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Commodity crop expansion has increased with the globalization of production systems and consumer demand, linking distant socio-ecological systems. Oil palm plantations are expanding in the tropics to satisfy growing oilseed and biofuel markets, and much of this expansion has caused extensive deforestation, especially in Asia. In Latin America, palm oil output has doubled since 2001, and the majority of expansion seems to be occurring on non-forested lands. We used MODIS satellite imagery (250 m resolution) to map current oil palm plantations in Latin America and determined prior land use and land cover (LULC) using high-resolution images in Google Earth. In addition, we compiled trade data to determine where Latin American palm oil flows, in order to better understand the underlying drivers of expansion in the region. Based on a sample of 342 032 ha of oil palm plantations across Latin America, we found that 79% replaced previously intervened lands (e.g. pastures, croplands, bananas), primarily cattle pastures (56%). The remaining 21% came from areas that were classified as woody vegetation (e.g. forests), most notably in the Amazon and the Petén region in northern Guatemala. Latin America is a net exporter of palm oil but the majority of palm oil exports (70%) stayed within the region, with Mexico importing about half. Growth of the oil palm sector may be driven by global factors, but environmental and economic outcomes vary between regions (i.e. Asia and Latin America), within regions (i.e. Colombia and Peru), and within single countries (i.e. Guatemala), suggesting that local conditions are influential. The present trend of oil palm expanding onto previously cleared lands, guided by roundtable certifications programs, provides an opportunity for more sustainable development of the oil palm sector in Latin America.
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LETTER
Characterizing commercial oil palm expansion in Latin America:
land use change and trade
Paul Richard Furumo
1,3
and T Mitchell Aide
2
1
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, San Juan, 00931 Puerto Rico
2
Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, San Juan, 00931 Puerto Rico
3
Author to whom any correspondence should be addressed.
E-mail:pfurumo@gmail.com
Keywords: commodity crops, globalization, land rent, previously degraded lands, remote sensing, trade ows, Von Thünen
Supplementary material for this article is available online
Abstract
Commodity crop expansion has increased with the globalization of production systems and
consumer demand, linking distant socio-ecological systems. Oil palm plantations are expanding
in the tropics to satisfy growing oilseed and biofuel markets, and much of this expansion has
caused extensive deforestation, especially in Asia. In Latin America, palm oil output has doubled
since 2001, and the majority of expansion seems to be occurring on non-forested lands. We used
MODIS satellite imagery (250 m resolution) to map current oil palm plantations in Latin
America and determined prior land use and land cover (LULC) using high-resolution images in
Google Earth. In addition, we compiled trade data to determine where Latin American palm oil
ows, in order to better understand the underlying drivers of expansion in the region. Based on
a sample of 342 032 ha of oil palm plantations across Latin America, we found that 79% replaced
previously intervened lands (e.g. pastures, croplands, bananas), primarily cattle pastures (56%).
The remaining 21% came from areas that were classied as woody vegetation (e.g. forests), most
notably in the Amazon and the Petén region in northern Guatemala. Latin America is a net
exporter of palm oil but the majority of palm oil exports (70%) stayed within the region, with
Mexico importing about half. Growth of the oil palm sector may be driven by global factors, but
environmental and economic outcomes vary between regions (i.e. Asia and Latin America),
within regions (i.e. Colombia and Peru), and within single countries (i.e. Guatemala), suggesting
that local conditions are inuential. The present trend of oil palm expanding onto previously
cleared lands, guided by roundtable certications programs, provides an opportunity for more
sustainable development of the oil palm sector in Latin America.
1. Introduction
Globalization has fundamentally changed the way
food is produced, and has shifted the drivers of land
use change. As people migrate into cities and diets
shift, the demand for land-based commodities has
increased, and global market forces are now replacing
rural population pressure as the principal driver acting
on natural systems [1]. Sites of production are
separated from those of consumption, creating tele-
coupled human-natural systems dened by consumer
demand in one region that inuences the crops
planted in another [2,3]. These are typically cash
crops, increasingly grown on large, industrial scale
plantations destined for export to afuent urban
centers abroad instead of meeting subsistence needs
locally [4]. Expansion of production landscapes that
are oriented toward distal, urban consumption has
emerged as an important driver of deforestation in the
tropics [5,6].
Pan-tropical cultivation of the African oil palm
(Elaeis guineensis)an oilseed commodity crophas
ourished under this globalized model of production,
and has become a highly publicized, controversial
issue between conservationists and the private sector.
Palm oil recently surpassed soy (Glycine max) as the
most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world. The
oleaginous products of oilseed crops share similar
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2 February 2017
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Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa5892
©2017 IOP Publishing Ltd
properties and are largely interchangeable as a
ubiquitous ingredient in diverse supply chains
including processed foods, cosmetics, detergents,
and lubricants. Trade ows of this commodity reect
trends in globalization; palm oil accounts for nearly
60% of global oilseed exports [7], and this trade
volume is generated from approximately half of its
globally harvested area [8].
The bulk of increase in palm oil production has
come from a proliferation in the area planted rather
than improvements in yield [7]. Most of this
expansion has been absorbed by forested lands in
Southeast Asiathe epicenter of global oil palm
cultivation. Between 19902005, at least 55% and
59% of oil palm expansion occurred on forested lands
in Malaysia and Indonesia, respectively [9]. This
equates to about 2.7 Mha of total forest loss.
Similarly, ninety-percent (2.8 Mha) of oil palm
expansion replaced forests on Kalimantan between
1990 and 2010 [10]. Land conversion from forest to
oil palm monocultures has major implications for
biodiversity [11,12], ecosystem functioning [13,14],
and carbon emissions [10].
Increased demand for palm oil and limited
availability of land in Southeast Asia [15] has opened
up new frontiers of expansion. Latin America has
more than doubled its output since 2000 (gure 1)
[16]. Between 2001 and 2014, palm oil production
(Mg) increased by 7% per annum, and land cover (ha)
under oil palm expanded by 9% per annum [16].
Today, the region contains three of the top ten
producing nations in the world (i.e. Colombia,
Ecuador, and Honduras). Latin America also has
the largest reserves of forest suitable for oil palm
expansion, notably Brazil (2 283 000 km
2
), Peru
(458 000 km
2
), and Colombia (417 000 km
2
), forests
which harbor much of the planets biodiversity and
carbon stocks [17]. Will oil palm expansion in Latin
America lead to extensive deforestation as in Asia, or
can the economic benets of the oil palm sector be
attained while mitigating environmental impacts [18]?
Research suggests that oil palm expansion in Latin
America may be following a distinct land-use
trajectory from Asia. In Colombia, oil palm expansion
amounted to 155 100 ha between 2002 and 2008; 51%
(79 000 ha) occurred on cattle pasture while only 16%
replaced natural vegetation [19]. An additional 30% of
this oil palm replaced croplands, suggesting that 80%
of expansion during the time period occurred on
previously intervened lands instead of natural areas. A
recent global-scale assessment of deforestation caused
by oil palm expansion estimated that only 2% of new
plantations established in Central America and the
Caribbean (Mesoamerica) between 1989 and 2013
were forested prior to oil palm [20]. This is
encouraging considering the heavy environmental
impact the industry has had in SE Asia, and may
provide a major step toward a sustainable oil palm
industry by alleviating the problems associated with
destructive land use transitions. However, Vijay et al
also report that 31% of oil palm expansion came from
forested lands in South America. Furthermore, a
detailed regional study in the Peruvian Amazon
estimated that 72% of oil palm expansion occurred on
forested lands between 2000 and 2010 [21]. These
results suggest that land use change (LUC) trajectories
can vary greatly within the Latin American and
Caribbean (LAC) region.
If up to 70% and 98% of recent oil palm expansion
in South America and Mesoamerica, respectively, is
not replacing forests [20] then what types of land use
are being replaced? If oil palm is replacing cropland,
this could have indirect land use change (iLUC)
consequences by displacing crops to forested frontier
areas and driving up the local price of food items
[22,23]. On the other hand, landholders may be
intensifying production and prots by planting oil
palm on low-productivity cattle pastures, with neutral
or even positive impacts on biodiversity and carbon
storage [2426]. Thus it remains pertinent to
characterize LAC oil palm expansion in more detail
to understand the economic and ecological conse-
quences of this industry in the region.
