Concerns about the loss of tropical rainforests have led companies to make zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs) to reduce carbon emissions and biodiversity losses due to tropical commodities, such as palm oil. This means they will eliminate deforestation associated with commodities that they produce, trade and/or sell. However, ZDCs could have unintended consequences for biodiversity if they cause leakage or displacement of oil palm cultivation into other threatened biomes, such as savannas and dry tropical forests. In addition to potentially requiring greater land area, yields may be lower in these drier habitats, affecting smallholder farmer livelihoods. The unintended consequences of ZDCs for biodiversity or livelihoods could be severe, but have not yet been explored.
Focusing on Central Africa, a region where oil palm is native, this project will carry out fieldwork to explore the consequences of cultivating oil palm in savannas. Collecting new field data from smallholdings and commercial plantations, the project will:
(1) Quantify changes in biodiversity (ground flora and ants), ecosystem functioning and carbon stocks;
(2) Determine yield-biodiversity trade-offs and how they differ from those in rainforest biomes;
(3) Develop indicators of High Conservation Values for savannas that will facilitate the protection of important biodiversity elements in these open biomes.
Novelty and timeliness:
While sustainable oil palm and conservation of tropical forest biodiversity has received much attention, there may be unintended consequences of ZDCs for other biomes. ZDCs are shrinking the area available for oil palm cultivation in forest biomes, and so savannas and other biomes are increasingly under threat from oil palm expansion; this is already happening in parts of Central Africa with more development planned. Existing environmental assessment procedures (such as the High Carbon Stock Approach) for rainforests may not be appropriate for savannas. Understanding the environmental impacts of oil palm expansion is needed urgently with policies for sustainable development expanded to include other tropical biomes.
The project will address the ‘Right tree, right place, right time’ Highlight topic.
HOW TO APPLY
Notes and how to apply are available here: https://accedtp.ac.uk/acce-dtp-phd-opportunities-at-university-of-liverpool/
Informal enquiries may be made to Professor Kate Parr: email@example.com