[ARTICLE] An impact analysis of RSPO certification on Borneo forest cover and orangutan populations

[ARTICLE] An impact analysis of RSPO certification on Borneo forest cover and orangutan populations

This report compares deforestation rates between RSPO and non-RSPO oil-palm estates within 2,771 palm-oil estates across the island of Borneo, and the implications of this for orangutan conservation. Out of these 2,717 estates, 20% were inactive in 2016 (i.e., no palm had been planted within the boundaries of the estates and concessions; 8.1% were RSPO members. In 2015, more than 13.3 million ha had been allocated to the mapped oil-palm estates and concessions across the island (or 17.1% of the total land mass), but only 36.2% of the mapped concessions and estates had been planted with oil-palm (4.8 million ha). 2.8 million ha (or 21.2% of the total) was still forest in 2015. We note that at this stage in the study, a significant number of estates in Sabah have not yet been reliably mapped and that the total area allocated to oil-palm is higher than the 13.3 million ha mentioned in this study. Our results show that:  Total loss of intact and logged forest between 2000 and 2015 in RSPO-certified concessions and estates (815,592 ha) was 73,559 ha (i.e., 9.0% of total concession area).  Total loss of intact and logged forest between 2000 and 2015 in concessions and estates that were active and non-RSPO-certified in 2016 was 1,748,123 ha of forest loss (in 10,152,756 ha of concessions and estates, i.e., 17.2% of total concessions and estates area).  Annual forest loss rates in RSPO-certified areas have consistently declined after 2005 (the RSPO cutoff date for deforestation avoidance), from 13,417 ha per year between November 2005 and November 2007 to 1,839 ha per year after May 2014, whereas those in non-RSPO areas have stayed consistently higher.  Overall average planted area for active non-RSPO concessions and estates (41%) is much lower than that for RSPO-certified areas (82%), probably indicating better and more efficient land management and also potentially better resolution of land conflicts.  Active RSPO-certified concessions and estates retain less forest on average (4.5% in 2015) than active non-RSPO areas (10.9% in 2015), but forest loss rates between 2000 and 2015 are much higher in non-RSPO areas. Our analysis also reveals that there is still extensive overlap between oil-palm concessions and estates and orangutan habitats, especially in West and Central Kalimantan, to a lesser extent in East Kalimantan, 2 few in Sabah and apparently none in Sarawak. In 2014, we estimate that 275 orangutans were occurring in 32 RSPO-certified estates, while 9,300 individuals were found in non-RSPO estates. Between 1999 and 2014, orangutan populations in areas that are now RSPO-certified declined by 34% from 419 to 275, or about 2.2% population loss per year. In the same period, orangutan populations in non-certified concessions and estates declined by 31.0% from 13,480 to 9,302, or about 2.1% population loss per year: This suggests that the absolute loss of orangutans is significantly lower in RSPO areas on Borneo than in non-RSPO-certified areas, but that relative loss rates are about the same. Nevertheless, RSPO-certified concessions and estates are not yet meeting the target stipulated in P&C 5.2 as orangutan populations continue to decline in certified plantation areas and improvements need to be made in this regard.

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[LINK] Reversing “Empty Forest Syndrome” in Southeast Asia

[LINK] Reversing “Empty Forest Syndrome” in Southeast Asia

Member of patrol team with wire snares collected in saola habitat in central Laos at Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area. (Photo by William Robichaud)

The diverse tropical forests of Southeast Asia are home to some of the most mysterious and beautiful wildlife species in the world, some of which have only been discovered in the last few decades. Home to species such as the antelope-like Saola (the Asian “unicorn”), which was only discovered in 1992 and that no biologist has seen in the wild, capturing the imagination of scientists, reporters and the public alike. Home to an extensive community of animals small and large, from civets to muntjacs, striped rabbits to Doucs, porcupines to pigs, tortoises to wild cattle.

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[LINK] An environmental balancing act

[LINK] An environmental balancing act

Awareness in the importance of the landscape approach is growing. Photo: Kate Evans / CIFOR

As we embark on a new year in 2017, what critical social and environmental issues are we facing?

For one, some 800 million people still go to bed hungry every night – mostly in developing countries. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. When it comes to global poverty, nearly 900 million people survive on less than $1.90 USD per day. What’s more, our natural habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate due mainly to agricultural expansion in what has been termed the ‘sixth mass extinction’.

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