Sarah Wyatt, MESc

2011 TRI Fellow in Colombia

The Impacts of Oil Palm Agriculture on Faunal Diversity in Colombia


The past decade has seen a rapid growth in the production of African oil palm as food and as a supposedly environmental fuel source, resulting in the conversion of millions of hectares of forested lands. Much of the focus on the impact of oil palm has focused on Southeast Asia, however, oil palm production has grown dramatically around the world and Colombia is the largest producer in Latin America. Because oil palms are trees, advocates for oil palm will often liken the plantations to forests, yet previous studies have found sharp declines in biodiversity across many taxa when oil palm is compared to forest. While the loss of biodiversity in oil palm plantations is well established, many questions remain about how the diversity of animals found within these plantations is influenced by characteristics of the broader landscape and management practices. This work examined the diversity of birds, butterflies and amphibians found in different parts of a plantation and on different plantations with varying characteristics in Cesar, Colombia. These farms were planted on lands that were previously converted from forest and were part of a larger agricultural landscape of cattle, corn, and other crops. Results from this study can be used to develop strategies to reduce the impact of oil palm agriculture on biodiversity through land use planning and management practices.