Young palm oil plantation and forest.
Photo: © Clifton Sabajo


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Deforestation linked to palm oil production is making Indonesia warmer. An international team of experts on bioclimatology report effects on temperatures after changes in land use that are making the country more vulnerable to wildfires.

In the past decades, large areas of forest in Sumatra, Indonesia have been replaced by cash crops like oil palm plantations and rubber. Now a team of scientists led by the University of Göttingen, Germany, have found out that these changes in land use increase temperatures in the region. The added warming could affect plants and animals and make parts of the country more vulnerable to wildfires. The results are reported in the European Geosciences Union journal Biogeosciences.

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, has seen large swathes of rainforest cleared away and replaced by oil palm plantations. The island of Sumatra has had the highest loss of native rainforest in all of Indonesia. In the framework of the University of Göttingen’s Collaborative Research Centre “Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (Sumatra, Indonesia)”, the research team, led by Clifton Sabajo and Alexander Knohl, have established that the expansion of oil palm and other cash crops in Sumatra has made the region warmer.

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