Deforestation-free for palm oil

Demand for palm oil – a cheap raw material used widely around the world – is huge, and growing. This crop serves as a livelihood for many small farmers in the tropics. But studies have shown that the way oil palm is currently cultivated plays a major role in deforestation, impacting biodiversity, creating social tensions and leaving a heavy carbon footprint.

To examine alternatives, Juan Carlos Quezada, when he was a Ph.D. student at EPFL’s Laboratory of Ecological Systems (ECOS), along with scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), conducted an in-depth study as part of the Oil Palm Adaptive Landscapes project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and headed by ETH Zurich.

The research team looked specifically at the conversion of former croplands and degraded savannas, which are prevalent in South America, into oil palm plantations.