Science Current Events | Science News |

Oil palm surging source of greenhouse gas emissions

April 27, 2012

Continued expansion of industrial-scale oil palm plantations on the island of Borneo will become a leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 unless strong forest and peatland protections are enacted and enforced, according to a National Academy of Sciences study.

The study, conducted by Yale and Stanford researchers, found that about two-thirds of lands outside of protected areas in the Ketapang District of West Kalimantan Province in Indonesian Borneo are leased to oil palm agribusiness companies. If these leases are converted to oil palm at current expansion rates, by 2020 monotypic palm stands will occupy more than a third of regional lands and intact forests will decline to less than 5 percent from approximately 15 percent in 2008.

The researchers were surprised to learn that 50 percent of oil palm plantations were established on peatlands through last year. When peat soils are drained for oil palm cultivation, they begin to release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The study found that if oil palm expansion continues, with no restrictions on peatland development, almost 90 percent of oil palm's greenhouse gas emissions will come from peatlands by 2020.

"Preventing oil palm establishment on peatlands will be critical for any greenhouse gas emissions-reduction strategy," said Kimberly Carlson, a doctoral candidate at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and co-author of the study with Lisa Curran, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University.

Carlson pointed out that even if future oil palm expansion is halted in forests and peatlands, greenhouse gas emissions will decline by only 3 percent to 4 percent. She said that instead of simply placing a moratorium on oil palm expansion, "protecting secondary and logged forests, as well as peatlands, is the strategy that most effectively reduces carbon emissions and maintains forest cover."

The researchers argue that regional emissions could be reduced by up to 21 percent by 2020 through the prevention of oil palm encroachment, wildfire, logging, and agricultural expansion on intact and previously logged forested lands and peatlands. But even in the best-case scenario for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, 28 percent of 1 million acres of community lands will be converted to oil palm.

"Unfortunately forest and peatland protection does not automatically generate benefits for local communities," said Curran. "To become truly sustainable, oil palm companies must not only protect existing forests and carbon stocks, but should ensure that any land acquired from resident smallholder farmers and communities meets the criteria for free, prior and informed consent, and is equitably and transparently compensated."

Incorporating people, forests and carbon in their assessment required building a spatially explicit simulation model from scratch. The researchers started with a model of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon developed by co-author Britaldo Soares-Filho and his team, and rebuilt it for the drastically different environment of Indonesian Borneo.

Palm oil is a form of edible vegetable oil used in many products, including cookies, crackers, popcorn, frozen dinners, low-fat dairy, candy, soap and cosmetics. Indonesia, currently the global leader in palm-oil production, aims to increase the area for oil palm cultivation to 45 million acres by 2020 from 24 million acres in 2009, yet little is known about the influence of oil palm expansion on people and ecosystems.

"Early on we decided to include people in our assessment," said Carlson. "Local residents and their lands are often forgotten in conversations about forests."


The study, "Committed Carbon Emissions Deforestation, and Community Land Conversion from Oil Palm Plantation Expansion in West Kalimantan, Indonesia," was funded by the Natural Aeronautics and Space Administration's Land Cover/Land-Use Change Program, John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation, National Science Foundation, East-West Center, and Stanford and Yale universities.

Yale University

Related Oil Palm Current Events and Oil Palm News Articles

Endangered orangutans face a new threat
The loss of habitats is the greatest threat to the endangered orangutans, and now a new study says their existence could be further jeopardized if conservation efforts don't include reintroducing these great apes into natural environments with enough high-energy food for them to survive.

Partially logged rainforests could be emitting more carbon than previously thought
Global carbon emissions from forests could have been underestimated because calculations have not fully accounted for the dead wood from logging.

Deforestation is messing with our weather -- and our food
New research published today in Nature Communications provides insight into how large-scale deforestation could impact global food production by triggering changes in local climate.

York scientists question tropical protected areas' role under climate change
New research led by University of York scientists highlights how poor connectivity of protected area (PA) networks in Southeast Asia may prevent lowland species from responding to climate change.

How to make palm oil without destroying forests
The versatility of palm oil has led to its use in not just food products but also in everyday goods from lipstick to laundry detergent.

A novel shuttle for fatty acids
Oils from plant seeds provide the basis for many aspects of modern life that are taken for granted, being used to make cooking oil, soap, fuel, cosmetics, medicines, flooring, and many other everyday products.

