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  • Oil palm-community conflict mapping in Indonesia: A case for better community liaison in planning for development initiatives

Oil palm-community conflict mapping in Indonesia: A case for better community liaison in planning for development initiatives

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Authors: Abram, N.K.; Meijaard, E.; Wilson, K.A.; Davis, J.T.; Wells, J.A.; Ancrenaz, M.; Budiharta, S.;Durrant, A.; Fakhruzzi, A.; Runting, R.K.; Gaveau, D.L.A.; Mengersen, K.

Conflict between large-scale oil-palm producers and local communities is widespread in palm-oil producer nations. With a potential doubling of oil-palm cultivation in Indonesia in the next ten years it is likely that conflicts between the palm-oil industry and communities will increase. We develop and apply a novel method for understanding spatial patterns of oil-palm related conflicts. We use a unique set of conflict data derived through systematic searches of online data sources and local newspaper reports describing recent oil-palm land-use related conflicts for Indonesian Borneo, and combine these data with 43 spatial environmental and social variables using boosted regression tree modelling. Reports identified 187 villages had reported conflict with oil-palm companies. Spatial patterns varied with different types of conflict. Forest-dependent communities were more likely to strongly oppose oil-palm establishment because of their negative perception of oil-palm development on the environment and their own livelihoods. Conflicts regarding land boundary disputes, illegal operations by companies, perceived lack of consultation, compensation and broken promises by companies were more associated with communities that have lower reliance on forests for livelihoods, or are located in regions that have undergone or are undergoing forest transformation to oil-palm or industrial-tree-plantations. A better understanding of the characteristics of communities and areas where different types of conflicts have occurred is a fundamental step in generating hypotheses about why certain types of conflict occur in certain locations. Insights from such research can help inform land use policy, planning and management to achieve more sustainable and equitable development. Our results can also assist certification bodies (e.g. the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil-RSPO, and the Indonesian and Malaysian versions, ISPO and MSPO), non-government-organisations, government agencies and other stakeholders to more effectively target mediation efforts to reduce the potential for conflict arising in the future.

Publication Year: 2017

ISSN: 0143-6228

Source: Applied Geography 78: 33-44

DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2016.10.005

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  • A new method for tracking Ebola could help prevent outbreaks

A new method for tracking Ebola could help prevent outbreaks

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID
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By Catriona Cuft-Cosworth, originally published at Forests News

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID
Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles (red) in extracellular space between infected African green monkey kidney cells. Photo: NIAID

The ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed more than 11,000 lives since March 2014. Yet we still know very little about the conditions in which the virus thrives and how it spreads to humans.

Some answers may be found in a groundbreaking new study that borrows techniques from biology and geography to map out hotspots where the virus may be lurking.

A research team led by scientists John Fa and Robert Nasi from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) together with Jesús Olivero and colleagues from the University of Málaga, including US virologist Jean Paul Gonzalez and Zoological Society of London wildlife epidemiologist Andrew Cunningham, took a biogeographical approach to mapping favorable conditions for the Ebola virus, both in terms of environment and the presence of animals as potential hosts.

The resulting map from the study suggests that favorable conditions for Ebola are more widespread than suspected, stretching across 17 countries throughout West and Central Africa, and as far as the East African Lakes Region.
Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs of Ebola virus. Photo: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR
Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs of Ebola virus. Photo: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR

It also finds a strong link between Ebola and tropical rainforests, and suggests a list of more than 60 wild animals that require further investigation as potential carriers of the disease.

The findings could help save lives. “This information is essential for the development of early warning systems aiming to optimize the efficacy of prevention measures,” said Olivero.

TRACKING A VIRUS

Olivero and his team are among the world’s leading researchers in the area of “biogeography”, or the science of mapping biological patterns across time and space.

Biogeographic mapping allows scientists to not only analyze the distribution of an organism, but also to predict where that organism may be found based on the existence of favorable environmental conditions.

As a virus, Ebola is in fact an organism. Recognizing this, Olivero and colleagues took biogeographic mapping techniques that are normally used for animals, and applied them to the case of a virus.

Geographical information system (GIS) software was used to map the distribution of favorable environments for Ebola to occur in, as well as the spread of mammals known to have died from, or been infected by, the virus.

“Our findings provide new information about how the Ebola virus is distributed in the wild, before it is transmitted from humans to humans,” said Olivero.

Preconceptions that only bats are to blame for carrying the virus were disregarded, with analysis extended to 64 species including rodents, primates, hoofed animals, a civet and a shrew as potential reservoirs ofEbola virus.

The resulting map found a wider than expected spread of Ebola both among mammal populations and across the African continent.

THE HUMAN CONNECTION
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Click to read the study

So what do the findings mean for humans? This is where the work of CIFOR scientists John Fa and Robert Nasi comes in. Fa and Nasi are experts on bushmeat, or wild animals harvested for food and non-food purposes.

One of the major causes of transmission for Ebola is the hunting, butchering and consumption of wild animals. But putting a blanket ban on bushmeat is not a viable measure – and neither is hunting all species suspected as carriers.

“We don’t want people to be alarmed that there are so many different species, and start killing as many as possible,” said Fa.

“We have to have very clear and realistic ways of trying to stop the transmission from infected animals to people without necessarily stopping people from doing what they’ve done, which is essentially hunting for food.”

Fa said that working with at-risk hunters and communities will be critical for stopping the spillover of infection from animals to humans.

Further research into the communities of animals identified in the study, and how their habitats are affected by human activities such as deforestation and urbanization, is also needed.

In the meantime, it’s hoped that the new method of mapping will help identify hotspots for Ebola and prevent contagion.

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  • Mammalian biogeography and the Ebola virus in Africa

Mammalian biogeography and the Ebola virus in Africa

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Authors: Olivero, J.; Fa, J.E.; Real, R.; Farfán, M.A.; Márquez, A.L.; Vargas, J.M.; Paul Gonzales, J.; Cunningham, A.A.; Nasi, R.

  1. Ebola virus is responsible for the fatal Ebola virus disease (EVD).
  2. Identifying the distribution area of the Ebola virus is crucial for understanding the risk factors conditioning the emergence of new EVD cases. Existing distribution models have underrepresented the potential contribution that reservoir species and vulnerable species make in sustaining the presence of the virus.
  3. In this paper, we map favourable areas for Ebola virus in Africa according to environmental and zoogeographical descriptors, independent of human-to-human transmissions. We combine two different biogeographical approaches: analysis of mammalian distribution types (chorotypes), and distribution modelling of the Ebola virus.
  4. We first obtain a model defining the distribution of environmentally favourable areas for the presence of Ebola virus. Based on a review of mammal taxa affected by or suspected of exposure to the Ebola virus, we model favourable areas again, this time according to mammalian chorotypes. We then build a combined model in which both the environment and mammalian distributions explain the favourable areas for Ebola virus in the wild.
  5. We demonstrate that mammalian biogeography contributes to explaining the distribution of Ebola virus in Africa, although vegetation may also underscore clear limits to the presence of the virus. Our model suggests that the Ebola virus may be even more widespread than previously suspected, given that additional favourable areas are found throughout the coastal areas of West and Central Africa, stretching from Cameroon to Guinea, and extend further East into the East African Lakes region.
  6. Our findings show that the most favourable area for the Ebola virus is significantly associated with the presence of the virus in non-human mammals. Core areas are surrounded by regions of intermediate favourability, in which human infections of unknown source were found. The difference in association between humans and other mammals and the virus may offer further insights on how EVD can spread.

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