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  • Bioenergy Production on Degraded Land: Landowner Perceptions in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

Bioenergy Production on Degraded Land: Landowner Perceptions in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Bioenergy production from degraded land provides an opportunity to secure a new renewable energy source to meet the rapid growth of energy demand in Indonesia while turning degraded land into productive landscape. However, bioenergy production would not be feasible without landowner participation. This study investigates factors affecting landowners’ preferences for bioenergy production by analyzing 150 landowners with fire experience in Buntoi village in Central Kalimantan using Firth’s logistic regression model. Results indicated that 76% of landowners preferred well-known species that have a readily available market such as sengon (Albizia chinensis (Osb.) Merr.) and rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis Müll.Arg.) for restoration on degraded land. Only 8% of preferred nyamplung (Calophyllum inophyllum L.) for bioenergy production; these particular landowners revealed a capacity to handle the uncertainty of the bioenergy market because they had additional jobs and income, had migrated from Java where nyamplung is prevalent, and preferred agricultural extension to improve their technical capacity. These results contribute to identifying key conditions for a bottom-up approach to bioenergy production from degraded land in Indonesia: a stable bioenergy market for landowners, application of familiar bioenergy species, and agricultural extension support for capacity building.

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  • Bioenergy development in Central Kalimantan: Current research findings and potential areas for future study

Bioenergy development in Central Kalimantan: Current research findings and potential areas for future study

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  • Stable, robust policies and governmental support at both national and local levels, are needed to promote successful bioenergy research and its application, and avoid repeating past failures in developing bioenergy crops. The potential of local tree species should be considered in bioenergy project development; in particular, consideration should be given to the ability of each species to adapt to typical environments such as highly acidic peatlands, nutrient-poor soils and soils with high levels of organic matter.
  • The participation of local communities is of paramount importance, as well as the consideration of local preferences and context; by introducing community-relevant species, familiarity with such species and their potential uses is also increased.
  • Further study is necessary on local bioenergy species that are suitable for peatland restoration to answer the following questions: What concrete actions would allow a provincial government-driven working group to further develop sustainable bioenergy within Central Kalimantan? What would an appropriate business model for bioenergy production look like? and which agroforestry systems have the potential to combine bioenergy crops with other-purpose crops (e.g. food, aromatics and medicines).
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  • Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?

Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?

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A truck collects bunches of oil palm fruits in West Kalimantan, in the Indonesian part of Borneo. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

In 2014, many of the world’s major companies buying, trading or producing palm oil and pulp and paper made a joint commitment to stop clearing natural forests by 2020. As the deadline draws near, how are these ‘no deforestation’ commitments progressing, and what effect are they having on forests?

Using LANDSAT satellite data to observe annual changes in forest area and annual expansion of industrial plantations, scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), are assessing the impact of corporate commitments to stop deforestation on the island of Borneo.

Borneo, a landmass shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. But forest fires and land conversion for logging, plantations and infrastructure development have reduced the island’s old-growth forest area by 30 percent since 1973.

Expansion of plantations for palm oil and pulp and paper has been associated with significant forest loss in Borneo, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia as the world’s leading producers of palm oil.

The ongoing research is looking at how pledges to stop this trend are having an effect, both inside and outside of plantation concession areas.

David Gaveau, co-creator of the newly updated Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, has been working on developing tools for buyers, traders, producers, governments and consumers to track industrial agriculture supply chains in Borneo, and monitor their impact on forests. He sat down with Forests News this week to discuss ongoing research, and what he and his partners have found so far.

What does it mean for a company to make a ‘No deforestation’ commitment?

When we talk about deforestation-free palm oil or paper, we are talking about products that have not been extracted from plantations established in place of forests. That is, where no forests have been cleared and converted to plantations. What this means in practice is that the products should come from plantations established on lands that have been cleared for other reasons, for example by wildfire, such as degraded shrublands.

A large number of palm oil and paper buyers and traders have already pledged to source only deforestation-free palm oil or paper, and in turn, the largest palm oil and pulp and paper producers have promised to stop clearing forests to expand plantations. Some made this pledge in 2013, with immediate effect. So in our research, we have sought to analyze whether those pledges, made with immediate effect, reduced overall rates of forest loss in Borneo.

Read more: New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

Why are companies making ‘No deforestation’ commitments? Does it have any effect on profits?

Companies are making these commitments under pressure from consumer groups, environmental NGOs, and now even financial markets. For far too long, extractive industries made profit without respecting the environment. Times are changing.

