As some of you may know, this week is Orangutan Awareness Week in the UK. The fate of these rare primates is intertwined with the global demand for palm oil and the logging industry in Indonesia. With CAB Abstracts‘ wide coverage of topics in forestry and tropical agriculture, it’s the perfect place for our subscribers to find out more about the many issues that will shape the future of these species.

Try searching CAB Abstracts with terms like – Oil palm, Logging, Biodiversity, Conservation, Indonesia. You’ll find records like this recent review of the sustainability of the oil palm industry by Corley :


With yields higher than other oil crops, the oil palm will play an increasingly important role in the future. Because most expansion has been on previously forested land, the crop is seen as a major threat to primary forests, but in fact the rate of expansion of the oil palm industry is very small relative to the rate of tropical deforestation. The oil palm industry is highly productive, and can provide a grower with a good income from a smaller area than most other crops, so if oil palm replaces other less intensive forms of agriculture, pressure on the environment could actually be reduced. Thus, where oil palm planting is part of a landscape-level development plan, it is argued that the crop can play an important role in preserving biodiversity. Soil erosion can be controlled, but needs careful attention. Fossil fuel use is low, but could be reduced still further by using biogas. Pollution is generally low, with the best plantations moving towards ‘zero discharge’. In social terms, most oil palm developments provide good living conditions for workers and smallholder growers, but health and safety aspects, and particularly pesticide handling, need more attention. The crop makes an increasingly important contribution to the economy of several countries, and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil aims to ensure that future development is done in a responsible way. It is suggested that the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility must be maintained, and disputes over land ownership must be resolved prior to any development. Agriculturally, the oil palm appears sustainable, in that yields on the same land may continue to rise from one generation to the next. However, labour problems have caused national average yields to stagnate in Malaysia, and unless harvesting can be mechanized the long-term economic viability of the crop may be in doubt. – Planter 82 (959), 2006 : p121-135

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