Oil palm: what’s true and what’s to do?
In the last three years I’ve spent 18 months studying insect ecology in oil palm plantations in Sumatra, Indonesia. I work on a large scale ecological project (The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning in Tropical Agriculture Program) that’s investigating ways to increase the sustainability of oil palm.
First, I’d like to briefly present some of my research. With a team of strong men, I dug out 64 termite mounds, some over 2m tall, to see what nests inside them. We found many snakes, spiders, ant nests and centipedes, showing that the termite mounds are valuable for species which control pest populations. We want to use these results to discourage plantation managers from removing the mounds, as they often do.
Then I’ll talk about oil palm more generally, and why I think that boycotting it would be an environmental disaster.