An oil palm worker cleans up the trees before fruit collection. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

How is a commitment monitored, and by whom?

Ideally, commitments should be monitored by tracking the palm oil back to the plantation where it was produced, and by verifying whether this plantation has been established at the expense of a forest, or whether it has replaced degraded, non-forested lands.

Have these pledges had an observable impact on deforestation rates in your research area in recent years?

Borneo is a major center for palm oil production. The area of industrial oil palm plantations in 2016 reached 8.3 million hectares — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 million hectares. Old-growth forest area losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016. By old-growth, we mean ancient forests that have never been impacted by humans, or forests impacted by timber extraction, but which have not been totally been cleared, and where the structure of a forest remains.

We showed in a paper published last year that the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area lost between 2005 to 2015. This number rises to 56 percent if we include pulpwood plantations. So, if producing companies stop clearing forests to expand plantations, deforestation should drop dramatically.

Our preliminary results from ongoing research suggest that recent corporate commitments to stop clearing forests in concessions of oil palm and pulpwood are associated with less conversion of forests to industrial plantations in Borneo, at least for oil palm and pulpwood.

We find that this company-driven deforestation peaked in concessions in 2009 and again in 2012, and has since been decreasing since 2012. In 2016, it had decelerated to 14-year low. This decreasing trend appears in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo, and suggests that ‘No Deforestation’ commitments have slowed forest conversion within concessions in both countries. But that is not the whole story.

Despite this positive finding, the area of forest cleared since 2013 has in fact increased in Borneo. In Kalimantan — Indonesian Borneo — in particular, forests in 2016 were cleared at the fastest rate since 1997, with nearly 400,000 hectares lost that year. Much of this deforestation was caused by uncontrolled El Niño fires during late 2015, but appeared in 2016 satellite data because of cloud cover.

We find that much of this deforestation occurred outside concessions, and on peatlands, highlighting the urgent need to prevent peatland fires in the future, and to find solutions to deforestation outside concessions, where companies do not have jurisdiction. We also see a troubling trend in concessions where a lot of forest remains. In those forest-rich concessions, company-driven deforestation has not slowed, suggesting that ‘business as usual’ has continued in undeveloped concessions.

Read more: Financing farmers: Can funds for oil palm help save our forests?

How do you measure or observe the impact of commitments on forests?

We have mapped then analyzed the area of forest converted each year to industrial oil palm and pulpwood plantations from 2001 to 2016, looking mainly at land under company management – that is, concessions. We use LANDSAT satellite imagery to monitor the annual expansion of plantations.

We combine this information with annual maps of forest loss also derived using LANDSAT satellites by Matthew Hansen’s research group at the University of Maryland. The Hansen dataset, as we call it, produces very accurate tree loss maps over the humid tropics, and combined with a good forest mask, reveals where old-growth forests have been cleared.  However, this dataset does not tell us why forest has been cleared, or who cleared it.

By combining our annual maps of plantations with this forest loss dataset, we can extract the area of forest converted each year to industrial plantations by producing companies. This is what we call company-driven deforestation.

What about the effect outside of concession areas, or in nearby forests?

Deforestation caused by fire is even more dramatic in Borneo outside concessions, where it recently jumped by 400 percent to a 16-year high in 2016.

What plans do you have for researching this further, and drawing recommendations for action?

We now aim to understand other drivers of deforestation in the Borneo landscape. For example, we are quantifying the impacts of forest fires, and smallholder and mining activity. We aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of the human enterprise on Borneo forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss down to zero.

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?

Are ‘no deforestation’ commitments working?

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A truck collects bunches of oil palm fruits in West Kalimantan, in the Indonesian part of Borneo. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

In 2014, many of the world’s major companies buying, trading or producing palm oil and pulp and paper made a joint commitment to stop clearing natural forests by 2020. As the deadline draws near, how are these ‘no deforestation’ commitments progressing, and what effect are they having on forests?

Using LANDSAT satellite data to observe annual changes in forest area and annual expansion of industrial plantations, scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), are assessing the impact of corporate commitments to stop deforestation on the island of Borneo.

Borneo, a landmass shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. But forest fires and land conversion for logging, plantations and infrastructure development have reduced the island’s old-growth forest area by 30 percent since 1973.

Expansion of plantations for palm oil and pulp and paper has been associated with significant forest loss in Borneo, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia as the world’s leading producers of palm oil.

The ongoing research is looking at how pledges to stop this trend are having an effect, both inside and outside of plantation concession areas.

David Gaveau, co-creator of the newly updated Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, has been working on developing tools for buyers, traders, producers, governments and consumers to track industrial agriculture supply chains in Borneo, and monitor their impact on forests. He sat down with Forests News this week to discuss ongoing research, and what he and his partners have found so far.

What does it mean for a company to make a ‘No deforestation’ commitment?

When we talk about deforestation-free palm oil or paper, we are talking about products that have not been extracted from plantations established in place of forests. That is, where no forests have been cleared and converted to plantations. What this means in practice is that the products should come from plantations established on lands that have been cleared for other reasons, for example by wildfire, such as degraded shrublands.

A large number of palm oil and paper buyers and traders have already pledged to source only deforestation-free palm oil or paper, and in turn, the largest palm oil and pulp and paper producers have promised to stop clearing forests to expand plantations. Some made this pledge in 2013, with immediate effect. So in our research, we have sought to analyze whether those pledges, made with immediate effect, reduced overall rates of forest loss in Borneo.

Read more: New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

Why are companies making ‘No deforestation’ commitments? Does it have any effect on profits?

Companies are making these commitments under pressure from consumer groups, environmental NGOs, and now even financial markets. For far too long, extractive industries made profit without respecting the environment. Times are changing.

An oil palm worker cleans up the trees before fruit collection. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

How is a commitment monitored, and by whom?

Ideally, commitments should be monitored by tracking the palm oil back to the plantation where it was produced, and by verifying whether this plantation has been established at the expense of a forest, or whether it has replaced degraded, non-forested lands.

Have these pledges had an observable impact on deforestation rates in your research area in recent years?

Borneo is a major center for palm oil production. The area of industrial oil palm plantations in 2016 reached 8.3 million hectares — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 million hectares. Old-growth forest area losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016. By old-growth, we mean ancient forests that have never been impacted by humans, or forests impacted by timber extraction, but which have not been totally been cleared, and where the structure of a forest remains.

We showed in a paper published last year that the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area lost between 2005 to 2015. This number rises to 56 percent if we include pulpwood plantations. So, if producing companies stop clearing forests to expand plantations, deforestation should drop dramatically.

Our preliminary results from ongoing research suggest that recent corporate commitments to stop clearing forests in concessions of oil palm and pulpwood are associated with less conversion of forests to industrial plantations in Borneo, at least for oil palm and pulpwood.

We find that this company-driven deforestation peaked in concessions in 2009 and again in 2012, and has since been decreasing since 2012. In 2016, it had decelerated to 14-year low. This decreasing trend appears in Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo, and suggests that ‘No Deforestation’ commitments have slowed forest conversion within concessions in both countries. But that is not the whole story.

Despite this positive finding, the area of forest cleared since 2013 has in fact increased in Borneo. In Kalimantan — Indonesian Borneo — in particular, forests in 2016 were cleared at the fastest rate since 1997, with nearly 400,000 hectares lost that year. Much of this deforestation was caused by uncontrolled El Niño fires during late 2015, but appeared in 2016 satellite data because of cloud cover.

We find that much of this deforestation occurred outside concessions, and on peatlands, highlighting the urgent need to prevent peatland fires in the future, and to find solutions to deforestation outside concessions, where companies do not have jurisdiction. We also see a troubling trend in concessions where a lot of forest remains. In those forest-rich concessions, company-driven deforestation has not slowed, suggesting that ‘business as usual’ has continued in undeveloped concessions.

Read more: Financing farmers: Can funds for oil palm help save our forests?

How do you measure or observe the impact of commitments on forests?

We have mapped then analyzed the area of forest converted each year to industrial oil palm and pulpwood plantations from 2001 to 2016, looking mainly at land under company management – that is, concessions. We use LANDSAT satellite imagery to monitor the annual expansion of plantations.

We combine this information with annual maps of forest loss also derived using LANDSAT satellites by Matthew Hansen’s research group at the University of Maryland. The Hansen dataset, as we call it, produces very accurate tree loss maps over the humid tropics, and combined with a good forest mask, reveals where old-growth forests have been cleared.  However, this dataset does not tell us why forest has been cleared, or who cleared it.

By combining our annual maps of plantations with this forest loss dataset, we can extract the area of forest converted each year to industrial plantations by producing companies. This is what we call company-driven deforestation.

What about the effect outside of concession areas, or in nearby forests?

Deforestation caused by fire is even more dramatic in Borneo outside concessions, where it recently jumped by 400 percent to a 16-year high in 2016.

What plans do you have for researching this further, and drawing recommendations for action?

We now aim to understand other drivers of deforestation in the Borneo landscape. For example, we are quantifying the impacts of forest fires, and smallholder and mining activity. We aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of the human enterprise on Borneo forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss down to zero.

By Catriona Croft-Cusworth, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

The updated Borneo Atlas offers new data to measure the impact of mills and plantations on forests.

In 2013, a number of major palm-oil buyers, traders and producers promised to stop clearing natural forests. The global multi-billion-dollar business of palm oil is among the world’s most controversial agro-industries. It has been implicated in numerous cases where species- and carbon-rich forests have been cleared, yet it also contributes to the elimination of poverty in producer countries.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top two producers of palm oil. Their area of industrial plantations more than quadrupled in extent from 1990 to 2015. Over the same period, regional rates of forest loss rose to among the world’s highest. Forest clearance is driven by a number of factors — establishing plantations is one factor. The development of mills and associated infrastructure to extract and transport palm oil also impacts forests.

The latest version of the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, or what we call the Borneo Atlas, part of the work of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) launched this week allows users to verify the location and ownership of 467 palm-oil mills in Borneo, the island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. It includes a new tool called Analyze Land Use near Mills to provide verified information on the location of palm-oil mills, and the deforested area within a 10-kilometer radius, as detected annually by satellites.

The new tool can be used together with an earlier tool called Analyze Land Use in Concessions, to track the footprint of palm-oil growers on forests. It links the company-driven forest loss (i.e. the forest area converted each year to industrial plantations) detected annually using satellites with publicly available concession maps. Combined, these two tools are useful for the increasing number of palm-oil buyers, traders and government officials who have begun tracing supply chains to mills and plantations. Buyers are currently focusing their attention on traceability to mills, because the location of a mill is a good indicator of the approximate location of its supplier.

Understanding where mills and plantations are is also useful to better understand the overall impact of industrial palm-oil developments on tropical rainforests.

Try it: Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo

ADDED FEATURES

Via the interactive map, users can zoom in on a 10-kilometer radius of each mill — the distance fresh palm fruit can travel without spoiling. The actual distance that fruit has travelled to reach the mill in fact vary depending on commercial agreements, road networks and terrain, and does not fall into a perfect disc around the mill.

However, this simplified added feature does offer a more complete view of the impacts of industry on forests. Users can rank concessions and mills by recent clearing, and access statistics on forest health and land use. They can visualize poorest and best performing mills and concessions by company, soil type (peat and non-peat), by remaining forest area, and by type of certification.

The idea is to offer the opportunity to investigate to what extent plantation companies have cleared forests in Borneo, and to what extent they have avoided forest loss by planting on non-forested lands. Understanding where companies practice sustainable planting is key to engaging and promoting positive actions by companies.

We developed this dataset by reviewing online documentation on company dashboards, NGO websites, certification agencies (RSPO and ISPO), mapping websites and social media. The source documents for these data are linked in the results of each search so they can be consulted by users. A link to the mills’ location on high-resolution imagery from Google Maps and ArcGIS World Imagery is also provided for each search, to prove that the mill exists.

Future developments will include linking mills to supplier plantations, to ports and refineries, and incorporating time-lapses to reveal how industrial oil palm has expanded.

Read more: What a difference 4 decades make: Deforestation in Borneo since 1973

Individual oil palm fruits are seen in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AN INDUSTRIAL-SCALE ISSUE

Palm oil is produced by industrial means. It is in everything from cosmetics to processed food, and biofuels to drive cars. It requires extensive infrastructure, including processing mills and refineries. Ultimately, huge tankers ship the oil to every corner of the globe.

Oil palm isn’t the only industrial crop. Today, most of the world’s food production and supply is done by industrial means. Industrial agriculture is a system of chemically intensive food production, featuring gigantic single-crop farms and production facilities, controlled by large conglomerates.

Intensive monoculture depletes soil and leaves it vulnerable to erosion. Herbicides and insecticides harm wildlife and people. Biodiversity in and near monoculture fields takes a hit, as populations of birds and beneficial insects decline. In fact, the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years in the European countryside because of industrial agriculture, according to a new study.

In the humid tropics, industrial production of palm oil, soy, pulpwood and beef depletes biodiversity by being responsible for between 35% and 68% of all tropical forest loss.

