the impacts of oil palm plantation development on land cover, carbon emissions, and agrarian community lands in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.


With a spatially-explicit land change and carbon tracking model, driven by CLASlite high-resolution satellite timeseries, they assessed past and future plantation expansion under five scenarios. While 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.


Indonesia Palm Oil Expansion


Figure: Study Region in Ketapang District, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. This coastal region (12,000 km2) contains 50% peatlands and surrounds Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP, 1000 km2) and other Protected Areas. (a) 2008 land cover in oil palm leases. (b) Land-cover sources for oil palm, 1994-2011. Forests (intact, logged, and secondary) were the primary land cover source (49%) for oil palm. (c) Business-As-Usual scenario for the year 2020. (d) Another scenario for 2020 showing that protection against deforestation and degradation of intact and logged forests yields greater forest cover (32%) and lower oil palm area.


By 2008, plantation 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 will be cleared for oil palm, generating 26% of net carbon emissions. Intact forest cover will decline to 4%, and the proportion of emissions sourced from peatlands increases by 38%.  The scientists found that a moratorium on 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 tradeoffs among oil palm production, carbon-emissions mitigation, and maintaining community landholdings.


For details, see Carlson et al. (2012) on the CLASlite Community Publications Page.