Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biofuel Plantations On Tropical Forestlands Are Bad For The Climate And Biodiversity, Study Finds

Date:
December 17, 2008
Source:
World Wildlife Fund
Summary:
Keeping tropical rain forests intact is a better way to combat climate change than replacing them with biofuel plantations, a study in the journal Conservation Biology finds.

Keeping tropical rain forests intact is a better way to combat climate change than replacing them with biofuel plantations, a study in the journal Conservation Biology finds.

The study reveals that it would take at least 75 years for the carbon emissions saved through the use of biofuels to compensate for the carbon lost through forest conversion. And if the original habitat was carbon-rich peatland, the carbon balance would take more than 600 years. On the other hand, planting biofuels on degraded Imperata grasslands instead of tropical rain forests would lead to a net removal of carbon in 10 years, the authors found.

The study is the most comprehensive analysis of the impact of oil palm plantations in tropical forests on climate and biodiversity. It was undertaken by an international research team of botanists, ecologists and engineers from seven nations.

"Our analysis found that it would take 75 to 93 years to see any benefits to the climate from biofuel plantations on converted tropical forestlands," said lead author Finn Danielsen of Denmark's Nordic Agency for Development and Ecology (NORDECO). "Until then, we will be releasing carbon into the atmosphere by cutting tropical rain forests, in addition to losing valuable plant and animal species. It's even worse on peatlands, which contain so much carbon that it would be 600 years before we see any benefits whatsoever."

Biofuels have been touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels, one of the major contributors to global warming. One such biofuel, palm oil, covers millions of acres in Southeast Asia, where it has directly or indirectly replaced tropical rain forests, resulting in loss of habitats for species such as rhinos and orangutans and the loss of carbon stored in trees and peatlands.

"Biofuels are a bad deal for forests, wildlife and the climate if they replace tropical rain forests," said co-author Dr. Neil Burgess of World Wildlife Fund. "In fact, they hasten climate change by removing one of the world's most efficient carbon storage tools – intact tropical rain forests."

The authors call for the development of common global standards for sustainable production of biofuels.

"Subsidies to purchase tropical biofuels are given by countries in Europe and North America supposedly to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from transport" said Danielsen. "While these countries strive to meet their obligations under one international agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, they encourage others to increase their emissions as well as breach their obligations under another agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity."

"Comparing the flora of the rain forest with that of oil palm plantations shows the devastating effect of forest conversion on biodiversity. Major plant groups that thrive in natural rain forest, such as trees, lianas, orchids and native palms, are completely absent. The plants that do grow abundantly in plantations are mostly common fern species that like sunshine. Forest plants need shady and undisturbed habitat to survive" said botanist Hendrien Beukema of University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

For fauna, only one in six forest species can survive in plantations, the study finds. Most of these are common and widespread species.

"Conserving the existing forests is not only good for the climate as the emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced but also generates additional benefits, such as biodiversity protection" said Dr. Daniel Murdiyarso of the Indonesia-based Centre for International Forestry (CIFOR). Tropical forests contain more than half of the Earth's terrestrial species and Southeast Asia's forests are among the richest in species. They also store around 46 percent of the world's living terrestrial carbon and 25 percent of total net global carbon emissions may stem from deforestation.

"It's a huge contradiction to clear tropical rain forests to grow crops for so-called 'environmentally friendly' fuels," said co-author Faizal Parish of the Global Environment Center, Malaysia. "This is not only an issue in South East Asia – in Latin America forests are being cleared for soy production which is even less efficient at biofuel production compared to oil palm. Reducing deforestation is a much more effective way for countries to reduce climate change while also meeting their obligations to protect biodiversity."

"Any biofuel plantations in tropical forest regions should be considered only in former forest land which has already been severely degraded to support only grassy vegetation," Parish added. "Care is further needed to prevent such plantations from stimulating further forest degradation in adjacent areas."

The paper was authored by: Finn Danielsen (NORDECO, Denmark), Hendrien Beukema (University of Groningen, Netherlands), Neil D. Burgess (World Wildlife Fund US and University of Cambridge), Faizal Parish (Global Environment Centre, Malaysia), Carsten A. Brühl (University Koblenz-Landau, Germany), Paul F. Donald (RSPB, UK), Daniel Murdiyarso (CIFOR, Indonesia) Ben Phalan (University of Cambridge), Lucas Reijnders (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands), Matthew Struebig (Queen Mary University of London, UK), and Emily Fitzherbert (Zoological Society of London and University of East Anglia, UK).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by World Wildlife Fund. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Danielsen et al. Biofuel Plantations on Forested Lands: Double Jeopardy for Biodiversity and Climate. Conservation Biology, 2008; DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01096.x

Cite This Page:

World Wildlife Fund. "Biofuel Plantations On Tropical Forestlands Are Bad For The Climate And Biodiversity, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201105657.htm>.
World Wildlife Fund. (2008, December 17). Biofuel Plantations On Tropical Forestlands Are Bad For The Climate And Biodiversity, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201105657.htm
World Wildlife Fund. "Biofuel Plantations On Tropical Forestlands Are Bad For The Climate And Biodiversity, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201105657.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils 'hydrangea Solar Cell'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) — A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. Duration: 01:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

Disquieting Times for Malaysia's 'fish Listeners'

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Malaysia's last "fish listeners" -- practitioners of a dying local art of listening underwater to locate their quarry -- try to keep the ancient technique alive in the face of industrial trawling and the depletion of stocks. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins