Ecology: The Hidden Side Of Palm Oil

Do you think palm oil has only had economic and social benefits?. Well, if you think so, then you will surely find yourself wrong when you make a visit to one of the oil palm plantation areas anywhere in Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi. There you can find the real evidences that oil palm plantations have ecological functions.

A number of researches have reported the ecological functions of oil palm plantations by revealing the necessary evidences. The Palm Oil Agribusiness Strategic Policy Institute (PASPI) said that despite of being monoculture plantations, the oil palm plantations also function like forest, although not as thoroughly as those of the diverse forests. “The oil palm plantations also function as the lungs of the world. As it is in human body, it functions to help clean the air, get rid of the carbondioxide from the human body and provide the oxygen into the human body,” PASPI said in its report.

The oil palm plantations are able to clean the polluted air by absorbing the carbondioxide from the earth’s atmosphere and produce oxygen for the lives on the earth (Henson, 1999). It is only plants, including the oil palm trees, which have a special function to maintain the balance and sustainability of the earth ecosystem.

Every hectare of oil palm plantations can absorb around 161 tons of carbondioxide every year, and produce oxygen at around 18.7 tons. The higher the production of oil palm plantations, then the higher will be the carbondioxide absorbed by the oil palm plantations from the air and the more oxygen produced to the air for human beings.

Besides, the oil palm plantations are also part of the important chain that links the sun as the energy source with the energy sources needed by human beings on earth. Through the oil palm plantations (photosynthesis process), the energy from the sun is captured and stored in the forms of chemical energy sources, such as palm oil and biomass (Fairhurdt, et, al, 2004).

Like other plants, the oil palm plantations also function as part of the hydrological ecosystem, evapotranspiration function as the important part of maintaining micro humidity and evaporation. Groundwater storage through root biopores, metabolite groundwater storage in the biomass of oil palm trees is part of the cycle of hydrological ecosystem. All of the mentioned benefits are given by oil palm trees unceasingly for 25 years of their productive cycle in the plantations.

The ecological functions of oil palm plantations are also supported by the fact that the Indonesian government has urged the oil palm growers to develop their own high conservation value forests (HCVF) to help maintain the ecosystem and biodiversity in their respective plantation areas and surrounding areas.

In addition to that, the palm oil has been used as raw materials to produce biodiesel, which is necessary to replace the fossil fuels, which are not friendly to the environment due to the carbon emissions they have caused to the air.  The European Commission reported that by replacing the fossil fuels with the biodiosel, they have managed to reduce 62 percent of carbondioxide from the air.

Based on data from the agriculture ministry in December 2019, Indonesia has a total 16.4 million hectares of oil palm plantation areas, of which more than half are formerly derelict lands or deforested lands due to previous logging activities. Each hectare has around 136 oil palm trees. Can you imagine how many trees are there in the total acreage and how they function ecologically? Indeed, each of them is incessantly and sustainably undertaking their ecological functions, like those in the forests. (*)

featured image via phys.org

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