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How Oil Palm Can Become More Ecologically Friendly

Of the five species of primates recorded, three were detected only in the forest, and rarely. Credit L.E. Pardo-JCU

Of the five species of primates recorded, three were detected only in the forest, and rarely. Credit L.E. Pardo-JCU

By Lain E. Pardo & Mason J. Campbell

Oil palm is not a suitable habitat for most terrestrial mammals, but there are ways to improve it and promote the conservation value of these landscapes.

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We all use palm oil in our daily life. In fact, approximately half of the packaged products in supermarkets contain palm oil, and it is an important product for biofuel production.

South-East Asia produces at least 80% of the world’s palm oil. However, more than half of the area given over to this crop has occurred at the expense of native forest, including a loss of approximately three million hectares of forest in Indonesia alone.

This situation has triggered conservation alarms as the cultivation of this fruit rapidly expands across Latin America and Africa to match the demand for products derived from oil palm. However, research into the conservation impacts of oil palm outside of South-East Asia is lagging. Are these regions condemned to a similar fate?

We evaluated the effect of oil palm on the diversity and abundance of mammals across several sites in the Llanos region of Colombia – the largest oil palm-producing nation in the Americas. We used an unprecedented amount of camera traps to remotely detect and monitor the animals in oil palm plantations and nearby riparian forests.

Our findings, published in PLoS One (https://goo.gl/kVWRKK), identified oil palm as an unsuitable habitat for most terrestrial mammals. In fact, the number of species inside oil palm plantations was...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.