Rates of forest loss and oil-palm developments are particularly marked on Borneo. Forest losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016, while by 2016 the area of industrial oil palm plantations reached 8.3 million hectares (Mha) — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 Mha. From 2005 to 2015, the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent (2.1 Mha) of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area loss (4.2 Mha).

Tools like the Borneo Atlas, and its new feature to assess the impact of mills, aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of industrial agriculture on forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss in their supply chains down to zero.

Read more: For a better Borneo, new map reveals how much terrain has changed

By David Gaveau and Mohammad Agus Salim, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at [email protected] or Mohammad A. Salim at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

New map helps track palm-oil supply chains in Borneo

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A woman begin to harvest oil palm fruit in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

The updated Borneo Atlas offers new data to measure the impact of mills and plantations on forests.

In 2013, a number of major palm-oil buyers, traders and producers promised to stop clearing natural forests. The global multi-billion-dollar business of palm oil is among the world’s most controversial agro-industries. It has been implicated in numerous cases where species- and carbon-rich forests have been cleared, yet it also contributes to the elimination of poverty in producer countries.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s top two producers of palm oil. Their area of industrial plantations more than quadrupled in extent from 1990 to 2015. Over the same period, regional rates of forest loss rose to among the world’s highest. Forest clearance is driven by a number of factors — establishing plantations is one factor. The development of mills and associated infrastructure to extract and transport palm oil also impacts forests.

The latest version of the Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo, or what we call the Borneo Atlas, part of the work of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) launched this week allows users to verify the location and ownership of 467 palm-oil mills in Borneo, the island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. It includes a new tool called Analyze Land Use near Mills to provide verified information on the location of palm-oil mills, and the deforested area within a 10-kilometer radius, as detected annually by satellites.

The new tool can be used together with an earlier tool called Analyze Land Use in Concessions, to track the footprint of palm-oil growers on forests. It links the company-driven forest loss (i.e. the forest area converted each year to industrial plantations) detected annually using satellites with publicly available concession maps. Combined, these two tools are useful for the increasing number of palm-oil buyers, traders and government officials who have begun tracing supply chains to mills and plantations. Buyers are currently focusing their attention on traceability to mills, because the location of a mill is a good indicator of the approximate location of its supplier.

Understanding where mills and plantations are is also useful to better understand the overall impact of industrial palm-oil developments on tropical rainforests.

Try it: Atlas of Deforestation and Industrial Plantations in Borneo

ADDED FEATURES

Via the interactive map, users can zoom in on a 10-kilometer radius of each mill — the distance fresh palm fruit can travel without spoiling. The actual distance that fruit has travelled to reach the mill in fact vary depending on commercial agreements, road networks and terrain, and does not fall into a perfect disc around the mill.

However, this simplified added feature does offer a more complete view of the impacts of industry on forests. Users can rank concessions and mills by recent clearing, and access statistics on forest health and land use. They can visualize poorest and best performing mills and concessions by company, soil type (peat and non-peat), by remaining forest area, and by type of certification.

The idea is to offer the opportunity to investigate to what extent plantation companies have cleared forests in Borneo, and to what extent they have avoided forest loss by planting on non-forested lands. Understanding where companies practice sustainable planting is key to engaging and promoting positive actions by companies.

We developed this dataset by reviewing online documentation on company dashboards, NGO websites, certification agencies (RSPO and ISPO), mapping websites and social media. The source documents for these data are linked in the results of each search so they can be consulted by users. A link to the mills’ location on high-resolution imagery from Google Maps and ArcGIS World Imagery is also provided for each search, to prove that the mill exists.

Future developments will include linking mills to supplier plantations, to ports and refineries, and incorporating time-lapses to reveal how industrial oil palm has expanded.

Read more: What a difference 4 decades make: Deforestation in Borneo since 1973

Individual oil palm fruits are seen in Kalimantan. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

AN INDUSTRIAL-SCALE ISSUE

Palm oil is produced by industrial means. It is in everything from cosmetics to processed food, and biofuels to drive cars. It requires extensive infrastructure, including processing mills and refineries. Ultimately, huge tankers ship the oil to every corner of the globe.

Oil palm isn’t the only industrial crop. Today, most of the world’s food production and supply is done by industrial means. Industrial agriculture is a system of chemically intensive food production, featuring gigantic single-crop farms and production facilities, controlled by large conglomerates.

