Prescillia Rindang Putri

University of Florida

Sustainable Palm Oil Certification: Do Forest Reserves Designated using “High Carbon Stock” Approaches within Palm Oil Plantations Support Mammal Conservation?

Studying in the United States was a life changing experience and I am eternally grateful for it. I chose to study wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida (UF). Many of the lecturers have ongoing field experiences in the tropics, so they are well grounded in practical experience and theory, which I found very helpful.

The Tropical Conservation Program facilitates learning across disciplines, problem-centered research and work with partners that is crucial exposure for a future conservationist. The program offers the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in Indonesia. I chose my career because it revolves around wildlife. I love working in the field where I can interact with people, animals, and be surrounded by nature. Before entering the program, I wanted to be a field conservationist or researcher of wildlife biology. But the classes I took, the hands-on experiences through my fieldwork and thesis work, and the people I met inspired me to get involved in conservation planning and management. I am working on a project focused on supporting North Sulawesi environmental education. Our project successfully secured the 2020 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Seeds for the Future Grant funding from the U.S. Embassy.

Sustainable Palm Oil Certification: Do Forest Reserves Designated using “High Carbon Stock” Approaches within Palm Oil Plantations Support Mammal Conservation?

Studies to date indicate that palm oil plantations support a lower diversity of wildlife compared to other land uses. Programs for certified palm oil have been established in order to increase environmental sustainability of palm oil production, reduce adverse environmental effects, and encourage “wildlife friendly” palm oil plantations. Certification requires palm oil companies to set aside forest reserves based on High Conservation Value (HCV). A High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach also has been used voluntarily by some palm oil companies to prioritize their designated forest reserves.

We use camera trapping to investigate mammalian occupancy and diversity in oil palm plantations and HCS and HCV forest reserves in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. We found significantly lower mammalian species richness in plantations relative to forest reserves, and the differences between mammal communities in palm oil and forest were much stronger in this study than in previous studies. None-the-less, within forest reserves, most mammalian species were found in low abundance. No correlation was found between mammal abundance and carbon stocks in forest reserves, but there was a significant correlation between mammal abundance and forest reserve size. Size of remnant forest fragments was the most important variable explaining the presence of large mammals.

Our results suggest that designating forest reserves based on carbon stocks alone will not be sufficient to conserve mammalian biodiversity in palm oil landscapes.

In contrast, the size of the forest patch should be considered when designating forest reserves. In my study area, most forest reserves currently are small and have poor long-term prospects for maintaining large mammals.

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