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World climate suitability projections to 2050 and 2100 for growing oil palm

  • R. R. M. PATERSON (a1), L. KUMAR (a2), F. SHABANI (a2) and N. LIMA (a1)

Palm oil (PO) is a very important commodity used as food, in pharmaceuticals, for cooking and as biodiesel: PO is a major contributor to the economies of many countries, especially Indonesia and Malaysia. Novel tropical regions are being explored increasingly to grow oil palm as current land decreases, whilst recent published modelling studies by the current authors for Malaysia and Indonesia indicate that the climate will become less suitable. Countries that grow the crop commercially include those in Latin America, Africa and Asia. How will climate change (CC) affect the ability to grow oil palm in these countries? Worldwide projections for apt climate were made using Climex software in the present paper and the global area with unsuitable climate was assessed to increase by 6%, whilst highly suitable climate (HSC) decreased by 22% by 2050. The suitability decreases are dramatic by 2100 suggesting regions totally unsuitable for growing OP, which are currently appropriate: the global area with unsuitable climate increased from 154 to 169 million km2 and HSC decreased from 17 to 4 million km2. This second assessment of Indonesia and Malaysia confirmed the original findings by the current authors of large decreases in suitability. Many parts of Latin America and Africa were dramatically decreased: reductions in HSC for Brazil, Columbia and Nigeria are projected to be 119 000, 35 and 1 from 5 000 000, 219 and 69 km2, respectively. However, increases in aptness were observed in 2050 for Paraguay and Madagascar (HSC increases were 90 and 41%, respectively), which were maintained until 2100 (95 and 45%, respectively). Lesser or transient increases were seen for a few other countries. Hot, dry and cold climate stresses upon oil palm for all regions are also provided. These results have negative implications for growing oil palm in countries as: (a) alternatives to Malaysia and Indonesia or (b) economic resources per se. The inability to grow oil palm may assist in amelioration of CC, although the situation is complex. Data suggest a moderate movement of apposite climate towards the poles as previously predicted.

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