Oil palm cultivation can be expanded while sparing biodiversity in India

TitleOil palm cultivation can be expanded while sparing biodiversity in India
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsSrinivasan U, Velho N, Lee JSH, Chiarelli DD, Davis KF, Wilcove DS
JournalNature Food
Date Published06/2021

India is the world’s largest consumer and importer of palm oil. In an aggressive push towards self-sufficiency in vegetable oils, the Indian government is prioritizing the rapid expansion of domestic oil palm plantations to meet an expected doubling in palm oil consumption in the next 15 years. Yet the current expansion of oil palm in India is occurring at the expense of biodiversity-rich landscapes. Using a spatially explicit model, we show that at the national scale India appears to have viable options to satisfy its projected national demand for palm oil without compromising either its biodiversity or its food security. At finer spatial scales, India’s oil palm expansion needs to incorporate region-specific contingencies and account for trade-offs between biodiversity conservation, climate change, agricultural inputs and economic and social security. The policy decisions that India takes with respect to oil palm can substantially reduce future pressures to convert forests to oil palm plantations in the tropics globally.