A new report by the Science-Policy Partnership Network, led by the University of York provides important new information to conserve biodiversity and facilitate more sustainable palm oil production.
The report -- 'Co-benefits for biodiversity and carbon in land planning decisions within oil palm landscapes' -- examines relationships between the amount of carbon and the amount of biodiversity in different land-use types in Malaysia and Indonesia, and how land planning decisions aimed at benefiting one of these vital resources will also benefit the other.
Dr Jennifer Lucey and Professor Jane Hill from the Department of Biology at York, and Dr Glen Reynolds from the SE Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP), drafted the new report. This report responds to a key question identified by the industry: "Are the land-uses that are important for biodiversity the same land-uses that are important for carbon?"
The report's key messages are:
There is high agreement in the responses of biodiversity (number of species) and Above Ground Carbon (AGC) to different land-uses; meaning land-use decisions that benefit one are highly likely to also have benefits for the other.
Primary rainforest contains the highest levels of biodiversity and of AGC per ha. Biodiversity levels in selectively logged forest are also very high, and even though carbon stocks can be almost halved, these forests have the potential to recover over time, meaning that conserving even fairly degraded forest can have high co-benefits.
Oil palm plantations contain only about 20 per cent of primary forest AGC and less than half of primary forest biodiversity -- but many of the species which occur in oil palm are open habitat or generalist species, and not forest species. Non-forest habitats and grasslands which contain low levels of biodiversity and carbon should be targeted for future oil palm expansion to realise co-benefits.
Dr Lucey led the study, consulting experts in the fields of carbon storage and biodiversity, and collating information from 75 scientific publications including research by the University of York.
She said: "The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil uses the High Conservation Values approach (www.hcvnetwork.org ) to conserve biodiversity, but this doesn't explicitly consider carbon stocks: an issue the industry is currently grappling with. We provided the scientific evidence base in a clear and relevant format to aid the streamlining of policy for the conservation of these two vital ecosystem services."
Professor Jane Hill added: "There is a wealth of scientific evidence available to inform better policy for sustainability issues, but often it is not readily accessible to decision makers: our report brings the information together in a way that is policy-relevant."
Dr Reynolds said: "Expansion of oil palm continues to threaten rainforests which are important stores of carbon and biodiversity. Our report shows that processes in place to conserve biodiversity should also conserve high levels of carbon -- and vice-versa, which is relevant given recent industry moves to include high carbon stock assessments in guiding land-use decision making."
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