• Open Access

Lowering environmental costs of oil-palm expansion in Colombia

Authors

  • John Garcia-Ulloa,

    1. Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zürich, CHN H 71, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
    2. Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Jalan CIFOR Situ Gede, Bogor Barat 16115, Indonesia
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Sean Sloan,

    1. Tropical Centre for Environmental and Sustainability Science, School of Marine & Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Qld 4870, Australia
    2. Department of Resource Management and Geography, The University of Melbourne, Australia
    3. The Climate Adaptation Flagship, The CSIRO, Australia
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Pablo Pacheco,

    1. Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Jalan CIFOR Situ Gede, Bogor Barat 16115, Indonesia
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jaboury Ghazoul,

    1. Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zürich, CHN H 71, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Lian Pin Koh

    1. Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zürich, CHN H 71, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Dr 4, Singapore 117543, Singapore
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Editors Edward Webb and Phillip Levin

John Garcia-Ulloa, Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zürich, CHN H 71, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland. Tel: +41 44 632 08 58; fax: +41 44 632 1575. E-mail: john.garcia@env.ethz.ch

Abstract

Colombia is the fifth largest producer of palm oil in the world. The country's government and oil-palm farmers association target a sixfold increase of crude palm-oil production by 2020. We model the impacts of expanding oil-palm agriculture in Colombia through a spatially explicit scenario analysis. We demonstrate that the impacts of oil-palm expansion (e.g., deforestation, conversion of natural savannahs) would be minimized by establishing new plantations on pasture lands, given the low environmental value and economic utility, and the high agricultural potential of this land use. Impacts of oil-palm expansion on beef and dairy production could be compensated by improving productivity of pasture lands elsewhere. However, the profitability of oil-palm production in these areas might suffer over the long term due to high land purchase costs.

Ancillary