Any notion that current palm oil production practices in southeast Asian peat swamp forests are environmentally responsible or sustainable in practice is ludicrous, according to wildfire expert Mark Cochrane, a senior scientist at the Geospatial Sciences Center of Excellence at South Dakota State University.
Since 2013, he has been using satellite imaging, field studies and modeling to help the Indonesian Forest Research and Development Agency assess the progress being made to reduce these carbon emissions from peat swamp forests. The tropical peat forests in southeast Asia store an estimated 69 gigatonnes of carbon.
Cochrane is one of the 139 scientists who have refuted comments made by Malaysian Minister of Modernisation, Agriculture and Rural Economy Douglas Uggah Embas. The scientists represent 115 government, academic, industry and nongovernmental organizations from 20 nations. The letter to the editor is in Global Change Biology.
Even the oil palm and pulpwood companies are realizing the constraints and risks involved in operating in the peat swamp forests, according to Cochrane. Instead, sustainable methods of growing crops that can withstand the wet condition of the peatlands should be cultivated -- and those methods have not yet been developed.
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