A new study by the Netherlands-based Wetlands International found that at the rate that peat swamp forests in places like Malaysian Borneo are being obliterated to make way for palm oil plantations, the nation may lose all of these biodiverse forests by the decade's end.
As companies that formerly depleted timber resources now clear the rest of the trees to develop profitable palm oil plantations, Malaysia and Indonesia are the world's two largest exporters of the oil, which is largely used for processed foods and so-called eco-friendly biofuel.
However, researchers warn that current growing practices are far from sustainable. As trees are removed from the ancient peat swamps, not only is wildlife severely affected, massive carbon stores are also released. This effect can be worsened if wildfires strike, causing peat to smolder underground, becoming nearly impossible to extinguish, with even more increased emissions of carbon dioxide and methane gas that had been stored for millions of years.
The loss of the forest habitats has further deprived many already endangered species including tropical birds, as well as the clouded leopard, Sumatran rhino, and the world's smallest elephant, the Borneo Pygmy. Also threatened are indigenous rainforest tribes. Wetlands International is thus calling for a complete ban of peat land conversion for crops, urging companies instead toward more truly eco-friendly methods and products.
We thank Wetlands International for your work in bringing us this important information about the adverse consequences of peat land clearing to the environment.
May humanity work quickly to save the valued forests and all precious lives that they sustain. Speaking during an October 2009 videoconference in Indonesia, Supreme Master Ching Hai warned of nature's destruction for the production of palm oil, while offering the most sustainable actions needed to restore the ecosystem.