Published on: November 10, 2022
With nature declining at an alarming rate and species extinctions accelerating it is crucial we adopt approaches that protect species diversity in palm growing regions. In farming, wildlife-friendly means using methods that sustain wildlife habitats in and around agricultural land, while also benefitting the farm and plantation.
With agriculture becoming increasingly intensive, little room has been left for the natural habitats that sustain biodiversity. Converting land into agricultural production has come at significant cost to natural ecosystems and wildlife.
To date the industry has taken a patchy approach when it comes to conservation, with differently sized areas of forest set aside on plantations. Though small patches of habitat within farmlands can provide important places for wildlife to breed, move through the landscape, and find shelter from predators, the conservation areas set aside are often too small to allow forests to perform key ecological functions and support biodiversity.
Minimum area size
Research conducted by University of Oxford ecologist Dr. Jennifer Lucey has demonstrated that, to effectively support biodiversity, a minimum size of conservation area needs to be set aside on plantations. A biodiversity-supportive approach demands that each tract of land must have a core area of at least 200 hectares of rainforest to be able to support significant numbers of species and support forest regeneration. In the research it was found that smaller patches do not support significantly more species than the oil palm plantation itself.
Dr. Lucey’s research has been used in the development of the High Carbon Stock approach, an integrated conservation land use planning tool to distinguish forest areas for conservation from degraded lands that may be developed. Another methodology to identify, manage and monitor important environmental (and social) values is the High Conservation Value approach. Applying these methodologies in the tropics will protect larger areas of fragmented and degraded forests from being cut down to make way for plantations.
The significance of species diversity, as well as the impact of certain agricultural practices on wildlife, is not always considered or understood by producers. That is why it is crucial to continuously raise awareness of the importance of species protection at all stakeholder levels. An integral part of certification standards, like the the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), is training farmers, workers, and communities about the importance of wildlife protection.
Natural solutions offer simple and practical ways to protect wildlife. For instance multi cropping. Crop diversity attracts diverse groups of insects and animals, which, in turn, attract other animals. Different species find refuge in different kinds of tree and plant cover.
Using waste material from pruning and milling, e.g. empty fruit bunches, not only offers natural fertilizer that supports healthy soil, it also creates shelter for animals, and provides nesting and foraging habitat for key crop pollinators. Planting buffer zones and reforesting fragile areas with indigenous trees creates a similar positive side-effect. The diversity and abundance of native bird species is greater with even small, linear, natural hedgerows along farm field edges.
Source wildlife friendly
Do you know what the palm cultivation areas in your supply chain look like, and if these production landscapes contain conservation areas large enough to support wildlife?
Wildlife friendly palm oil production is possible. When we maintain a patchwork landscape, with a mix of agricultural land, forests, riparian zones and water bodies, we can help wildlife to co-exist with farmers and their communities, and satisfying the needs of all stakeholders in our supply chains.
To read more about what we do to ensure wildlife friendly palm production, please use this link to open our Impact Report.
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