More than 80 per cent of the Indonesian rainforest, mangroves and peatlands most vulnerable to being cleared for palm oil production is completely unprotected by the country’s Forest Moratorium, according to new research.
In a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, a team of experts at the University of Sheffield’s Institute for Sustainable Food, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures and the National University of Singapore developed a model to explain and predict the expansion of oil palm plantations.
By considering the potential profitability of converting natural habitats into plantations, the researchers were able to predict oil palm expansion with 85 per cent accuracy and determine the importance of economic forces as a driving factor. They also found a ‘contagion’ effect, whereby areas with existing plantations experience greater crop expansion, potentially facilitated by an existing workforce and infrastructure.
The UK government this week proposed a ban on larger businesses using products grown on land that was deforested illegally – but this research highlights the limitations of a key conservation law in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil.
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