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    Poor prospects for avian biodiversity in amazonian oil palm

    Lees, AC, Moura, NG, De Almeida, AS and Vieira, ICG (2015) Poor prospects for avian biodiversity in amazonian oil palm. PLoS ONE, 10 (5). ISSN 1932-6203


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    Expansion of oil palm plantations across the humid tropics has precipitated massive loss of tropical forest habitats and their associated speciose biotas. Oil palm plantation monocultures have been identified as an emerging threat to Amazonian biodiversity, but there are no quantitative studies exploring the impact of these plantations on the biome’s biota. Understanding these impacts is extremely important given the rapid projected expansion of oil palm cultivation in the basin. Here we investigate the biodiversity value of oil palm plantations in comparison with other dominant regional land-uses in Eastern Amazonia. We carried out bird surveys in oil palm plantations of varying ages, primary and secondary forests, and cattle pastures. We found that oil palm plantations retained impoverished avian communities with a similar species composition to pastures and agrarian land-uses and did not offer habitat for most forest-associated species, including restricted range species and species of conservation concern. On the other hand, the forests that the oil palm companies are legally obliged to protect hosted a relatively species-rich community including several globally-threatened bird species. We consider oil palm to be no less detrimental to regional biodiversity than other agricultural land-uses and that political pressure exerted by large landowners to allow oil palm to count as a substitute for native forest vegetation in private landholdings with forest restoration deficits would have dire consequences for regional biodiversity.

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