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Borneo Oil Palm Plantations Threaten Surge in Emissions, Study Says

A new study warns that the continued expansion of large-scale oil palm plantations in Indonesian Borneo, particularly on the island’s peatlands, will became a leading source of greenhouse gas emissions without stricter forest protections.

According to researchers from Yale and Stanford universities, about two-thirds of unprotected lands in the Ketapang District of West Kalimantan are now leased to agribusinesses. If those lands are converted to oil palm plantations at current expansion rates, palm stands will cover more than one-third of regional lands by 2020, and intact forests will decrease to about 5 percent, compared with 15 percent in 2008.

In addition, researchers found that about half of oil palm development through last year occurred on peatlands, a process that involves draining and burning of peat soils — a major source of CO2 emissions.

According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if current trends persist, about 90 percent of emissions associated with oil palm development will come from peatlands by 2020.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.