Thinking beyond the canopy

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High-yield oil palm expansion spares land at the expense of forests in the Peruvian Amazon

 

High-yield agriculture potentially reduces pressure on forests by requiring less land to increase production. Using satellite and field data, we assessed the area deforested by industrial-scale high-yield oil palm expansion in the Peruvian Amazon from 2000 to 2010, finding that 72% of new plantations expanded into forested areas. In a focus area in the Ucayali region, we assessed deforestation for high- and smallholder low-yield oil palm plantations. Low-yield plantations accounted for most expansion overall (80%), but only 30% of their expansion involved forest conversion, contrasting with 75% for high-yield expansion.High-yield expansion minimized the total area required to achieve production but counter-intuitively at higher expense to forests than low-yield plantations. The results show that high-yield agriculture is an important but insufficient strategy to reduce pressure on forests. We suggest that high-yield agriculture can be effective in sparing forests only if coupled with incentives for agricultural expansion into already cleared lands.

Topic:

  agriculture, farming systems, intensification, intensive cropping, remote sensing, yield increases, land use change, tropical forests, deforestation, conservation, Biofuels

Geographic:

  Amazonia

Journal Title:

  Environmental Research Letters

Volume:

  6

Number:

  4

Publication Year:

  2011

Language:

  English

ISSN:

  1748-9326