To determine what land uses are being converted
to oil palm in LAC, we mapped established oil palm
plantations in 2014 using MODIS satellite imagery
and determined prior land cover in these areas using
high-resolution imagery in Google Earth (GE). We
300000
250000
200000
150000
100000
50000
0
2000 2002 20062006 2008 2010
Ye a r
Area (ha)
2012 2014
Colombia
Biofuel initiatives
Ecuador
Honduras
Brazil
Costa Rica
Guatemala
Mexico
Peru
Venezuela
Figure 1. Recent expansion of oil palm harvested area in Latin America (20002014) as reported by FAO [16].
Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008
2
also incorporated country-level trade data to derive a
more holistic characterization of the Latin American oil
palm industry and determine how well it aligns with
trends in globalized commodity markets, specically
whether the majority of production is being driven by
distal demand from international markets.
2. Methods
2.1. Mapping oil palm
We mapped plantations throughout major oil palm
producing regions of LAC, encompassing twelve
countries from southern Mexico to Peru (gure 2).
To map oil palm plantations, we created annual 250 m
resolution land use/land cover (LULC) maps derived
from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
(MODIS) satellite images. These data are available free
online from the National Aeronautics and Space
Administrations Earth Observing System Data Service
[27]. Our approach has been successfully implemented
in mapping LULC changes on regional and interconti-
nental scales [28,29]. In short, we used the web-based
application Land Mapper developed by Sieve Analytics
to integrate data sources, create classication models
(gure S1), and produce LULC maps for 2014 [30]. The
2014 oil palm polygons (n= 1479) were exported to GE
to determine the most immediate land use class prior to
conversion to oil palm.
We used Land Mapper to collect references
samples (~225 000 MODIS pixels) throughout the
study area for training the classier algorithm. Land
Mapper overlays the 250 250 m MODIS pixel grid
with very high-resolution (VHR) satellite images in
the GE platform. This enables the user to visualize
high resolution LULC at the pixel scale and create
training polygons for each LULC class. We collected
training data for major LULC classes adapted from
Clark et al (2010)Banana, Bare, Built-up,
Croplands, Herbaceous Vegetation, Mixed Woody,
Mature Oil Palm, Plantation Trees, Water, and Woody
Vegetation [28]. Land Mapper records the acquisition
date for the high-resolution images from GE used to
dene each training sample, in order to reference the
corresponding MODIS image(s) during the classica-
tion process. User-dened, high-resolution reference
data is thus paired with MODIS time series variables
for the year of image acquisition.
The MODIS time series variables are derived from
the MOD13Q1 (Collection 5) Vegetation Indices
250 m product, which is a 16-day composite (23 scenes
per year) of the highest quality pixels from daily
images [31]. Each pixel contains data values based on
the twelve MOD13Q1 scientic dataset (SDS) layers
[32]. We performed our classication based on annual
statisticsmean, maximum, minimum, standard
deviation, kurtosis, and skewnessfor ten of these
time series variables, or SDS layers. These include two
Figure 2. Map of oil palm plantations in LAC region for 2014 based on MODIS (250 m resolution) imagery Light orange polygons
represent oil palm plantations included in LUC analysis, while dark orange polygons are plantations mapped in 2014 but not included
in LUC analysis due to poor satellite imagery Light brown extent represents areas suitable for oil palm cultivation based on geophysical
lters (includes areas <700 m a.s.l and 12% slope, and those contained within moist and dry tropical broadleaf biomes; see SI
Materials)Light green layer represents the administrative boundaries of countries included in the study. Note that we only include the
states of Chiapas in Mexico, Orellana and Sucumbíos in Ecuador, and Pará in Brazil. Inset panels represent areas of high deforestation
from oil palm expansion ((a)Petén, Guatemala; (b)Loreto, Peru; (c)Pará, Brazil).
Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008
3
vegetation indices (VI)Normalized Difference Veg-
etation Index (NDVI) and Enhanced Vegetation index
(EVI); three reectance bandsred, near infrared
(NIR), and mid-infrared (MIR); three observation
anglesview zenith angle, sun zenith angle, and
relative azimuth angle; and two quality assessment
(QA) layersVI quality and pixel reliability. Pixels
with a reliability value of three (value = 3) were
deemed unreliable and removed prior to calculating
statistics.
2.1.1. Random forest classier
For algorithm training (i.e. model building) and image
classication we used a Random Forest (RF) tree-
based classier [33] implemented in R [v. 2.12.2; 34]
with the RandomForest package [v. 4.62; 35]. The
Random Forest classier constructs a multitude of
uncorrelated decision trees based on a random set of
predictor variables (the annual MODIS time series
variables), preventing overtting of the training set.
We assigned land cover classes to each pixel based on
the RF per pixel probability, requiring that a pixel
contain at least 60% probability of that class.
Due to such an expansive and heterogeneous study
region encompassing two continents and varied
biomes, we developed 16 region-specic land classi-
cation models (table S1). Most models were at the
country scale, but larger countries (i.e. Colombia,
Peru) required multiple models to capture variability
between different production zones. Models were
parameterized with 2000 trees, a minimum of 5
terminal nodes per tree, and an unlimited maximum
number of terminal nodes per tree. The overall global
accuracy of the models was 96%, with an oil palm
producers accuracy of 98%, and oil palm users
accuracy of 93%.
2.1.2. Map accuracy
We constructed annual LULC maps for 2014 using the
16 land use classication models. After a post-
processing step that eliminated detections smaller
than 50 hectares (see SI Materials), we manually
assessed the accuracy of our oil palm classication. We
created shapeles of oil palm polygons (n= 2063) in
ArcGIS 10.2 and overlaid them with high resolution
GE imagery to visually inspect each polygon. Our
classication of oil palm in 2014 had a total accuracy of
93% for the study region. Of the 7% error, most (48%)
was associated with Mixed Woody land cover
heterogeneous mosaics of woody vegetation with other
land covers, but no single class exceeding 40%
coverage of a pixel [28]. We then removed the false
positives and excluded polygons that could not be
determined as oil palm before proceeding with the
land use change analysis.
2.2. Land use change
We used the remaining conrmed oil palm polygons
(n= 1479) to determine the land use in these areas
prior to oil palm expansion. In each polygon, we
manually surveyed and estimated the percent of each
land cover class to the nearest 10% in the most recent
GE image prior to conversion to oil palm. To the
extent possible, we utilized VHR images for the LUC
analysis, available as early as the year 2000 in some
areas. Where VHR images were not available, we relied
on GE base imagery composed of Landsat mosaics,
which limited temporal specicity but enabled us to
characterize a larger area of oil palm (see SI Materials).
In particular, it is difcult to conrm the proximate
driver of land clearing and the most immediate land
cover converted to oil palm. For example, forested
areas in base imagery that eventually became oil palm
may have had an intermediate land use such as cattle
pasture, which caused the initial land clearing. As a
result, we may have overestimated woody vegetation
conversion to oil palm plantations, especially in South
America where image quality was less consistent.
Our sampled oil palm sites represented at least
25% of FAO reported oil palm area harvested
(i.e. mature oil palm) in each country for 2014
(table 1). The only exception was Ecuador, where only
7% (15 475 ha) of reported oil palm was sampled due
to poor satellite images. Reported country-level trends
Table 1. Percent mapped of total oil palm area harvested in each country in 2014 as reported by FAO [16], and expansion observed
for land use change (LUC) analysis. Values are in hectares (ha).
Country FAO total area harvested Area mapped Oil palm expansion % of FAO total mapped
Colombia 270 000 233 456 144 396 86%
Ecuador 214 570 15 475 3 665 7%
Honduras 130 650 49 259 18 584 38%
Brazil 126 559 80 190 70 923 63%
Costa Rica 77 750 30 580 11 319 39%
Guatemala 70 000 58 296 47 689 83%
Mexico 50 868 12 477 7 462 25%
Peru 49 230 21 898 20 529 44%
Venezuela 40 198 16 170 12 010 40%
D. Republic 17 100 6 051 145 35%
Panama 5 510 7 292 5 455 132%
Nicaragua 5 000 7 289 n/a 146%
TOTAL 1 057 435 538 433 342 032 51%
Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008
4
are based on the percentage change in each land cover
class, relative to the area of oil palm expansion
sampled in 2014. In order to scale up country-level
data to make inter-regional comparisons between
Central and South America, we normalized and
aggregated country-level data by weighting it relative
to the FAO reported total harvested area of oil palm for
each country (table S2).
