The socioecological benefits and consequences of oil palm cultivation in its native range: the sustainable oil palm in West Africa (SOPWA) project

Pashkevich, Michael D.; Marshall, Cicely A.M.; Freeman, Benedictus; Reiss-Woolever, Valentine J.; Caliman, Jean-Pierre; Drewer, Julia ORCID:; Heath, Becky; Hendren, Matthew T.; Saputra, Ari; Stone, Jake; Timperley, Jonathan H.; Draper, William; Gbarway, Abednego; Geninyan, Bility; Goll, Blamah; Guahn, Marshall; Gweh, Andrew N.; Hadfield, Peter; Jah, Morris T.; Jayswen, Samuel; Jones, Tiecanna; Kandie, Samuel; Koffa, Daniel; Korb, Judith; Koon, Nehemiah; Manewah, Benedict; Medrano, Lourdes M.; Palmeirim, Ana F.; Pett, Brogan; Rocha, Ricardo; Swope-Nyantee, Evangeline; Tue, Jimmy; Tuolee, Josiah; Van Dessel, Pieter; Vincent, Abraham; Weah, Romeo; Widodo, Rudy; Yennego, Alfred J.; Yonmah, Jerry; Turner, Edgar C.. 2024 The socioecological benefits and consequences of oil palm cultivation in its native range: the sustainable oil palm in West Africa (SOPWA) project. Science of The Total Environment, 926, 171850. 15, pp.

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Agriculture is expanding rapidly across the tropics. While cultivation can boost socioeconomic conditions and food security, it also threatens native ecosystems. Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), which is grown pantropically, is the most productive vegetable oil crop worldwide. The impacts of oil palm cultivation have been studied extensively in Southeast Asia and – to a lesser extent – in Latin America but, in comparison, very little is known about its impacts in Africa: oil palm's native range, and where cultivation is expanding rapidly. In this paper, we introduce a large-scale research programme – the Sustainable Oil Palm in West Africa (SOPWA) Project – that is evaluating the relative ecological impacts of oil palm cultivation under traditional (i.e., by local people) and industrial (i.e., by a large-scale corporation) management in Liberia. Our paper is twofold in focus. First, we use systematic mapping to appraise the literature on oil palm research in an African context, assessing the geographic and disciplinary focus of existing research. We found 757 publications occurring in 36 African countries. Studies tended to focus on the impacts of palm oil consumption on human health and wellbeing. We found no research that has evaluated the whole-ecosystem (i.e., multiple taxa and ecosystem functions) impacts of oil palm cultivation in Africa, a knowledge gap which the SOPWA Project directly addresses. Second, we describe the SOPWA Project's study design and—using canopy cover, ground vegetation cover, and soil temperature data as a case study—demonstrate its utility for assessing differences between areas of rainforest and oil palm agriculture. We outline the socioecological data collected by the SOPWA Project to date and describe the potential for future research, to encourage new collaborations and additional similar projects of its kind in West Africa. Increased research in Africa is needed urgently to understand the combined ecological and sociocultural impacts of oil palm and other agriculture in this unique region. This will help to ensure long-term sustainability of the oil palm industry—and, indeed, all tropical agricultural activity—in Africa.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: land use change, tropical agriculture, community agriculture, Elaeis guineensis, sub-Saharan Africa, systematic map, Liberia
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 26 Mar 2024 15:07 +0 (UTC)

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