Forest Fragmentation in Oil Palm Plantations: Impacts on Biodiversity and Options for Mitigation

The impacts of forest fragmentation on biodiversity, such as population isolation, edge effect and ecosystem weakening, are summarized. Two basic approaches to mitigation of these impacts in palm oil landscapes are outlined: Land-sparing and Land-sharing. The Land-sparing approach argues that forest fragments in most oil palm landscapes are of negligible conservation value, and that, instead of trying to increase the biodiversity value of these, money and effort would be better spent investing in protection and management of large contiguous areas of forest offsite, such as are available in biobank projects. Arguments for adopting a Land-sharing approach include protection of ecosystem functions, benefits to local communities, and protection of extant high conservation value species populations. An example of the latter approach is showcased – that of the Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Project in Sabah. Which of these two approaches individual companies should adopt will depend on consideration of local and landscape-level factors, and these can be determined by a thorough biodiversity assessment of the plantation and surrounding ecosystem. 

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