Oil palm on deforested lands in Brazil
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?
Brazil aims to increase palm oil production to meet the growing national and global demand for edible oil and biodiesel while preserving environmentally and culturally significant areas. The purpose of this study is to develop scenarios to measure the impact of land conversion under three different enforcement scenarios (none, some, strict enforcement). The importance of this study is in using a bottom-up approach and spatial data analysis to assess the potential impacts from biofuel policies.
In this research I asked the following questions:
How much deforestation will occur in Para, Brazil once policy enforcement of oil palm on previously deforested lands is taken into account?
Economic models of land use change associated with biofuel policies rely on assumptions that the conversion of lands within a given region for biofuel production are driven solely by economics, which are determined by land transformation elasticities among different land types (e.g. forest, crop land, and pasture), and the profitability of land conversion, which depends on yields and the cost of conversion.
This model uses a physical process to identify land use change area and impacts. In reality, as LUC is a result of complex interactions between social, economic and biophysical drivers operating at multiple temporal and spatial scales, the type and location of LUC depend on several biophysical and socio-economic drivers such as neighboring land use, conversion elasticity, access to infrastructure, distance to markets, and land suitability, which change in space and time (Wicke et al 2013).
We found that converting 22.5 million hectares of land can produce approximately 29 billion gallons of biodiesel a year. Of that, 22-71% of the area can come from forest land, conservation units, wetland, and indigenous areas. This direct land use emission alone can be higher than the carbon intensity of diesel that it intends to displace for lowering ghg emissions.
Selected as part of the Environmental Research Letters monthly highlights collection and Institute of Physics select collection (2014)