2.3. Trade data
To determine the economic trade ows of Latin
American palm oil production we consulted interna-
tional commodity trade databases [16,36] and
compiled the quantity of imports and exports of
palm oil and its fractions for each country in the
analysis from 20012014. Instead of taking a single
year snapshot, we summed annual production and
import/export quantities over a 14-year period to
avoid single year anomalies in trade ows. We used
these 14-year totals to compare trade ows within the
region, palm oil traded between LAC countries, and
out of the region, palm oil traded between LAC
countries and the rest of the world.
3. Results
3.1. Land use change
We mapped a total of 538 433 ha of oil palm
plantations in LAC for 2014 (gure 2). Nicaragua
and the Dominican Republic were excluded from the
LULC change analysis because there were no cloud free
images available to classify land use in the case of the
former, and we only detected 145 ha of oil palm
expansion in the case of the latter. Of the remaining
total, 35% (183 061 ha) had already been established as
oil palm in the oldest available GE image and prior
land use could not be determined. Thus we based our
land use change analysis on 342 032 ha of oil palm
expansion in ten countries throughout LAC (table 1).
We estimated that 21% of expansion came from
the woody vegetation class, 56% from herbaceous
vegetation, 18% from agriculture, 4% from banana,
and 1% from plantation trees (gure 3). In other
words, 79% of oil palm expansion has occurred on
lands that were previously intervened or under some
other form of production system, while 21% came
from forest cover. The herbaceous vegetation class was
dominated by pasturelands, distinguishable by cattle
trails, watering holes, and remnant shade trees.
Wetland grasslands and natural savannas contributed
to a lesser extent. In the eastern plains of Colombia, oil
palm production occurs in a predominantly natural
grassland biome, yet most of the oil palm detected in
this area was at the foot of the Andes in the department
of Meta, a region with a long history of cattle
production and land transformation [37].
Considering the study area as two sub-regions
Central America (CA) and South America (SA)
provides notable distinctions. Fifty-two percent of the
current area under oil palm in CA was already in place
upon reference of the oldest GE images, while only
42% had already been established in SA, suggesting a
higher rate of recent oil palm expansion in SA
(table S2). The majority of oil palm conversion in CA
and SA came from herbaceous vegetation (64% and
1.0
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0.0
Herbaceous Cropland Banana Tree plantation Woody
Colombia
Ecuador
Honduras
Brazil
Costa Rica
Guatemala
Mexico
Peru
Venezuela
Panama
Country
Previous land cover
Figure 3. Land use land cover (LULC) change from oil palm expansion. Graph represents the proportion of each land cover class
converted to oil palm, as a percentage of total oil palm expansion mapped in each country. The bottom categories (below Woody)
represent the oil palm expansion onto previously intervened lands.
Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008
5
54%, respectively) and cropland (17% and 14%,
respectively). Banana accounted for 7% of oil palm
expansion in CA, but only 1% in SA; nearly three
times as much area was converted from banana to oil
palm in CA than SA. The bananaoil palm transition
was concentrated in Guatemala (5 409 ha), Panama
(1 627 ha), Honduras (1 186 ha), Costa Rica (1 066
ha), and the Magdalena department of Colombia
(3 541 ha). Conversion of other types of plantation
trees (e.g. eucalyptus) to oil palm was the least
conspicuous transition pathway (3 720 ha in total),
accounting for 6% of expansion in CA and 2% in SA.
3.2. Forest loss
In CA, conversion of woody vegetation to oil palm
constituted a relatively minor land use change
trajectory; only 6% of oil palm expansion replaced
woody vegetation. This occurred almost exclusively in
Guatemala (11 573 ha, or 93% of total forest loss
detected in CA), with the majority of forest loss
(10 296 ha) detected in the northern department of
Petén. In SA, we found 59 848 ha of woody vegetation
converted to oil palm, about ve times the amount
observed in CA, representing 30% of the total land area
converted to oil palm in SA during the study period
(table S2). Ecuador (13%), Brazil (7%), and Peru (5%)
contributed most to this regional deforestation trend, as
weighted by the total area harvested in each country.
On a national scale, Peru experienced the highest
rate of woody vegetation loss from oil palm expansion
(76%), amounting to 15 685 ha. This was particularly
striking in the vast Loreto region of the Peruvian
Amazon, where 86% (11 884 ha) of local oil palm
expansion occurred at the expense of forest. In Ecuador,
due to poor image quality we were only able to map oil
palm in the Sucumbíos and Orellana departments of the
Ecuadorian Amazon, where we detected 15 475 ha of oil
palm plantations in 2014; 3 665 ha was associated with
land conversion, including 1 582 ha of woody vegetation
loss in these departments (43%).
The Brazilian Amazon state of Pará featured the
largest area of country-scale forest loss associated with
oil palm expansion in the study; 70 923 ha of oil palm
expansion were detected, of which 40% (28 405 ha)
replaced woody vegetation. In Colombia, only 9%
(12 474 ha) of recent oil palm expansion replaced
woody vegetation. This was concentrated in the central
production zone of the Magdalena Medio region and
the Catatumbo valley of the Eastern Andes along the
Venezuelan border. The departments of Colombia
with the most signicant amount of woody vegetation
loss during the study period were Norte de Santander
(5 525 ha), Santander (2 484 ha), Cesar (1 638 ha), and
Bolívar (1 283 ha).
3.3. Trade data
Between 2001 and 2014, LAC produced 29.95 million
metric tons (MMT) of palm oil. LAC oil palm
producing countries are net exporters of palm oil, but
only slightly, given that they exported 11.84 MMTand
imported 9.28 MMT. The majority of this trade
remained within the region. Over three times as much
palm oil was imported from within the LAC region
than from the rest of the world, and 70% of palm oil
exports stayed in LAC (gure 4). The net exporting
countries were Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Costa
3
2
1
0
–1
–2
–3
–4
–5
Export LAC (8.24 MMT)
Export global (3.48 MMT)
Import LAC (7.00 MMT)
Import global (2.19 MMT)
Colombia
Ecuador
Honduras
Brazil
Costa Rica
Guatemala
Mexico
Peru
Venezuela
Panama
Nicaragua
Country
Trade flow (MMT)
Figure 4. Trade ows of palm oil within LAC region (light green and yellow) and with the rest of the world (olive green and orange).
Exports are depicted as positive values (top) while imports are depicted as negative values (bottom). Values are derived from FAO and
UN Comtrade [16,35] compiled from 20012014 and reported in million metric tons (MMT).
Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008
6
Rica, Guatemala, and Panama, while the net importing
countries were Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and
Nicaragua (table S3).
Mexico was by far the largest importer of palm oil
in the region, accounting for about half (4.54 MMT) of
total imports and 61% of imports from within the LAC
region. Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil were the largest
consumers of palm oil in LAC, respectively. Despite
the propensity toward intra-regional trade, an excep-
tion among net importing nations was Brazil, which
imported nearly ve times as much palm oil (1.38 MT)
from outside the regionmainly Indonesiaas it did
from LAC nations; this inux has been mainly to
replace soybean oil in the food industry [38]. Among
net exporting nations, an exception was Colombia,
which exported 1.62 MMTof palm oil outside the LAC
region during the study period, representing 63% of its
total exports. Most of this palm oil was destined for
Europe, specically the United Kingdom (37%)
Netherlands (26%), and Germany (22%). In fact,
Europe was the strongest external trading partner;
93% of total LAC palm oil exports outside the region
were destined for Europe, and the bulk of remaining
exports (6%) ended up in the USA and Canada.
