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Making it easier to monitor the quality of forest patches in oil palm plan plantations
Forest patches embedded within oil palm plantations “forest set-asides” are important for conservation. If these patches of preserved forest are of high quality and connected to larger areas of rainforest they can help preserve biodiversity, which is under severe threat in many areas where palm oil is grown. Managing these areas well also forms an important part of the criteria for oil palm companies to meet certification standards for sustainability. However, there is currently no easy way for the oil palm sector to effectively measure and monitor forest patches within their landscapes. A new Innovation Fund (Natural Environment Research Council, UK) project, involving Dr Eleanor Slade is designing user-friendly tools and smartphone applications to monitor and manage forest conservation set-asides in the agricultural landscapes of SE Asia. Lead PI, Dr Jennifer Lucey from the University of Oxford emphasizes the importance of the work: “Currently, a lack of capacity and standardised guidance for monitoring and managing forest set-asides is a critical barrier to effective conservation in oil palm landscapes. Our survey tools will provide a robust proxy for measuring forest quality against a range of independently sampled scientific metrics and allow translation of the monitoring data into meaningful management actions”. The group, made up of academics, conservation practitioners, NGOs, software designers, and oil palm companies will have their first meeting in January in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo to discuss the prototype of the app, and design field trials.