Tropical deforestation remains one of the major global challenges of the 21st Century driven to a large extent by the conversion of land for agricultural purposes, such as palm oil production. Malaysia is one of the world’s largest palm oil producers and has seen widespread conversion to oil palm from primary forest, including peat swamp forest (PSF). This study investigates the rate and extent of pervasive oil palm expansion in and around North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest (NSPSF) over the last three decades, exploring how land conversion has affected the region’s tropical forests, and assessing the relative success of PSF conservation measures. Time-series Landsat imagery was used to assess thematic land cover change and improvement in vegetation condition since NSPSF was given protected status in 1990. The results show a near tripling in oil palm cover throughout North Selangor, from 24,930 ha in 1989 to 70,070 ha in 2016; while at the same time tropical forest cover shrank from 145,570 ha to 88,400 ha. Despite concerns over the sustainability and environmental impact of such rapid oil palm conversion at a regional level, at the local scale NSPSF represents a relative conservation success story. Effective land stewardship by government and non-governmental organisation (NGO) management actors has limited illegal encroachment of oil palm around the reserve boundary. PSF rehabilitation measures have also markedly improved vegetation condition in NSPFS’s interior. These findings have broad significance for how oil palm agriculture is managed and especially for PSF stewardship and conservation, and the approaches described here may be usefully adopted elsewhere in Southeast Asia and around the world.
|International Journal of Remote Sensing
|Early online date
|6 Feb 2019
|E-pub ahead of print - 6 Feb 2019