Most oil palm plantations in Kalimantan came at expense of forest
According to a recent study, in the twenty years to 2010 most palm oil plantations in Kalimantan (Borneo, Indonesia) was at the expense of forest cover, making them responsible for declining biodiversity as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
Published in “Nature: Climate Change”, the study suggests that: “Carbon emissions solely from oil palm industries may therefore constrain opportunities to meet Indonesia’s pledged 26% reduction below projected 2020 greenhouse gas emissions levels.”
Palm oil plantations cover over 30,000 square kilometers in Kalimantan state alone, having expanded by almost 300% in the last 12 years. The forest loss incurred is estimated to be responsible for around 0.41 gigatons of carbon, more than the whole of Indonesia’s industry produces annually. Accordting to the report’s authors, if all current palm oil leases are implemented by 2020, then, outside of protected areas, more than 33% of Kalimantan’s lowland forest would be lost to plantations and emissions would quadruple.
Satellite imagery and vegetation classification technology were used in the study to assess forest loss and carbon emissions. Among the conclusions, the protection of peatlands and forests in the state is likely to greatly decrease the potential emissions. The study also calculates that REDD+ initiatives, based on the slowly emerging forest carbon market, could also compete economically with palm oil plantations.