4. Discussion
4.1. Expansion onto previously cleared lands
4.1.1. Pastureoil palm transition
Oil palm expansion in Latin America is following a
different land use change trajectory than the
widespread deforestation associated with this industry
in Southeast Asia. Each LAC nation in our analysis
(except Mexico) is considered forested, or has half of
its territory covered with forest [39]. Despite the fact
that most of this forested area is suitable for cultivating
oil palm [17], cattle pastures remain the most
signicant source of new oil palm plantings across
LAC. This trajectory can be partially explained by Von
Thünen principles of land rent and also reects the
land use legacy of the LAC region.
Latin America has a longer history of urbaniza-
tion and lower rural population density compared
to Asia, resulting in low-productivity cattle pastures
as the dening feature of rural landscapes [40]. The
predominance of the pastureoil palm transition
throughout the study area suggests the important
role that the cattle industry may provide in clearing
land for the eventual expansion of commodity
crops, especially in Latin America [41,42]. Cattle
ranching can increase land rent, especially on the
frontier, by clearing land for agriculture and
increasing accessibility. Bid-rent theory predicts
the pastureoil palm transition as property values
increase with proximity and connectivity to centers
of commerce, favoring expansion into previously
cleared lands with high accessibility over more
remote areas [22,43].
Our maps support the importance of infrastruc-
ture and connectivity to the oil palm industry,
revealing the tendency for plantations to cluster into
distinct production zones. These occur at different
spatial scales, from an individual mill with nearby
suppliers, to country-level production zones operating
under completely different climatic and socio-eco-
nomic conditions [44]. The clustering of production is
also due to the fact that fresh fruit bunches (FFB) must
be processed within 48 hours of harvesting to ensure
oil quality, keeping plantings and mills in close
proximity. Agglomeration of commodity plantations
is further reinforced by economic factors such as
competition, labor pool, and knowledge transfer [45].
The accumulation of these factors benets the
industry and when combined with the development
of downstream processing activities (i.e. construction
of mills, reneries) can lead to reinforcing loops
characterized by economies of scale that increase
agricultural rent and stimulate further expansion [46].
Infrastructure extension and cattle ranching can be
thought of as proximate causes of oil palm expansion
in Latin America. In tandem, these are two powerful
land transforming agents that have been prominent in
most cases of deforestation documented in Latin
America [42], and may be similarly useful in
considering the expansion of commodity crops in
the region [41]. Oil palm may have largely avoided
deforestation in Latin America simply because it is
more feasible and protable in the wake of cattle
ranching, or because extensive pasturelands have long
since deforested the productive landscapes of Latin
America, isolating forested frontiers to margins where
oil palm has yet to penetrate.
Because our approach took a snapshot of the most
immediate land cover transition to oil palm, we
acknowledge that this temporal limitation may ignore
previous LUC dynamics important to the oil palm
expansion narrative. In some cases it may be possible
that the herbaceous vegetation absorbing oil palm
expansion may have been recently cleared from forest
as a speculative pretext in attempts to establish
property rights while landowners await investment
opportunities [47]. However, most of the herbaceous
land cover classied in our study was established
pasture (i.e. cattle trails, water holes), not recent land
clearings, and other research shows that cattle
ranching continues to be the primary proximate
driver of deforestation in the region [48].
4.1.2. Bananaoil palm transition
The African oil palm was introduced to Latin
America as early as the 1920s as an alternative cash
crop to diversify the dominant banana industry [49].
With the spread of Fusarium wilt (Panama disease) in
the rst half of the 20th century, the banana sector
was severely affected and other commodity crops
began replacing banana plantations [50]. Commer-
cial production of both banana and oil palm require
Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008
7
similar infrastructure, with cultivated areas divided
into smaller plots by roads or cable lines to facilitate
extraction. The banana sector is also highly labor
intensive, and transitioning from banana to oil palm
would lead to labor pool abundance, potentially
driving down wages and increasing agricultural rent
(see SI Materials), contributing to further oil palm
expansion in these areas [46].
Conversion from banana to oil palm was likely a
more signicant pathway in decades prior to our study
period, and we are merely capturing the tail end of this
transition. Indeed todays oil palm dominated coastline
of Puntarenas, CostaRica was once a banana hub for the
United Fruit Company. In SA, the bananaoil palm
transition was only found in the Zona Bananera of
Magdalena, Colombia, which is now dominated by
more oil palm than banana plantations. Oil palm has
become valued over banana in the region for its relative
price stability andresilience against stochasticevents like
drought, ooding, and high winds. However, with the
recent strengthening of the USD against the Colombian
peso making banana exports more protable than palm
oil, and the specter of spreading bud rot disease in the
northern production zone of Colombia, some land-
holders are choosing to replant oil palm with banana
(personal observation).
4.2. Intra-regional variability of forest loss
Though oil palm expansion generally occurred on
previously cleared lands in the regional context, we
observed important idiosyncrasies related to forest
loss. While these have previously been discussed on a
continental scale in Latin America [20], we found that
intra-regional variability is even more acute, occurring
at national and even sub-national scales. With
previously cleared lands, particularly cattle pastures,
a mainstay throughout the LAC region, differences in
the extent of deforestation caused by the expanding oil
palm industry are most likely attributed to local
conditions. Economic and institutional factors, and
to a lesser extent demographic factors, have been
described as the most relevant contributors to
deforestation in Latin America [42]. We explore the
role of these variables as underlying drivers in national
and sub-national contexts of deforestation from oil
palm expansion.
4.2.1. National trends
Peru. In the Amazon, large areas of oil palm expansion
have replaced primary forest. The oil palm production
zones we mapped in this region expanded into large
forest blocks on the edge of the agricultural frontier.
Plantation size may be an important factor in the
extent to which oil palm causes deforestation in
frontier areas [51]. Our ndings in Peru are in line
with another study that reported large-scale commer-
cial plantations as a signicant cause of land clearing
compared to smallholders [21]. We mapped two large
industrial-scale plantations in the Loreto and San
Martín departments, which together accounted
for 77% (12 097 ha) of the total oil palm driven
deforestation found in the country, but only 59% of
national oil palm expansion during the study period.
We found evidence for two additional industrial-scale
plantations being developed in the Ucayali department
totaling more than 10 000 ha [52], which we classied
as herbaceous vegetation (land clearings) in 2014.
Large, industrial-scale operations will undoubtedly
be responsible for more deforestation in remote areas
where road access will limit smallholder penetra-
tion reliant upon commercial mills to sell FFBs.
Only large-scale oil palm operations with sufcient
capital to construct an on-site processing mill will
nd it feasible to venture beyond the agricultural
frontier into wilderness areas. Rivers are often the
primary infrastructure that connects these remote
areas of production to markets. Considering the
Von Thünen model of land rent (see SI material),
the increase in access costs (v) may be offset by the
lower costs of defending property rights (c)as
the presence of the state is diminished in these
remote areas, making these isolated concessions
more protable [46].
It is apparent that local conditions, particularly
weak governance and enforcement, have enabled the
conversion of large forest tracts to oil palm in Peru
[53]. Though Perus forestry laws prohibit land use
activities that affect vegetation cover and the
conservation of forestry resources, companies have
acquired oil palm concessions in primary forested
areas through a loophole that allows the changing of
land use designation if the lands are deemed to have
agricultural potential. This is a technical denition
known as best land use capacity(BLUC), which
ignores standing vegetation and is based only on soil
and climatic characteristics, subjecting forests to
development under the Ministry of Agriculture [53].
Ecuador. The high rate of deforestation we and
others [20] report in Ecuador, may be in part an
artifact, given that the majority of the area sampled
was heavily forested and much of the oil palm
production occurs elsewhere. The availability of recent
high-resolution images restricted our analysis to the
eastern production zonespecically, the provinces
of Orellana and Sucumbíos in the Amazonwhich
represents only 7% (20 000 ha) of the total area
planted in oil palm. The majority (84%) of oil palm
production in Ecuador occurs in the western zone
including plantations in southern Esmeraldas, Santo
Domingo, Los Ríos, and Guayas [54]. Historical
satellite images reveal that this area has had a long
history of intervention with extensive areas of crops
and pastures. Thus we would expect the national rate
of oil palm driven deforestation in Ecuador to be less
severe than our ndings indicate.