Intensive monoculture depletes soil and leaves it vulnerable to erosion. Herbicides and insecticides harm wildlife and people. Biodiversity in and near monoculture fields takes a hit, as populations of birds and beneficial insects decline. In fact, the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years in the European countryside because of industrial agriculture, according to a new study.

In the humid tropics, industrial production of palm oil, soy, pulpwood and beef depletes biodiversity by being responsible for between 35% and 68% of all tropical forest loss.

Rates of forest loss and oil-palm developments are particularly marked on Borneo. Forest losses averaged 350,000 hectares annually from 2001 to 2016, while by 2016 the area of industrial oil palm plantations reached 8.3 million hectares (Mha) — about half of the estimated global planted area of 18 Mha. From 2005 to 2015, the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations was responsible for 50 percent (2.1 Mha) of all of Borneo’s old-growth forest area loss (4.2 Mha).

Tools like the Borneo Atlas, and its new feature to assess the impact of mills, aim to equip governments, NGOS and companies with the capacity to see the full impact of industrial agriculture on forests, and to act accordingly to bring the rate of forest loss in their supply chains down to zero.

Read more: For a better Borneo, new map reveals how much terrain has changed

By David Gaveau and Mohammad Agus Salim, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News


For more information on this topic, please contact David Gaveau at [email protected] or Mohammad A. Salim at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Peat fires and toxic haze: The power of perception

Peat fires and toxic haze: The power of perception

Smoke in Central Kalimantan affects traffic. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

CIFOR scientists and research partners observe an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) flying over burning peat outside Palangkaraya, Indonesia. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

With something as evident as fire, it would be easy to assume that what you see is what you get.

However, according to a new study, perceptions of peatland fires in Indonesia vary considerably among different actors, offering an explanation of behavior, action and environmental outcomes on the ground.

The study led by Rachel Carmenta, then at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in collaboration with the universities of Lancaster, Cambridge and Florida, used a novel approach to map out the perceptions of different stakeholders, from international policymakers to local farmers and absentee landlords, all of whom have a role to play in the use, management and future of peatlands.

Using Q methodology — more commonly used in psychology to identify stakeholder subjectivity on a particular issue of interest — the research team was able to gain insights into how various groups perceive the benefits and the burdens of peat fires and the resulting toxic smoke, or ‘haze’, as well as how they perceive the effectiveness of potential solutions.

“We were keen to understand more about how the peat fire situation is perceived by the diverse groups of stakeholders involved, because perceptions can tell us something about why we observe what we do in their current management, and indicate pathways to a more sustainable future,” Carmenta says.

Read more: Fire and haze in Indonesia: What’s being done on the ground to prevent future disasters?

BENEFITS AND BURDENS

An initial result of the work was that rather than the often simplistic framing of two main actors groups — smallholders and agro-industrial players — driving the fires, in fact, a suite of actors are involved, and their motivations for fire use extend beyond cheap land clearing.

“We focused our efforts on Riau because it is a contemporary peatland frontier, with lots of new actors, from international business interests, to town-based investors, to small-scale farmers migrating from other parts of Sumatra, radically transforming the landscape in a process that directly or indirectly  involves fire,” Carmenta explains.

Smoke in Central Kalimantan affects traffic. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

“Some of the leading environmental challenges today are complex problems that cross sectors and scales — the peatlands are one example — and fire makes it very visible,” she adds. “In these carbon-dense peatland frontiers, multiple interests come into play on a resource and accrue burdens and benefits that are experienced differently by particular actors at different scales.”

Twelve distinct stakeholder groups were identified via field-scoping in Dumai, Riau, over six weeks in early 2015, along with expert consultation and a literature review. Many of the stakeholder groups were found to maintain particular perceptions about peatland fires.

“The extent of peatland transformation is rapid, and radical land-use change has taken place in Riau over a relatively short period of time,” Carmenta says.

“Of course, for some this change is positive, in part because of the immediate revenue that has been generated, while others may lament the drastic change, for example, because of the associated ecosystem service degradation and public health impacts, much of which has not been quantified.”

“Understanding better the full costs of the fires, across sectors such as health, education and environment would enable an improved understanding of the real returns from crops such as oil palm and acacia and could inform future planning and management,” she adds.

Fire is pervasive in Riau both from intentional use and conditions that enable fire to spread accidentally. For example, reasons for intentional burning can include land preparation, or disputes over land and resources. Indirect drivers of fire include peatland drainage, necessary for many of the plantation crops grown on peat, which results in increasingly flammable conditions.