New hope for Borneo's orangutans despite climate change and deforestation threats
New conservation research has discovered that up to 74% of current orang-utan habitat in Borneo could become unsuitable for this endangered species due to 21st century climate or land-cover changes.

Research partnership is key to biodiversity conservation
A new policy paper led by University of York scientists, in partnership with Proforest, aims to increase awareness among researchers of the High Conservation Value (HCV) approach to safeguarding ecosystems and species.

Malaysia's 'Smart Villages' and 9 other proven ideas for sustainable development
As nations zero in on the UN's post-2015 global Sustainable Development Goals, innovations being successfully pioneered and demonstrated in Malaysia offer several proven tactical ideas for improving the world, says an influential international sustainable development networking organization.

Newly identified gene provides reliable visual cue for oil palm fruit ripeness
A genetic discovery by a team of scientists from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), aided by scientists from Orion Genomics, paves the way for increased production of palm oil, which accounts for 45 percent of the world's edible oil, while also helping to conserve sensitive wild habitats at risk of being turned into agricultural land.
More Oil Palm Current Events and Oil Palm News Articles

The Oil Palm (World Agriculture Series)

The Oil Palm (World Agriculture Series)
by R. H. V. Corley (Author), P. B. H. Tinker (Author)

The oil palm is the world's most valuable oil crop. Its production has increased over the decades, reaching 56 million tons in 2013, and it gives the highest yields per hectare of all oil crops. Remarkably, oil palm has remained profitable through periods of low prices. Demand for palm oil is also expanding, with the edible demand now complemented by added demand from biodiesel producers. The Oil Palm is the definitive reference work on this important crop. This fifth edition features new topics - including the conversion of palm oil to biodiesel, and discussions about the impacts of palm oil production on the environment and effects of climate change ? alongside comprehensively revised chapters, with updated references throughout. The Oil Palm, Fifth Edition will be useful to...

The Palm Oil Miracle

The Palm Oil Miracle
by Fife Bruce (Author)

Palm oil has been used as both a food and a medicine for thousands of years. It was prized by the pharaohs of ancient Egypt as a sacred food. Today palm oil is the most widely used oil in the world. In tropical Africa and Southeast Asia it is an integral part of a healthy diet just as olive oil is in the Mediterranean. Palm oil possesses excellent cooking properties. It is more heat stable than other vegetable oils and imparts in foods and baked goods superior taste, texture, and quality. Palm oil is one of the world’s healthiest oils. As a natural vegetable oil, it contains no trans fatty acids or cholesterol. It is currently being used by doctors and government agencies to treat specific illnesses and improve nutritional status. Recent medical studies have shown that palm oil,...

The Shocking Truth About Palm Oil: How It Affects Your Health and the Environment

The Shocking Truth About Palm Oil: How It Affects Your Health and the Environment
by Bruce Fife (Author)

Whether you realize it or not, you are likely consuming palm oil every single day. Palm oil is the most widely used oil in the world. You will find it in the majority of the packaged foods you buy at the grocery store. You are likely eating it every time you go to a restaurant. Even the foods you get at health food stores contain palm oil. The amount of palm oil used in our foods has dramatically increased over the past few years. In an attempt to reduce the amount toxic trans fats in our foods, food manufacturers have been replacing hydrogenated vegetable oils with other oils, principally palm oil. However, is this a wise move? Palm oil contains a high percentage of saturated fat. Some people have questioned the addition of more saturated fat into the diet. What effect will it have on...

The Oil Palm Complex: Smallholders, Agribusiness and the State in Indonesia and Malaysia

The Oil Palm Complex: Smallholders, Agribusiness and the State in Indonesia and Malaysia
by Robert Cramb (Editor), John F. McCarthy (Editor)

The oil palm industry has transformed rural livelihoods and landscapes across wide swathes of Indonesia and Malaysia, generating wealth along with economic, social, and environmental controversy. Who benefits and who loses from oil palm development? Can oil palm development provide a basis for inclusive and sustainable rural development? 

Based on detailed studies of  specific communities and plantations and an analysis of the regional political economy of oil palm, this book unpicks the dominant policy narratives, business strategies, models of land acquisition, and labour-processes. It presents the oil palm industry in Malaysia and Indonesia as a complex system in which land, labour and capital are closely interconnected. Understanding this complex is a prerequisite to...

Lovin Soap Studio Cold Process Soap Recipe Book: 50 palm-free natural soap recipes using essential oils for scent and herbs and spices for color!

