Introduction to the Biodiversity and Palm Oil Project 2012

The Biodiversity & Palm Oil (OPB) team, based in Indonesia, works closely with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the dominant voluntary certification mechanism for sustainable palm oil, to provide advice, information and support to its members. This year the OPB team has received funding from the Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Programme (BACP), the RSPO, and the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project with co-financing from two palm oil companies to continue this work.

Palm Oil Plantations in Sumatra 

The aim of the 2012 project is to develop the capability and competency of all stakeholders within the palm oil supply chain to mitigate the impact of palm oil production on biodiversity. Through the development of a protocol designed to monitor key variables in areas of High Conservation Value (HCV), ZSL will use its unique position of scientific objectivity to facilitate growers to better achieve their obligations towards the RSPO Principles and Criteria. We’re working to ensure that biodiversity is protected in the landscapes, which destroy it.

ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil project team

Therefore, for the past six months the OPB team has been developing a HCV monitoring system to advise producers in the monitoring and management of their HCV areas, required for RSPO certification. The monitoring system will also allow the impact of these management efforts on the conservation of HCVs to be measured and documented and improve how biodiversity is managed in oil palm landscapes. We are developing a tool that will ensure that management of HCV areas improves and helps biodiversity in fragmented intensive agricultural landscapes.

The ZSL field teams are working together with plantation staff in Kalimantan and Sumatra to develop protocols that will look at the threats to the HCV areas; will evaluate the health of the ecosystems; and allow for the monitoring of rare and threatened biodiversity such as the orang-utan and the Sumatran tiger. The team will develop manuals and train local staff to later conduct monitoring themselves.

Whilst our work is currently based in Indonesia, ZSL hopes that our tools can be used across the world in Malaysia, Africa and South America and enable environmental managers working in plantations to improve the management of the fragmented and fragile pockets of habitat that persist in palm oil plantations. Whilst often small and isolated, many of these areas still hold important fauna and flora species and can help to maintain corridors for populations in protected areas.

Lack of awareness and support for environmentally responsible palm oil production from stakeholders along the length of the palm oil supply chain, from consumers to investors and policy makers, also plays an important role. Yet there is currently no platform available to engage and inform these important groups, which provide the demand that will hopefully drive the market towards better practices.

The OPB team are working to overcome this by creating an online, multi-stakeholder Sustainable Palm oil Platform (SPP), which will provide a framework for disseminating all research, resources, and guidance to the relevant stakeholders. This will stimulate environmentally responsible palm oil production and report on ongoing sustainability and conservation projects happening within the industry.

The website and monitoring system will be launched at RSPO RT10 in October of this year. Over the next six months we will be reporting on the project’s progress, the build up to RT10, and the feedback from the conference as well as what 2013 has in store for the Biodiversity and Palm Oil team.

ZSL staff in the field

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