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Riparian forest buffers means increased plantation yields

20th August, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Preserving tropical forest buffers along the margins of large meandering rivers can enhance the profitability of floodplain plantations.

At the same time, it can maintain conservation benefits by reducing the area of land lost to the river through bank erosion.

The increase is most evident in long-term economic projections and also holds true at shorter time scales, given the lagged productivity of newly established plantations.

By reducing initial planting expenditure and safeguarding young palm trees from being lost to erosion before they generate revenue, riparian buffers have the potential to increase the short-term profitability of newly established plantations.

This was explained by Dr Alexander Horton from Cardiff School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, the first author of a new open access paper published last week in Earth’s Future on research carried out by Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences and School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC).

Meanwhile, Dr Benoit Goossens of DGFC and Cardiff School of Biosciences has strongly suggested that oil palm plantations set aside riparian forest buffers of at least 100 metres wide along large rivers such as Kinabatangan, Segama, Paitan, Sugut, Kalumpang, Serudong and Silabukan.

“We hope the results of this research will be considered by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and oil palm companies in Sabah and in the rest of the world,” Dr Goossens said.

He also said in the research, they estimated the value of the ecosystem service that riparian forest buffers provide by protecting adjacent plantations from riverbank erosion and found that riparian buffers of an order of tens of metres may enhance the long-term viability of floodplain plantations.

“This means that accounting for geomorphic contributions to ecosystem services may help align palm oil industry goals with environmental conservation,” he said.

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