“Accidental fire [that is, fires spreading beyond intended limits] is influenced by the drained condition of the peat, which itself is a fuel for fire spread, and contested tenure, which means incentives for fire management are not ideal,” Carmenta says.

Read more: Fighting fires with academic narrative

CONFLICTING VIEWS, COMMON INTERESTS

The research shows significant distinctions among groups of perceptions, clear areas of agreement and controversy, and discusses the implications for future fire management intervention (FMI) design and the governance challenges of global environmental change.

An expanse of burned peat in Central Kalimantan. Photo by A. Erlangga/CIFOR

The researchers were able to identify which of the many possible benefits and burdens ranked the highest in importance among the different groups. The results show that the public health and biodiversity impacts of fires are areas of concern that unite otherwise diverse groups.

“The high priority given to the health impacts was expected, because the situation was so severe in 2015. However, we were surprised that both greenhouse gas and biodiversity burdens also rated overall as key concerns held by a diverse group of stakeholders,” Carmenta says.

When it came to identifying what these different groups thought about solutions to the peat fires, the research group analyzed the responses of participants to a set of contemporary FMIs, including leading policies designed in response to the 2015 fires. Results showed that the FMIs ranked overall as the most effective , but were also those that  generated the greatest controversy between groups.

“We show that most of the solution options perceived as most effective are also those which generate the most disagreement among stakeholders,” Carmenta says.

These interventions include increasing use of shallow canals to ensure access to water, provide fire breaks, and maintain higher water tables; forbidding new agricultural expansion  on peatland; and increasing enforcement measures against companies that have fire within their land.

“These are some of the very interventions that are front and center today. This result attests to the challenges ahead for policymakers and implementers, and raises questions over how to reconcile such competing interests and what policy instruments will do this most effectively,” Carmenta says.

The study suggests that a mix of targeted policy measures and dialogue between diverse groups will be essential in designing and implementing a sound, high-performing, FMI approach to overcome the existing policy-practice gap. This is one of the leading challenges to peatland fire management and, arguably, to the governance of many other manifestations of global environmental change.

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Rachel Carmenta at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by the KNOWFOR program from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).

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  • Tree Growth Rings in Tropical Peat Swamp Forests of Kalimantan, Indonesia

Tree Growth Rings in Tropical Peat Swamp Forests of Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Tree growth rings are signs of the seasonality of tree growth and indicate how tree productivity relates to environmental factors. We studied the periodicity of tree growth ring formation in seasonally inundated peatlands of Central Kalimantan (southern Borneo), Indonesia. We collected samples from 47 individuals encompassing 27 tree species. About 40% of these species form distinct growth zones, 30% form indistinct ones, and the others were classified as in between.

Radiocarbon age datings of single distinct growth zones (or “rings”) of two species showing very distinct rings, Horsfieldia crassifolia and Diospyros evena, confirm annual growth periodicity for the former; the latter forms rings in intervals of more than one year. The differences can be explained with species-specific sensitivity to the variable intensity of dry periods. The anatomical feature behind annual rings in Horsfieldia is the formation of marginal parenchyma bands. Tree ring curves of other investigated species with the same anatomical feature from the site show a good congruence with the curves from H. crassifolia. They can therefore be used as indicator species for growth rate estimations in environments with weak seasonality. The investigated peatland species show low annual growth increments compared to other tropical forests.

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  • People and peat: Making a living on protected land

People and peat: Making a living on protected land

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Indonesia – Deep in the forests of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, the murmur of a paddle sliding through water joins the mesh of bird song. Lined on all sides by clouds of vegetation, Adam is maneuvering his wooden canoe through the peat-soaked river. Light begins to sift through the leaves. The day’s fishing has begun.

Adam catches up to 10 kilograms of sheatfish, kissing gourami and giant mudfish a day, making roughly 50,000 Indonesian rupiah (US$4). His family has lived in Parupuk village for decades. As fishermen, they exist in close relation with the peat and the waters that flood it.

“If there were no lakes like this, we’d be in trouble. We wouldn’t be able to eat,” he says.

The practice of draining, clearing and burning peatlands in this part of Indonesia – to clear space for agricultural plantations like palm oil and pulp wood – is putting Adam’s livelihood in jeopardy. As peat is extinguished, so is the water that naturally sustains it, along with its aquatic inhabitants.

“That peatland over there already has no water,” says Adam, pointing his finger across the horizon.

