Ecological Assessment

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by JoeyHehe
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Ecological Assessment

What will the future bring?Despite the continual and rapid declination of tropical rainforests for the use of palm oil plantations, it will only be a matter of time before nations like Malaysia and Indonesia will start to seek for sustainable resources. With the rate it's going, large corporations and companies will soon realise the shortage of tropical rainforests and peatlands and will have to resort to finding more eco-friendly and sustainable ways in collecting palm oil.Can the damaging trends still be reversed?With enough awareness and action, the damage done to tropical rainforests and peatlands can be reversed. Though many governments are oblivious to the destruction of the rapid palm oil production, there are fortunately many organisations (e.g. RSPO, Greenpeace and Rainforest Alliance), companies and projects in which try to halt the production and instead research innovative ways that palm oil can be harvested.Are we doing enough?At this stage, no. Despite many organisations stated above that attempt to reduce the negative impact that mass palm oil production is having, they are beyond outscaled in power compared to the major companies and supporting governments. However, if organisations raise enough awareness and protests of the devastating impact of palm oil production (particularly to the government), then we could turn the palm oil crisis around.

DefinitionPalm oil is a type of oil that is derived from the fruit or seed of an oil palm tree. They're found in products in which we use on a daily basis, such as margarine, bread, ice cream, candle, shampoos etc. Palm oil is grown in the tropical rainforests and peatlands of South East Asia, particularly in the regions of Malaysia and Indonesia.Increasing DemandsThe demands for palm oil are continually esculating, due to the needs for it in cosmetics and foods, but more importantly in biofuels (e.g. petroleum and diesel). Various governments are increasing the amount of palm oil sold, as the resource is considered as a 'quick way' to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the deforestation for palm oil plantations is actually doing more harm to the global footprint than it is doing good, as burning peatlands and clearing rainforests emit even more carbon into the atomsphere than burning fossil fuels.

Tropical rainforests in Malaysia

A tropical rainforest is a type of biome that consists of dense, lucious vegetation that consists an abundance of animal life. It is located in a humid and warm climate which generally lasts all year round. Many tropical rainforests also have wet and dry seasons.Unfortunately, tropical rainforests are disappearing rapidly, due to deforestation to accumulate the ever so growing demands for human lifestyle. They once covered 14% of the Earth's surface but, unfortunately, now are only covering a mere 6%. Scientists estimate that the Earth's rainforests will be completely eradicated in less than 40 years. Also, more than 137 species of plants, animals and other organisms are becoming extinct everyday, calculating up to 50,000 extinct species every year.


The distribution of tropical rainforests in the world

Social ImpactClearing tropical rainforests for the use of palm oil plantations have resulted in numerous social consequences between local communities and palm oil companies. Some consequences could include: land grabs; social confict; loss of livelihood and forced migration. Palm oil is crucial to the econonmies to Malaysia andreducing the rate of palm oil production is much harder than expected, as they are still considered a developing nation. Moreover, plantation workers also face several health risks, such as excessive exposure to pesticides and chemical contamination in drinking water, as drastic quantities of palm oil effluents created by factories pollute waterways.

Environmental ImpactIn order to obtain palm oil quickly to meet the human demands, many companies deforest tropical rainforests and peatlands for palm oil plantations, and 55-60% of palm oil plantations are sacrificed by virgin forests. Deforestation has decreased the regular flow of fresh, clean water as well as reduced protection of flood and drought in Malaysia. Furthermore, palm oil plantations have reduced the biodiversity in the ecosystem. Malaysia's primary forests consist of 80 different mammal species, while oil palm plantations have reduced to 11-12 different species. Similar situations have been observed in insects, reptiles, birds and other microorganisms.

Orangutan ImpactOil palm plantations in Malaysia have heavily impacted Borneo orangutan population, resulting them to be endangered (population of 49,000- 65,000). Conflict with humans have caused competition for resources, with the orangutans receiving the shorter end of the scale. Also, protected areas for orangutans have even been surpassed by palm oil companies, their plantations intruding the reserves. These combining factors have contributed in a decrease more than 50% in Borneo Orangutan population in the last 60 years, with their habitat being reduced by 55% in the period of only 20 years. P.p pygmaeus is the most endangered subspecies of the Borneo orangutan.

Effects of Palm Oil Production

Palm Oil

ConservationDespite the continual deforestation of rainforests and peatlands for palm oil, there are many conservation projects that aim to preserve and prevent further destruction in rainforests and natural habitat that's considered as home to many animals.The Rainforest Conservation Fund (RCF) aims to protect the Aguaje palms, a.k.a. the 'Tree of Life', as it provides an abundance of food for many species in the Amazon. They protect the tree by training local villagers to safely climb the tree and collect the fruits without harming and cutting down the palms.Importance of rainforestsUnfortunately, many overlook the importance of rainforests, considering them only as a valuable resource of timber and giving them even more the reason for deforestation. However, rainforests are more important than you might think. Rainforests contain over half (5+ million) of the world's plant and animal species and one hectare could contain more than 1500 species of higher plants and 750 species of different trees. Furthermore, tropical rainforests are rich in properties and minerals in which benefit and promote human health, such as alkaloids, which help fight diseases as well as insect attacks. Also, for the 3000 identified plants that are active against cancerous cells, 70% of the plants are found in rainforests.Don't ever underestimate the importance of rainforests!

SustainabilitySustainability is the ability to maintain something at a steady rate or level. However, in an environmental perspective, it is the act of preserving an ecological balance by avoiding the scarcity of natural resources.Controlling the environment sustainablyMany plantations certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and is Rainforest Alliance certified have met the criteria for sustainable palm oil production. Farmers that are certified by the RSPO do not clear rainforests to grow and harvest palm oil. Another criteria for sustainable palm oil could include protecting biodiversity by ensuring that businesses are preserving soils and waterways, observing the population of wildlife, maintaining migration pathways and conserving breeding areas. The Rainforest Alliance also limits the amount of deforestation and forest degradation from farmers and plantation owners. Some companies also ensure to use palm oil in which do not impact the biodiversity of an ecosystem, such as buying palm oil that is only sourced from Columbia, so it will have no detrimental impact on the orangutans. Research in innovative and environmentally-friendly technology is also another technique to improve sustainable palm oil production for many organisations and companies.

Benefits of conserving rainforests

Sustainability and controlling the rainforest

The likely future


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