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Image courtesy of Minerva Singh and Shonil Bhagwat (2013). Tropical Agricultural Production, Conservation and Carbon Sequesteration Conflicts: Oil Palm Expansion in South East Asia, Biofuels – Economy, Environment and Sustainability, Prof. Zhen Fang (Ed.), InTech, DOI: 10.5772/52420. Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/biofuels-economy-environment-and-sustainability/tropical-agricultural-production-conservation-and-carbon-sequesteration-conflicts-oil-palm-expansion

The common perception is that huge palm oil plantations are replacing vast swathes of forest in Indonesia and Malaysia. As the graph above shows the forests are certainly being lost in staggering numbers, but the graph also shows that these forests are not being replaced by an equivalent growth in palm oil plantations.

I’m interested in why that is, and would welcome reader suggestions as I research the issue. I should also note that I recognise the data is approaching ten years old, so I’m open to the unlikely possibility that I should be speaking of the discrepancy between the figures in the past tense.

Update – One suggestion I’ve received from a clever Indonesian is that this gap is being filled by pulp and paper production. That makes intuitive sense, but if the graph below (sourced here) is accurate and captures the full product range (and significant amounts of pulp and paper are not consumed domestically) then the growth in that industry sector is (or was) still insufficient to explain the discrepancy.


Update II –  This may be it. According to the group Forest Trends and their report here (and I quote) “…(over) 30 percent of wood used by Indonesia’s industrial forest sector stems from the unreported clear-cutting of natural forests and other illegal sources instead of legal tree plantations and well-managed logging concessions”.

The original question may therefore be answered in part in the graph below (from that same source), indicating the extent of industrial logging concessions in green…

figure1…but also suggests that pulp and paper may play a bigger role than indicated in the earlier update.


Unfortunately simply looking at the graphs is insufficient here. I will need to work out the actual numbers to be sure what they are saying and identify any inconsistencies, and sadly that will have be a task for another day.