Brazil. Expansion of Brazilian oil palm is
concentrated in Pará, which currently represents
95% of national oil palm production [55]. Expansion
Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008
8
typically replaced primary forest contained within
larger landscape fragments; croplands were compara-
tively less dominant in this region. Though a national
forest code has been in place since 1965, much
deforestation in the region is associated with weak land
tenure laws during the initial acquisition of lands by
medium-large scale agricultural companies in the
1970s and 1980s, during a period of nancial
incentives for the economic development and integra-
tion of the Amazon frontier [56]. With the introduc-
tion of a new biodiesel law in 2005 (7% blend by
2014), another wave of investment and plantation
expansion occurred, this time from large national and
international investors. Today, nearly 75% of the area
cultivated in oil palm is held by just three companies
[56]. Deforestation concerns are being addressed with
increased monitoring and adoption of the Sustainable
Palm Oil Production Program (SPOPP) in 2010,
which targets previously cleared lands in the Amazon
for future expansion (ZAE-palma) and prohibits
expansion into forests and onto lands deforested
before 2008.
4.2.2. Sub-national trends
Guatemala. Petén is a vast frontier department that
contains a large portion of the Maya Biosphere Reserve
(MBR), and has undergone considerable cattle
ranching expansion in the last decade [57]. We
estimated that 24% of oil palm expansion in
Guatemala came from woody vegetation, and 89%
of that occurred in Petén. Similar to Peru, these were
industrial-scale plantations located near Sayaxché,
Petén that were among the largest documented in
Guatemala (>3 000 ha), and have been associated with
environmental degradation beyond land clearing [58].
Government regulations that have incentivized pro-
ductive lands over natural areas and promoted
colonization of frontier areas through subsidized
development have contributed to the forest loss
observed in this region of Guatemala [59]. Addition-
ally, weak land tenure laws and rising land rent values
from in-migration have created an extra-legal land
market, further propping up land prices and
incentivizing speculation, which has stimulated more
land clearing [60]. Land in Guatemala has been
historically concentrated into the hands of few,
including foreign investors, and this trend has only
worsened over time. In 2006, 50% of the population
controlled 93% of the land [60]. Oil palm expansion is
encroaching upon the buffer zone of the MBR, and
researchers suggest that it may be causing indirect land
use change in the reserve, as rural poor are displaced
from non-protected areas into the forest [61].
Colombia. While only 9% of oil palm expansion in
Colombia replaced forest at the country-scale, several
departments had much higher deforestation rates,
including Norte de Santander (35%), Bolívar (20%),
Santander (18%), and northern Cesar (18%). The
humid tropical forests of Magdalena Medio include
some of the last remnants of tropical rainforest outside
of the Amazon, yet remain among the least protected
in the country [62]. These departments make up the
central production zone of Colombia and coincide
with areas where armed forces have historically been
present. The involvement of para-military groups in
the oil palm sector as a way to control territory has
been well documented [63], and poses a proximate
driver of forest loss. Sabogal [64] performed a spatial
analysis of forced displacement in oil palm producing
municipalities and found that over twice as many
people were displaced than in non-oil palm munici-
palities between 2002 and 2009. While it is unclear
whether these implicated plantations are most
responsible for local trends in forest loss, the
departments where we found most deforestation
coincide with the oil palm municipalities that have the
highest correlation with forced displacement [64].
Contrary to expansion in the Amazon and Petén, we
found that most of the woody vegetation converted to
oil palm in Colombia and the other LAC nations
occurred on forest fragments and regenerating forests,
instead of undisturbed blocks of primary forest [19].
4.2.3. Trade data and biodiesel initiatives
The ebb and ow of Latin American palm oil may
illustrate a shift in underlying drivers of expansion.
The region is a net exporter of palm oil, but only
slightly, consuming over 90% of what it produces; less
than 12% is exported out of the region. In contrast,
only 9% of palm oil exports from Malaysia and
Indonesia went to other SE Asian countries in 2013
[16]. Trade ows demonstrate a high demand for palm
oil in LAC (see SI Materials), demand that is being met
predominantly by the same LAC producing nations as
opposed to other palm oil producing regions. This
breaks from the conventional view of palm oil as a
global South-North owing commodity, and built-in
assumptions about deforestation based on the unequal
exchange theory [65].
A potentially important institutional factor con-
tributing to this divergent trend is the creation of
recent biofuel programs by governments in Latin
America. Biofuel initiatives introduced after the
200607 global nancial crisis and subsequent spike
in petroleum prices have sustained further investment
in the oil palm sector aimed to meet future energy
goals [19,66]. Though sugarcane based ethanol
dominates the current biofuel agenda in the region,
there are several ambitious biodiesel initiatives in Latin
America that will likely be met by the growing oil palm
sector. These include Colombia (B8-10), Brazil (B7),
Ecuador (B5), Peru (B2), and Costa Rica (B20) [55,67,
68]. Each nation has signicant industrial palm oil
production, but the extent to which this sector
contributes to biodiesel targets varies. For example,
Colombias entire biodiesel mandate is fullled by
approximately half of its national production, whereas
the contribution of palm oil to Brazils B7 mandate is
Environ. Res. Lett. 12 (2017) 024008
9
currently less than 1%; soy and beef tallow are the
primary feedstocks [38,56].
Governments often require that biofuel targets be
met by domestic consumption, creating the structure
for nancial incentives (e.g. tax breaks, credits) that
help perpetuate expansion. How these nancial
instruments inuence LUC both directly (e.g. zoning
of biofuel feedstock) and indirectly (e.g. displacement
of subsistence agriculture) will depend on local
proximate and underlying forces. In the case of
Colombia, state incentives have caused investors to
acquire less productive land for oil palm expansion,
mainly pastures [69]. Local institutional/policy factors
can also create complex interactions between oilseeds
including indirect trade signals that have consequences
for land use. In Brazil, 75% of biodiesel production is
being met by soybean oil. As more soybean production
is dedicated to meeting national energy goals, palm oil
imports are lling the vegetable oil supply vacuum for
the processed foods industry, particularly for its
consideration as a healthier oilseed alternative [38].
Palm oil is also becoming an important fuel source
in Europe. From 20062012, the EU-27 increased its
use of palm oil in biofuel production by 365%,
equating to 1.6 MMT, or 20% of total biodiesel
feedstocks [66]. Our data show that during this same
time period, LAC exported 1.79 MMT of palm oil
outside of the region and 1.67 MMT (93%) went to
EU-27, or roughly the equivalent to EU-27 consump-
tion of palm oil for biodiesel.
Beyond energy demands, another explanation for
the retentionof palm oil in the region isthat LAC nations
are not as competitive in global markets as their
counterparts in SE Asia, where transportation and
production costs (primarily labor costs) are lower [56].
For example, Brazil is considered to have the highest
labor costs of any oil palm producing nation65%
higher than Indonesiademonstrating the importance
of price premiums from sustainable certication
programs to access overseas markets [56,70].
Because palm oil is a globally traded commodity
rooted in diverse supply chains, efforts directed toward
industry sustainability have been most effective via
market based initiatives. The most notable example is
the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
which provides oil palm growers and other value chain
actors a price premium for sustainably produced palm
oil. These incentives are driven mainly by civil society
and consumers in afuent markets, particularly USA
and Europe. If palm oil is being retained in Latin
America for domestic consumption, especially for use
as fuel instead of food, there may be less pressure to
certify local production. As it turns out, certication
for sustainable production is building momentum in
Latin America. The RSPO has made recent strides by
doubling membership of certied growers in the last
two years (11 total) and increasing the total certied
area to 258 180 ha in 2016, a 65% increase from the
previous year [71]. The regional supply of certied
palm oil is now comparable to the global average
(20%) [71]. It is likely that oil palm producers in
Latin America will continue seeking certication to
remain competitive and ensure access to international
markets.