The sky takes on a yellowish hue due to the thick smoke of peatland fires in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, in October 2015. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR

Tough tactics

So-called slash and burn techniques – designed to clear land, eradicate pests, and fertilize ground with ash – have often spread into vast forest fires in Indonesia. They can smoulder for weeks on peatlands, which are highly flammable once dried and degraded.

The smoke and flames lead to devastating consequences for human health, endangered animals and plants, as well as the environment. The fires in September and October of 2015 in Indonesia alone released higher levels of carbon per day than the daily average emitted by the entire European Union over the same period.

In response, the Indonesian government introduced a series of measures designed to stop the fires. Slash and burn is now illegal, and a ban on converting peatlands to agricultural plantations has been expanded and solidified in law.

The government has also ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change, committing Indonesia to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 29 percent by 2030, and they have launched the national Peatland Restoration Agency with the aim of restoring 2.4 million hectares of peatland in seven provinces.

A difficult balancing act 

However, while many hail these restrictions (which, if enforced, should help boost the day-to-day living of fishermen like Adam), the consequences for small-scale farmers could be very different.

Authorities are facing a potential Catch-22. Could policy measures designed to protect the environment have unintended adverse effects on the local people’s livelihoods?

Farmer Alin works in a paddy field in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Alin has been successfully farming rice in Kampung Melayu village in Kalimantan for more than five years. Each year, he has cleared his paddy with fire, allowing the ashes to enrich the land for the next planting season.

But in 2017, everything changed.

“The harvest failed for the first time because I am no longer allowed to burn my land,” he says.

Alin is afraid of the long-term consequences for his family. “If it carries on like this, we’ll struggle because pests won’t be killed – like rats, rice bugs, birds, ants, caterpillars. All of them can cause harvest failure.”

And it is not just the failed harvest that is contributing to Alin’s financial worries.

“Before, when we would burn, we could just scatter the seeds and we could get rice,” he says. “Now, it’s not possible. Now, we have to pay to replant, pay to clear the grasses as well because grasses live if they’re not burned. For one hectare, it can cost 4-5 million rupiah [USD $300- $400].”


Read also: FTA seeks to influence debate at upcoming GLF on peatlands


Working together 

The Indonesian government, research and civil society organizations are now taking steps to mitigate the effects of fire restrictions on individuals’ lives.

“Solutions are complex because they need to address several dimensions,” says Peter Holmgren, Director-General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“They need to address people’s livelihoods and they need to address how the climate is disrupted by emissions from peatlands. The solutions also need to take into account the need for biodiversity conservation.”

Across Indonesia, a variety of schemes are in place- from bringing in local laws that can help allocate budget to assist communities, to agroforestry, where trees or shrubs are grown in agricultural land.

The Indonesian government has also introduced measures to protect local livelihoods, with plans for social forestry across 12.7 million hectares of land and reforms that will provide 9 million hectares of land to communities.

Father of three Ayus taps a rubber tree in in Central Kalimantan. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Sustainable alternatives 

In Central Kalimantan, the organization Rimba Makmur Utama is running a forest regeneration project, working with farmers on a variety of tactics, including diversifying the crops they grow. They operate hand-in-hand with local people to address the concerns and priorities they identify, rather than forcing solutions.

“Communities in peatland in Indonesia are currently in a very challenging situation,” says Dharsono Hartono, CEO of Rimba Makmur Utama. “There’s no quick fix.”

One key problem raised by the local community is the need for affordable alternatives to slash and burn farming, in order to manage and fertilize their soil. Now, the organization and smallholders are introducing what are called ‘cover crops’, like local beans, which are planted after harvest. These crops feed nutrients into the soil and protect it from bacteria and infection, so that the land is ready for planting season, without the need for burning.

“Once you have increased soil productivity through proper soil management, you can plant a lot of crops,” says Hartono.

Researchers emphasize that this practice of involving the community, and working together to consider and address their needs, is vital to successfully managing peatlands and reconciling diverging interests.

On 18 May, community leaders joined environmentalists, government officials, academics and policymakers at the Global Landscapes Forum: Peatlands Matter thematic event in Jakarta, Indonesia, to move forward the discussion.

“We need to bring different sectors and different perspectives into the solutions,” said Holmgren.

By Rose Foley, originally published at CIFOR’s Forest News.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Incorporating Bioenergy Production and Landscape Restoration: Lessons from Central Kalimantan

Incorporating Bioenergy Production and Landscape Restoration: Lessons from Central Kalimantan

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