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Oil palm driven land use change in the Peruvian Amazon

Authors: Matthew Marcus*, Temple University
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Remote Sensing, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Remote sensing, political ecology, oil palm, land use/land cover change, Amazon, Peru, agriculture, swidden
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 11:50 AM / 1:05 PM
Room: Virtual Track 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The area of Pucallpa, Peru experienced a surge in deforestation in the last two decades. This region faces many drivers of deforestation, such as the expansion of oil palm production. This paper seeks to characterize trajectories of land use change that lead to the expansion of oil palm in order to explore whether smallholder oil palm expansion is causing indirect forest conversion or a shift from rotational agriculture to commodity oil palm plantations. We use remote sensing to characterize changes in land cover trajectories leading to the expansion of small-scale oil palm plantations in the region of Ucayali, Peruvian Amazon. We hypothesize that with time, smallholders are reducing the area of rotational agriculture converted to oil palm and are increasingly targeting recently deforested areas. Temporal trends reveal an exponential increase of area under oil palm cultivation in every observed year, and an increasing tendency to cultivate palm on recently produced pastureland or young secondary forest. Also the area of pasture converted to palm increasingly comes from recently deforested lands. Consistently across the time series, lands converted to oil palm were disproportionately young pasture or young secondary forest. This suggests that oil palm expansion across space may be encouraging smallholders to deforest more land. Peruvian law prohibits the direct conversion of old growth-forests to oil palm, however, this may incentivize the indirect conversion of forest into oil palm by postponing planting activities for a few years. We conclude that oil palm expansion is increasingly inducing indirect forest conversion.

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