Environmental sustainability indicators for oil palm in Papua New Guinea – conceptual framework for a research and development project

Nelson, P.N., Banabas, M., Webb, M.J., Sheaves, M., Huth, N., McNeill, A., Koczberski, G., Berthelsen, S., and Orrell, I. (2010) Environmental sustainability indicators for oil palm in Papua New Guinea – conceptual framework for a research and development project. In: Agri-environmental Indicators Workshop, associated with the 2nd International Conference on Oil Palm and the Environment (ICOPE). From: Agri-environmental Indicators Workshop, associated with the 2nd International Conference on Oil Palm and the Environment (ICOPE), 23-27 February 2010, Bali, Indonesia. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Palm oil producers participating in the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which includes all producers in Papua New Guinea (PNG), require measurable and auditable indicators of environmental sustainability to underpin the RSPO Principles and Criteria and inform their management decisions. This paper describes the conceptual basis of a project being carried out in 2010-2013 to provide indicators of the state of soil and water resources in all oil palm production areas of PNG, excluding mill activities.

Considering the complexity of environmental sustainability issues, it is useful to categorise them into issues that have different types of impacts, and thus require different types of indicators: Planning and biodiversity (not considered in this project); Balances of water, nutrients, C, greenhouse gases and soil (ie. erosion); Health of aquatic ecosystems; and Health of soil. Indicators must provide a meaningful assessment of these issues, and must be derived from data inputs that are already recorded or are simple to measure. The research component of this project aims to choose the best possible indicators, data inputs, and means of linking them. The research will be integrated with a pilot implementation scheme run by industry staff and growers, to help attain the goal of a workable indicator package that is sustained by the industry.

For nutrient balances to be sustainable, inputs and losses should be balanced and minimised. The main issue of concern is leaching loss of N, and factors that are difficult to estimate include N leaching, gaseous losses of N, and biological N fixation. The C balance has vulnerable periods during initial establishment of plantations and during replant. The greenhouse gas balance is linked to the C and N cycles, with N2O emissions being the largest unknown. Net soil erosion from fields is generally small, but appears to be significant from bare connected areas on moderate slopes. Health of soil is influenced by net acid addition rate (largely related to fertiliser use), return of organic residues, and traffic. Health of aquatic ecosystems may be affected by N inputs leached from fields and poor riparian vegetation. Assessing health of estuaries will provide information on the responses to stresses, as well as indicating likely impacts offshore.

It is proposed that indicators be estimated using input data such as visual scores of ground cover, simple vegetative measurements, and fish counts, linked to controlling factors (eg. net primary productivity) through desk top studies and field research (on some key unknowns regarding erosion, C and nutrient cycling, aquatic ecology) and modelling.

Item ID: 11717
Item Type: Conference Item (Refereed Research Paper - E1)
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Date Deposited: 25 Aug 2010 01:54
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070101 Agricultural Land Management @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070108 Sustainable Agricultural Development @ 50%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8298 Environmentally Sustainable Plant Production > 829899 Environmentally Sustainable Plant Production not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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