5. Conclusion
The oil palm industry has been the source of vitriolic
debate for the deforestation it has caused in Asia. In
Latin America, similar proportions of oil palm are
converted from pastures insteadof forest. Latin America
has the greatest remaining potential for increased
agricultural expansion [57] and the oil palm industry is
only expected to grow [72]. The question becomes not
whether the oil palm industry should continue, but
rather, how this sector can continue down a more
sustainable pathway. Seminal to this effort will be the
land use change associated with establishing new
plantations. Future expansion must avoid deforestation
in order to lower socio-ecological costs and minimize
trade-offs between economic and environmental
priorities. Previously degraded lands are abundant
throughout LAC, and could potentially accommodate
future demand for palm oil without further forest loss
[72,73] but directing expansion onto these lands will
require institutional guidance through regulation and
incentives [74]. Policies directed toward the expansion
of oil palm, like ZAE-palma in Brazil, which targets
previously degraded lands and prohibits deforestation,
could be effective, especially when combined with
international sustainability certications that are often
more stringent than national policies [75]. Commit-
ments to conservation, coupled with a regional land use
trend toward the development of previously cleared
lands, gives Latin America an opportunity for more
sustainable palm oil production.
Acknowledgments
We would like to thank the NSF-IGERT program and
the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras for nancial
and institutional support, and Sieve Analytics for
technical support with the Land Mapper software. We
would also like to extend our gratitude to Chao Wang
for help with spatial analysis, Isabel Katsí Parés for
map aesthetics, and Nora Alvarez-Berríos for review-
ing our manuscript.
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... Since 2001, the sector has undergone 7% annual growth in the Americas (Furumo and Aide 2017). Pirker et al. (2016) calculated that 1367 Mha are suitable for oil palm worldwide, of which 725 Mha are in the Americas. ...
... Regarding deforestation in the Americas, it was calculated that most of the oil palm plantations were established at the expense of land uses that were not well-preserved natural ecosystems, but rather degraded herbaceous vegetation (56%), and agricultural lands (23%), while in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Guatemala, 21% of the expansion mainly occurred at the expense of forested areas (Furumo and Aide, 2017). In Guatemala and Brazil, more than 70% of production is by large producers (> 200 ha), but in Peru and Ecuador, 56% of production is by small and medium producers (Castellanos-Navarrete et al., 2020); there is thus no direct clear link between deforestation and the type of oil palm production model. ...
Article
Full-text available
In the Americas, the palm oil sector has been gaining importance in the last 20 years. Although in 2018 the region only accounted for 7.1% of global palm oil production, it is one of the largest suitable areas for oil palm cultivation. We conducted a literature review on how the sector developed and how its development influenced private and public actors in their choice among three categories of arrangements between oil palm growers and palm oil extraction units. We grouped cases reported in the literature in three categories: corporate models, contract farming, and growers’ organizations. The two latter categories emerged in response to the call for better inclusion of growers in the value chain, for local development, and for sustainable production; they now represent almost 30% of production in the region. All the parties involved are pushing for more sustainable production. National governments intend to regulate production, and private companies are engaging in certification and fair partnerships with producers of fruit bunches. However, there are still many negative impacts on the environment, on local populations, and on biodiversity. Thus, although the Americas appear to be on the way to being leaders of sustainability in the palm oil sector, challenges remain.
... Elsewhere in South America, soybean and pasture expansions are not the only threat to the indigenous tropical rainforests and their biodiversity. Palm oil and cocoa plantations have also expanded across the South American continent (Furumo and Aide, 2017;Graesser et al., 2015). Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are three of the largest 10 global producers of palm oil (Castiblanco et al., 2013;Gutiérrez-Vélez et al., 2011) ...
... Due to the recent expansion of coffee plantations, particularly over the last two decades, substantial areas of natural forests have been lost as a consequence (Aide et al., 2013;Schmitt-Harsh, 2013). Moreover, a recent report has demonstrated that palm oil plantations are also increasing rapidly in Honduras and Guatemala, with both countries being two of the largest 10 global producers of palm oil (Furumo and Aide, 2017). ...
Thesis
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Changes in global land cover (LC) have significant consequences for global environmental change, impacting the sustainability of biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem services, biodiversity, and food security. Different forms of LC change have taken place across the world in recent decades due to a combination of natural and anthropogenic drivers, however, the types of change and rates of change have traditionally been hard to quantify. This thesis exploits the properties of the recently released ESA-CCI-LC product – an internally consistent, high-resolution annual time-series of global LC extending from 1992 to 2018. Specifically, this thesis uses a combination of trajectories and transition maps to quantify LC changes over time at national, continental and global scales, in order to develop a deeper understanding of what, where and when significant changes in LC have taken place and relates these to natural and anthropogenic drivers. This thesis presents three analytical chapters that contribute to achieving the objectives and the overarching aim of the thesis. The first analytical chapter initially focuses on the Nile Delta region of Egypt, one of the most densely populated and rapidly urbanising regions globally, to quantify historic rates of urbanisation across the fertile agricultural land, before modelling a series of alternative futures in which these lands are largely protected from future urban expansion. The results show that 74,600 hectares of fertile agricultural land in the Nile Delta (Old Lands) was lost to urban expansion between 1992 and 2015. Furthermore, a scenario that encouraged urban expansion into the desert and adjacent to areas of existing high population density could be achieved, hence preserving large areas of fertile agricultural land within the Nile Delta. The second analytical chapter goes on to examine LC changes across sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a complex and diverse environment, through the joint lenses of political regions and ecoregions, differentiating between natural and anthropogenic signals of change and relating to likely drivers. The results reveal key LC change processes at a range of spatial scales, and identify hotspots of LC change. The major five key LC change processes were: (i) “gain of dry forests” covered the largest extent and was distributed across the whole of SSA; (ii) “greening of deserts” found adjacent to desert areas (e.g., the Sahel belt); (iii) “loss of tree-dominated savanna” extending mainly across South-eastern Africa; (iv) “loss of shrub-dominated savanna” stretching across West Africa, and “loss of tropical rainforests” unexpectedly covering the smallest extent, mainly in the DRC, West Africa and Madagascar. The final analytical chapter considers LC change at the global scale, providing a comprehensive assessment of LC gains and losses, trajectories and transitions, including a complete assessment of associated uncertainties. This chapter highlights variability between continents and identifies locations of high LC dynamism, recognising global hotspots for sustainability challenges. At the national scale, the chapter identifies the top 10 countries with the largest percentages of forest loss and urban expansion globally. The results show that the majority of these countries have stabilised their forest losses, however, urban expansion was consistently on the rise in all countries. The thesis concludes with recommendations for future research as global LC products become more refined (spatially, temporally and thematically) allowing deeper insights into the causes and consequences of global LC change to be determined.
... Most impacts are directly related to the clearance of natural habitats for agricultural development, timber plantations, and cattle ranching [58], which also contributes to habitat degradation through pollution and losses in vegetative cover. Palm oil monocultures have increased considerably in the region, particularly in Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica [59,60], and have contributed to increases in pollution, erosion, and water extraction. ...
Article
Full-text available
Central America contains a rich diversity of freshwater habitats that support more than 600 species of freshwater fishes. However, despite several perceived threats to the integrity of the freshwater habitats throughout the region, a formal analysis of extinction risk for the region’s ichthyofauna is lacking. In this manuscript, we report an updated checklist of species and a novel comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of Central American freshwater fishes by applying the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria to species at the global level. We also analyze the distribution of freshwater fishes across Central America and generate baseline geospatial data that can be used in multi-species conservation planning processes, which is available through the Red List Website. Our results indicate that between 15 and 28% of freshwater fishes in the region are threatened with extinction, with considerable uncertainty resulting from elevated data deficiency. We identify major and widespread threats in the region, including pollution, agriculture, aquaculture, biological resource use, natural system modifications, invasive species, and land development. This analysis represents an important first step in formulating effective conservation planning and action initiatives for a taxonomic group that historically has received few protections and can be used to inform conservation priorities of freshwater ecosystems at both national and regional scales.
... Most impacts are directly related to the clearance of natural habitats for agricultural development, timber plantations, and cattle ranching [58], which also contributes to habitat degradation through pollution and losses in vegetative cover. Palm oil monocultures have increased considerably in the region, particularly in Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica [59,60], and have contributed to increases in pollution, erosion, and water extraction. ...
