Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes (OPAL) Online Research Seminar Series

The expansion of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) plantations is a significant driver of land-use change and deforestation in the tropics. This expansion provides important economic revenues for producer countries, corporations and smallholders, but with costs of negative externalities within and beyond the landscapes in which oil palm is grown. This seminar explores ‘green’ development trajectories that balance better development and conservation goals in an environment with pervasive uncertainties. A better understanding of socioeconomic and ecological processes that shape environmental outcomes and the feedback that such outcomes impose on society will help chart a path towards more sustainable and inclusive future. The Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes (OPAL) project proposes that the resilience of a socioecological system can be improved by (1) integrated models of the future of biodiversity and ecosystem services at the landscape level over a decadal time span, that are (2) informed by multiple stakeholder perspectives and developed through participatory modelling approaches, and (3) embedded in the decision-making processes at interrelated district, national and international scales to help stakeholders navigate and explore possible alternative futures.

OPAL is a collaborative research project led by ETH Zurich, including international institutions (CIFOR, CIRAD and WWF), universities (Pontifical Javeriana University, IPB University and EPFL Lausanne), a consulting firm specializing in oil palm (NES Naturaleza) and several local grower associations. The project engaged a number of PhD researchers in efforts to help understand the socioecological system and driver of changes shaping landscape transformation associated with oil palm development, and to come up with recommended options to improve the governance of commodity landscapes across producing countries in Asia (Indonesia), Latin America (Colombia) and Africa (Cameroon).