Rise and fall of forest loss and industrial plantations in Borneo (2000-2017)

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The links between plantation expansion and deforestation in Borneo are debated. We used satellite imagery to map annual loss of old-growth forests, expansion of industrial plantations (oil palm and pulpwood), and their overlap in Borneo from 2001 to 2017. In 17 years, forest area declined by 14% (6.04 Mha), including 3.06 Mha of forest ultimately converted into industrial plantations. Plantations expanded by 170% (6.20 Mha: 88% oil palm; 12% pulpwood). Most forests converted to plantations were cleared and planted in the same year (92%; 2.83 Mha). Annual forest loss generally increased before peaking in 2016 (0.61 Mha) and declining sharply in 2017 (0.25 Mha). After peaks in 2009 and 2012, plantation expansion and associated forest conversion have been declining in Indonesia and Malaysia. Annual plantation expansion is positively correlated with annual forest loss in both countries. The correlation vanishes when we consider plantation expansion versus forests that are cleared but not converted to plantations. The price of crude palm oil is positively correlated with plantation expansion in the following year in Indonesian (not Malaysian) Borneo. Low palm oil prices, wet conditions, and improved fire prevention all likely contributed to reduced 2017 deforestation. Oversight of company conduct requires transparent concession ownership.
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DOI:
https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12622
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