There are many dangerous alterations to a biome happening each day in the world without us even knowing. The high demand for many foods has made farmers and companies make alterations to a biome. One of the foods is palm oil. Palm is one the most frequently used substance as we use in our fast food and vegetable spray. As there is a high demand for palm oil, we are forced to make alterations to the biome to assist in producing the product. Palm oil flourishes in the tropical rainforests, like in Indonesia and Malaysia. Learning about the locations, environmental alterations, impacts and the management strategies to produce palm oil will allow us to understand the negative and positive effects of the alterations being made to our planet.
Palm oil/ Elaeis guineensis (in African) is the most popular vegetable oil and it is found the tropical rainforest region of West Africa. Palm oil is found across the humid tropical areas around 10 degrees to the north and south of the equator. There are palm oil plantations in Asia, South and Central America, and Africa. In figure 1, we notice that most of these countries are close to 10° toward the north and south of the equator. Indonesia is now the world’s largest producer of palm oil, beating Malaysia in 2006, generating more than 20.9 million tonnes. Indonesia expects to double production by the end of 2030. The tropical rainforest is a hot, moist biome found near Earth’s equator. The world’s largest tropical rainforests are in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Indonesia has one of the biggest tropical rainforests and it receives from 154.4 to 406.4 cm of precipitation that is evenly distributed throughout the year. These conditions are suitable for the African oil palm as it thrives in hot, humid conditions.
Figure 1: A map of all the countries that produce palm oil around the world.
There have been many alterations to the rainforest for the cultivation of palm oil. The overuse of vegetable oil and fast foods has increased the demand for palm oil. As Malaysia is the second biggest producer of palm oil, 15% of Malaysia’s total land has been transformed into palm oil plantations. A senior scientist at Wetlands International said: “As the timber resource has been depleted, the timber companies are now engaging in the oil palm business, completing the annihilation of Sarawak’s peat swamp forests”. Large areas of tropical rainforest have been cleared by Asia Pulp & Paper, the land is being replaced by palm oil plantations. Deforestation in Indonesia and other equatorial countries are being removed for the production of palm oil. If the population increases, the demand for palm oil might increase, there might not be enough room to create. Climate change might be a problem as well as the climate might not suit what is the needed for palm oil to flourish. The tropical forest might benefit from stopping the deforestation and starting to grow more trees. Today palm oil production is the largest cause of deforestation in Indonesia and other equatorial countries with dwindling expanses of tropical rainforest.
There have been many environmental impacts to rainforest biome, which include the impacts done to rainforests in Indonesia. In Indonesia, even though they have one of the most biologically diverse forests in the world, they are ruining it by logging them to build palm oil plantations. Indonesian tropical forest used to have over 190 million hectares of forest, but in the 20th century, there were only 100 million hectares left. Up to 80% of the logging was done illegally. After this in 2011, they set a moratorium on new logging contracts to help combat deforestation. This didn’t really help as logging was still increasing. An article made by the United Nations Environment Programme showed that with the current annual rate of deforestation, Indonesia will have lost 98% of their forests by 2022. Farmers are also starting to light fires to clear land quicker and this has an impact on people’s health because of the smoke. The large amount of pesticides and fertilisers can also pollute surface and groundwater parts. The deforestation has endangered the natural habitats of the Sumatran tigers and Sumatran orangutans. There have been factories and mills that have been responsible for the destruction. Factories and their companies have made pollution to the air and water, injuring or even killing animals. Deforestation is the worst alteration to the rainforest biome.
The deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia is in critical danger and it needs to come to a stop because of increasing demand for palm oil. There are many organisations that have developed a way to farm palm oil sustainably, and one of those is WFF. Roundtable on sustainable palm oil is run by WFF, which promotes a way for palm oil farmers to prosper and grow without destroying tropical rainforests by only supplying a total 500 tons of palm oil. There was a moratorium set in Indonesia, meaning that there was a suspension on palm oil farming for a certain amount of time, but this did not last long as farmers stilled farmed. I suggest that there should be a stop deforestation in tropical rainforest, have only a certain amount of plantation in an area or even stop palm oil production and grow a non-harmful crop like rice. There should be a restoration of trees as well.
The dangerous alterations to the tropical rainforest cause by companies logging for space for plantations and fires made by farmers to quicken up the process. All these alterations have caused loss of animal habitats, soil, water, and air pollution and climate change. The management strategies from various organisations will not be enough to stop the deforestation as companies want their money. There should be a bigger effort to stop the deforestation by multiple governments. As people, we should try and make changes for not only sustainable palm oil but also other crops to alterations for good.