The carbon dioxide (CO2) emission from oil palm plantations on tropical peatland is lower than that of the forest, a study has shown.
Dr Lulie Melling, director of the Tropical Peat Research Laboratory Unit in Sarawak Chief Minister’s Department, said preliminary findings also revealed that the CO2 emission from plantations on tropical peatland decreased over time.
She said these breakthrough scientific findings would be useful to counter accusations from western non-governmental organisations that oil palm plantations on peatland had increased greenhouse gases emission.
“Tropical peatland is different from temperate peatland. A lot of accusations on tropical peatland are based on research on temperate peatland,’’ she said yesterday during a presentation in conjunction with the announcement that Malaysia will host the 15th International Peat Congress in Kuching in 2016.
Melling said unlike temperate peatland development in the northern hemisphere which involved mining of peat for energy and horticulture, the development of tropical peatland for oil palm plantations was just to change the vegetation.
The newly formed Malaysia Peat Society beat Lativa in Finland last month to win the bid for the five-day congress, which is expected to attract 700 national and international delegates.
This is the first time that the congress is held outside Europe and North America.
Melling, who will be the first Asian to take over the International Peat Society presidency in 2016 until 2020, said the opening up of tropical peatland for oil palm estates would not affect climate change as buffer zones were reserved for biodiversity in any plantation project.
She said about 70% of Malaysia’s peatland was in Sarawak and this covered about 1.6 million ha. Already 400,000ha of peatland in Sarawak have been cultivated with oil palm.
The use of peatland in Sarawak and Indonesia for oil palm plantations came under a lot of pressure lately as it has been blamed for increasing greenhouse gas emission.
A Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil consultant was reported to have recommended a total ban on oil palm development on tropical peatland.
Source: The Star by Jack Wong