Article
Full-text available
Central America contains a rich diversity of freshwater habitats that support more than 600 species of freshwater fishes. However, despite several perceived threats to the integrity of the freshwater habitats throughout the region, a formal analysis of extinction risk for the region’s ichthyofauna is lacking. In this manuscript, we report an updated checklist of species and a novel comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of Central American freshwater fishes by applying the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria to species at the global level. We also analyze the distribution of freshwater fishes across Central America and generate baseline geospatial data that can be used in multi-species conservation planning processes, which is available through the Red List Website. Our results indicate that between 15 and 28% of freshwater fishes in the region are threatened with extinction, with considerable uncertainty resulting from elevated data deficienc
... In the lead-producing countries, the environmental impacts are also associated with deforestation, biodiversity loss, land-use change, soil quality, landscape deterioration, and greenhouse gas emissions by removing carbon stock from the soil [7]. In Colombia, the situation is different because the oil palm has been correlated with the conversion of scrublands, croplands, and savannas [8][9][10]. The solid biomass from POM is composed of empty fruit bunches (EFB) in a mass ratio of 22 to hydrocarbons (AHs) formation. ...
Article
Full-text available
The effect of zinc sulfate as a catalyst on the pyrolysis of empty fruit bunches (EFB) from oil palm was assessed. Thus, a thermo-gravimetric analyzer coupled with a Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (TG-FTIR) was used, while the percentage of catalyst varied between 0 wt% and 3 wt% at different heating rates (10, 30, and 50 K/min). The kinetic parameters (activation energy, pre-exponential factor, and reaction order) and activation energy distribution were calculated using three kinetic models. The thermogravimetric curves for the EFB pyrolysis showed three prominent peaks in which the maximum mass loss rate was mainly due to cellulose and lignin pyrolysis. On the other hand, FTIR analysis indicated that the main gaseous products were CO2, CO, H2O, CH4, NH3, acids, and aldehydes (CH3COOH). The samples with 2 wt% of catalyst presented higher activation energies in pseudo reactions 1 and 2, ranging between 181,500 kJ/mol–184,000 kJ/mol and 165,200 kJ/mol–165,600 kJ/mol, respectively. It was highlighted that the first pseudo reaction with an activation energy range between 179,500 kJ/mol and 184,000 kJ/mol mainly contributes to the cellulose pyrolysis, and the second pseudo reaction (165,200 kJ/mol–165,600 kJ/mol) could be ascribed to the hemicellulose pyrolysis.
... Na porção ocidental do bioma, expandiu-se em muito a produção de soja, especialmente, no Peru, no Equador, na Colômbia e na Bolívia (HECHT, 2005;MCKAY, COLQUE, 2016;MCKAY, 2017). Com menor ímpeto, avolumou-se na Amazônia equatoriana e peruana a produção de dendê (FURUMO, AIDE, 2017). Houve também a significativa expansão da mineração legal e ilegal (BEBBINGTON, 2007, SVAMPA, 2019. ...
Conference Paper
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O artigo analisa aspectos da diferenciação regional da pressão, ocorrida na última década do século passado e na primeira deste século, para que, com base no bioma Amazônia, fosse ampliado o suprimento de commodities a fim de atender ao boom de demanda global, o que é realizado por meio da investigação das regiões de Carajás e do Marajó que, dentre as da fração brasileira do bioma, apresentaram respostas muito diferenciadas. Para tanto, recorreu-se a técnicas consagradas no campo do planejamento urbano e regional que permitiram inferir diferenças estruturais entre as regiões que foram articuladas a elementos decisivos da conformação delas como unidades espaciais distintas. Isso possibilitou interpretar os fundamentos das diferenças estruturais entre as economias; apontar que a conformação dessas diferenciações remontou a ajustes espaçotemporais que mediaram a inserção delas ao espaço global, sobretudo, os patrocinados pelos governos militares na segunda metade do século XX; e explicitar de que maneira as diferenciações e singularidades regionais repercutem na divisão do produto social e nas perspectivas de desenvolvimento regional.
... Oil palm plantations are in areas with tropical forests in the equatorial belt, as they need high rainfall throughout the year [6]. In Brazil, for instance, there is an extensive area with favorable conditions for cultivating oil palm outside the Amazon rainforest; however, those areas experience long periods of drought when oil palm does not meet the physiological water requirement to maintain productivity [7], and, consequently, need to be artificially irrigated with proper management to avoid soil salinization. ...
Chapter
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The genus Elaeis comprises two species, E. guineensis Jacq. and E. oleifera (Kunth) Cortés, which are known as the African and the American oil palms, respectively. The African oil palm originated from West Africa and is the predominant species in commercial plantations. This oilseed crop is the number one source of consumed vegetable oil in the World. Several abiotic stressors affect the plant life cycle interfering with growth and productivity. Salinity and drought are abiotic stresses that affect plantations on all continents, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars annually. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small endogenous noncoding RNAs that impact almost all biological processes, affecting either the transcriptional or posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression. Here we describe the R&D initiatives on oil palm miRNAs, highlighting the current knowledge on miRNAs’ involvement in oil palm response to abiotic stress and postulating possible miRNA-based strategies for the genetic improvement of oil palm salinity and drought stresses tolerance.
Article
Tropical deforestation continues at alarming rates with profound impacts on ecosystems, climate, and livelihoods, prompting renewed commitments to halt its continuation. Although it is well established that agriculture is a dominant driver of deforestation, rates and mechanisms remain disputed and often lack a clear evidence base. We synthesize the best available pantropical evidence to provide clarity on how agriculture drives deforestation. Although most (90 to 99%) deforestation across the tropics 2011 to 2015 was driven by agriculture, only 45 to 65% of deforested land became productive agriculture within a few years. Therefore, ending deforestation likely requires combining measures to create deforestation-free supply chains with landscape governance interventions. We highlight key remaining evidence gaps including deforestation trends, commodity-specific land-use dynamics, and data from tropical dry forests and forests across Africa.
Article
Populations of many of Nearctic-neotropical migratory birds have declined in the past several decades, recent estimates suggested a dramatic loss of 2.5 billion birds over the past 50 years in North America. Habitat loss and degradation represent a major threat in the tropics. Managed agroecosystems have the potential to mitigate some impacts of land conversion, however, little is known regarding the habitat quality provided by working landscapes in the overwintering range. In this research, we surveyed the migratory bird community in the rapidly expanding oil palm plantations in southern Mexico; and also the declining population of the Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) inhabiting forest fragments in an agricultural matrix in Costa Rica. We assessed the value of both human-modified habitats by using a combination of demographic, distributional, and individual habitat quality indicators, as well as the relationship of these indicators with environmental characteristics. In the Mexican oil palm plantations, we found that species richness of migratory birds tended to be higher in forest patches than in oil palm, that community assemblages of migratory birds differed between habitats, and that differences in migratory bird abundance were driven by vegetative structure. Specifically, when differences in indicators occurred between oil palm and native forest, most migratory species exhibited indicators of better habitat quality in the native forest. Lastly, we observed, for the first time, territoriality in oil palm plantations and estimated home range sizes for the American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla), which tended to be smaller than in the native forest. The Wood Thrush population in Costa Rica exhibited an average territory size estimated of 0.71 ha. We were able to determine associations between fragments' characteristics and body conditions, whereby birds in young and more humid fragments exhibited better fitness. Additionally, fragment size alone is probably not the best indicator of habitat quality for Wood Thrushes in Costa Rica. Our results suggest that most species of migratory birds assessed responded positively to forest structure complexity, and that age and sex ratios combined with measures of the physiological conditions, environmental moisture and home range sizes can be used to assess habitat quality for migratory birds overwintering in working landscapes. Importantly, determining a species’ territoriality dynamics, is key when selecting a given indicator of habitat quality for each species due to distributional behavior. Our results also suggest that management strategies that promote forest-like conditions in oil palm plantations can improve the habitat quality in this agroecosystem for declining populations of migratory birds. Additionally, these findings support potential value in variable-sized forest fragments within agricultural areas for the conservation of the Wood Thrushes, and soil humidity could be used as a proximate cue for food availability and ultimately as a habitat quality indicator. Lastly, our results emphasize the importance of determining territoriality dynamics, assessing various habitat indicators, and long-term monitoring, in order to develop effective management measures to improve the conservation value of working landscapes in the Neotropics to mitigate the high rate of habitat loss and degradation, especially considering that habitat availability in the tropics could be limiting migratory bird populations.
