People, Environment

Rice, Palm Demand Drive Deforestation

Rice, Palm Demand Drive DeforestationRice, Palm Demand Drive Deforestation

The role of agriculture in the destruction of mangrove forests in Southeast Asia has been underestimated, according to a new study. Rice plantations were a major driver of mangrove loss in Myanmar while rapidly expanding palm oil plantations were an “under-recognized” threat to mangrove ecosystems in Malaysia and Indonesia, researchers said on Monday. The assessment, which was conducted between 2000 and 2012, found that mangroves were being lost at an average rate of 0.18% per year in Southeast Asia. Aquaculture accounted for about a third of the more than 100,000 hectares of forest cover lost during this period, while rice and palm oil plantations contributed nearly 40%. The findings are detailed in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, EurekAlert reported. Mangrove habitats in Southeast Asia are highly biodiverse and vital to the livelihood of millions of people. “If we want to protect Indonesia’s remaining mangroves then we need to act quickly,” said study’s co-author, Daniel Richards from the National University of Singapore.