Study reveals extent of damage from oil palm expansion

More than half of the oil palm expansion between 1990 and 2005 in Malaysia and Indonesia occurred at the expense of forests, a new report says.

The study, published in Conservation Letters, found that 55% to 59% of oil palm expansion in Malaysia and at least 56% of that in Indonesia meant the destruction of primary and secondary forests. Given that oil palm plantations are biologically impoverished, the researchers recommend restricting future expansion to pre-existing cropland and degraded habitats. "

Our analysis indicates that oil palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia have replaced forests and, to a lesser extent, pre-existing cropland," the authors write.

Using data on birds and butterflies showing that conversion of forest to oil palm produces steep declines in species richness, they say the expansion of the oil palm estate in Malaysia and Indonesia negatively affected regional biodiversity.

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