Spatial patterns and drivers of smallholder oil palm expansion within peat swamp forests of Riau, Indonesia
Tropical peat swamps are a major carbon sink, and therefore critical for meeting global climate goals. There is also rapid loss of these ecosystem types due to agriculture practices and drainage. Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is often planted in drained peat swamps for production. Policies in Indonesia drive smallholder oil palm farms into peatlands and prevent their access to industrial fields.
Goals and Methods
The authors aim to understand the spatial distribution and drivers of smallholder oil palm plantation expansions into peat swamps. In order to determine strategies for reducing deforestation of remaining peat swamps, the authors develop a spatial model using remote sensing to identify which regional features are driving smallholder expansion into the swamps. Including land cover, travel routes, and industrial or smallholder palm usage as well as a variety of climatic conditions, the authors reveal the importance of travel routes and weather to smallholders.
Conclusions and Takeaways
The authors determine that travel distance is a main driver of smallholder establishment on a landscape. In other terms, peat swamps that are closer to mills are more likely to be deforested and converted to oil palm plantations. Smallholder palm plantations are often further from mills than industrial plantations, driving smallholders to look for closer peat swamps for production. The authors conclude that improved design and placement of mills as well as improved policies surrounding access to land and protection of existing forests need to be in place.
Spatial patterns and drivers of smallholder oil palm expansion within peat swamp forests of Riau, Indonesia. Environmental Research Letters. 2022;17(4):044015. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ac4dc6.