Lovin Soap Studio Cold Process Soap Recipe Book: 50 palm-free natural soap recipes using essential oils for scent and herbs and spices for color!
by Amanda Gail (Author)

This recipe book contains 50 recipes for cold process soap and 64 essential oil blends. Recipes include classics such as Oatmeal Lavender, Oatmeal Milk & Honey, Aloe & Cucumber and Pumpkin Spice. Some recipes are more unique, including Summit Soap, Yarrow Shave Soap, Pumpkin Lavender, Almond Orange and Mocha Mint. The recipes are categorized into seven categories including Basic Bars, Designed Recipes, Salt Bars, Bar Soap for the Face, Exfoliating Bars, For the Fellas and Alternative Liquids. Each recipe, except for those in the Basic Bars category, includes an essential oil blend and some contain additives for color or exfoliation. 20 more essential oil blends are listed at the end, giving you 64 blends total! Though it does contain basic steps, it is not an advanced soapmaking book...

PALM TREE OF LIFE: All You Need to Know About Palm Fruit Oil

PALM TREE OF LIFE: All You Need to Know About Palm Fruit Oil
by NYBookz

Nature has provided us with almost 600 known carotenoids, ranging from yellow orange to red hues and some of these possess Vitamin A activity of varying degrees. Palm fruit oil is one of the richest natural plant sources of carotenoids with concentration in the range of 500–700 parts per million—ppm.
Palm fruit oil has over 15 times more carotenoids than carrots and 300 times more than tomatoes. What differentiates Palm fruit oil from others is the quantity of its carotenoids. No other vegetable oil contains carotenoids in such significant quantities like palm fruit oil. Analysis shows that alpha and beta carotenes constitute approximately 90% of the total carotenoid content.
Carotenoids are organic pigments that are found in the chloroplasts and chromoplasts of plants and...

In the Wake of Industry: Surveying Palm Oil Production

In the Wake of Industry: Surveying Palm Oil Production

They say ignorance is bliss, and in our society the 99% are quite blissful. We place our destinies in the hands of the few. With that, great things like cities and a sense of security are possible. However, the majority of us live in our own worlds absent societal responsibility. As a result, many decisions are made that may undo these pleasantries we take for granted.

This story explores the truth behind industrial deforestation and the need to preserve our natural rainforests. The result of which brings peril to the unnoticed victims of Indonesia and beyond.

Palm Oil: Production, Processing, Characterization, and Uses

Palm Oil: Production, Processing, Characterization, and Uses
by Oi-Ming Lai (Editor), Chin-Ping Tan (Editor), Casimir C. Akoh (Editor)

This book serves as a rich source of information on the production, processing, characterization and utilization of palm oil and its components. It also includes several topics related to oil palm genomics, tissue culture and genetic engineering of oil palm. Physical, chemical and polymorphic properties of palm oil and its components as well as the measurement and maintenance of palm oil quality are included and may be of interest to researchers and food manufacturers. General uses of palm oil/kernel oil and their fractions in food, nutritional and oleochemical products are discussed as well as the potential use of palm oil as an alternative to trans fats. Some attention is also given to palm biomass, bioenergy, biofuels, waste management, and sustainability.Presents several chapters...

Commerce and Economic Change in West Africa: The Palm Oil Trade in the Nineteenth Century (African Studies)

Commerce and Economic Change in West Africa: The Palm Oil Trade in the Nineteenth Century (African Studies)
by Martin Lynn (Author)

A key theme in the West African trading system of the nineteenth century is the transition from the slave trade to "legitimate" commerce, and its significance for the African societies of the region. In this period of transition, trade in palm oil was at the core of relations between Britain and West Africa in the nineteenth century, and of immense importance to the economies of large parts of West Africa. Filling a major gap in the literature, Martin Lynn's authoritative study of the trade covers the whole of this critical period for all of West Africa.

The Oil Palm

The Oil Palm
by R. H. V. Corley (Author), P. B. H. Tinker (Author)

The oil palm is the world's most valuable oil crop. With palm oil production increasing by more than 50% in the last decade of the twentieth century and set to double in the next twenty years, it has never before been so important to understand the history, use and cultivation of this fascinating crop.

There have been many new developments since the third edition of The Oil Palm in 1988, particularly in the fields of clonal propagation, agronomy, breeding and molecular genetics. This new edition has been completely rewritten, and is the first book to record and explore these and many other developments.

The book traces the origins and progress of the industry, and describes the basic science underlying the physiology, breeding and nutrition of the oil palm. It...

© 2016