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Esta publicación contiene 36 ponencias presentadas durante el X Simposio SOLCHA, son contribuciones que dialogan de diversas formas con la historia ambiental y abarcan un amplio espectro de enfoques, épocas y territorios. Las hemos reunido en cinco grandes secciones: representaciones y usos de la naturaleza; transformaciones históricas del paisaje; conflictos socioambientales; cartografía y fotografía como fuentes de la historia ambiental; y conservacionismos. Dentro de cada sección, los artículos fueron ordenados atendiendo a su tema y temporalidad.
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This article examines the existence of a possible correlation between oil palm plantations and forced displacement in Colombia. We do the analysis from spatial econometrics because we identified autocorrelation and clusters in the variables between municipal geographic units. We used the strategy Geographically Weighted Regression, which estimates municipal equations that incorporate the behavior of the variables in the neighboring units. As a result we found direct relationship between palm and displacement in areas where crops were promoted in the last decade. This work has not yet evaluated the causal relationship between the variables, something that requires new data and methodological adjustments.
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Palm oil is the most widely traded vegetable oil globally, with demand projected to increase substantially in the future. Almost all oil palm grows in areas that were once tropical moist forests, some of them quite recently. The conversion to date, and future expansion, threatens biodiversity and increases greenhouse gas emissions. Today, consumer pressure is pushing companies toward deforestation-free sources of palm oil. To guide interventions aimed at reducing tropical deforestation due to oil palm, we analysed recent expansions and modelled likely future ones. We assessed sample areas to find where oil palm plantations have recently replaced forests in 20 countries, using a combination of high-resolution imagery from Google Earth and Landsat. We then compared these trends to countrywide trends in FAO data for oil palm planted area. Finally, we assessed which forests have high agricultural suitability for future oil palm development, which we refer to as vulnerable forests, and identified critical areas for biodiversity that oil palm expansion threatens. Our analysis reveals regional trends in deforestation associated with oil palm agriculture. In Southeast Asia, 45% of sampled oil palm plantations came from areas that were forests in 1989. For South America, the percentage was 31%. By contrast, in Mesoamerica and Africa, we observed only 2% and 7% of oil palm plantations coming from areas that were forest in 1989. The largest areas of vulnerable forest are in Africa and South America. Vulnerable forests in all four regions of production contain globally high concentrations of mammal and bird species at risk of extinction. However, priority areas for biodiversity conservation differ based on taxa and criteria used. Government regulation and voluntary market interventions can help incentivize the expansion of oil palm plantations in ways that protect biodiversity-rich ecosystems.
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Multi-stakeholder roundtables offering certification programs are promising voluntary governance mechanisms to address sustainability issues associated with international agricultural supply chains. Yet, little is known about whether roundtable certifications confer additionality, the benefits of certification beyond what would be expected from policies and practices currently in place. Here, we examine the potential additionality of the Round table on Responsible Soybeans (RTRS) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in mitigating conversion of native vegetation to cropland. We develop a metric of additionality based on business as usual land cover change dynamics and roundtable standard stringency relative to existing policies. We apply this metric to all countries with RTRS ( n = 8) and RSPO ( n = 12) certified production in 2013–2014, as well as countries that have no certified production but are among the top ten global producers in terms of soy ( n = 2) and oil palm ( n = 2). We find RSPO and RTRS both have substantially higher levels of stringency than existing national policies except in Brazil and Uruguay. In regions where these certification standards are adopted, the mean estimated rate of tree cover conversion to the target crop is similar for both standards. RTRS has higher mean relative stringency than the RSPO, yet RSPO countries have slightly higher enforcement levels. Therefore, mean potential additionality of RTRS and RSPO is similar across regions. Notably, countries with the highest levels of additionality have some adoption. However, with extremely low adoption rates (0.41% of 2014 global harvested area), RTRS likely has lower impact than RSPO (14%). Like most certification programs, neither roundtable is effectively targeting smallholder producers. To improve natural ecosystem protection, roundtables could target adoption to regions with low levels of environmental governance and high rates of forest-to-cropland conversion.
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Current socioeconomic drivers of land-use change associated with globalization are producing two contrasting land-use trends in Latin America. Increasing global food demand (particularly in Southeast Asia) accelerates deforestation in areas suitable for modern agriculture (e.g., soybean), severely threatening ecosystems, such as Amazonian rain forests, dry forests, and subtropical grasslands. Additionally, in the coming decades, demand for biofuels may become an emerging threat. In contrast, high yields in modern agricultural systems and rural-urban migration coupled with remittances promote sthe abandonment of marginal agricultural lands, thus favoring ecosystem recovery on mountains, deserts, and areas of poor soils, while improving human well-being. The potential switch from production in traditional extensive grazing areas to intensive modern agriculture provides opportunities to significantly increase food production while sparing land for nature conservation. This combination of emerging threats and opportunities requires changes in the way the conservation of Latin American ecosystems is approached. Land-use efficiency should be analyzed beyond the local-based paradigm that drives most conservation programs, and focus on large geographic scales involving long-distance fluxes of products, information, and people in order to maximize both agricultural production and the conservation of environmental services. Copyright © 2008 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance.
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Land use change in South America, mainly deforestation, is a large source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Identifying and addressing the causes or drivers of anthropogenic forest change is considered crucial for global climate change mitigation. Few countries however, monitor deforestation drivers in a systematic manner. National-level quantitative spatially explicit information on drivers is often lacking. This study quantifies proximate drivers of deforestation and related carbon losses in South America based on remote sensing time series in a systematic, spatially explicit manner. Deforestation areas were derived from the 2010 global remote sensing survey of the Food and Agricultural Organisation Forest Resource Assessment. To assess proximate drivers, land use following deforestation was assigned by visual interpretation of high-resolution satellite imagery. To estimate gross carbon losses from deforestation, default Tier 1 biomass levels per country and ecozone were used. Pasture was the dominant driver of forest area (71.2%) and related carbon loss (71.6%) in South America, followed by commercial cropland (14% and 12.1% respectively). Hotspots of deforestation due to pasture occurred in Northern Argentina, Western Paraguay, and along the arc of deforestation in Brazil where they gradually moved into higher biomass forests causing additional carbon losses. Deforestation driven by commercial cropland increased in time, with hotspots occurring in Brazil (Mato Grosso State), Northern Argentina, Eastern Paraguay and Central Bolivia. Infrastructure, such as urban expansion and roads, contributed little as proximate drivers of forest area loss (1.7%). Our findings contribute to the understanding of drivers of deforestation and related carbon losses in South America, and are comparable at the national, regional and continental level. In addition, they support the development of national REDD+ interventions and forest monitoring systems, and provide valuable input for statistical analysis and modelling of underlying drivers of deforestation.
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This chapter examines the interactions between food production and land use in the context of how a future global population of another 2-3 billion over the next 50 years can all be fed to deliver f ood security for all. Increased crop production in the last 70 years has occurred as a result of both expansion of c ropland (altering natural ecosystems to produce products) and intensification (producing more of the desired products per unit area of land already used for agriculture or forestry). For the future, it is widely recognized that, globally, only a small proportion of future increases in crop production will come from the cultivation of new land (about 20%); the majority will come from intensification via increased yield (67%) and higher cropping intensity (12%). Because the area of cropped land is likely to increase proportionately less than the future demand for food, reducing the gap between current yields and potential yields is a major goal for the future. U rbanization affects the use of land to produce food, but it also has major effects on nutrient budgets with a major shift of nutrients from rural to urban areas. In addition, distinct and disparate views of urban communities have emerged in terms of the value of food associated with a decrease in the ratio of food producers to food consumers. Finally, changing land use is only one of a number of global environmental changes affecting food production and food systems. Multiple incremental adaptations to agricultural systems are possible to cope with climate and other global changes, but transformational adaptation will be required in some regions. © 2014 Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies.