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Restoring understory and riparian areas in oil palm plantations does not increase greenhouse gas fluxes

Drewer, Julia; Tarigan, Ribka Sionita; Banin, Lindsay F.; White, Stella; Raine, Elizabeth; Luke, Sarah H.; Turner, Edgar C.; Skiba, Ute; Cowan, Nicholas J.; Dewi, Jassica Prajna; Advento, Andreas Dwi; Aryawan, Anak Agung Ketut; Caliman, Jean-Pierre; Pujianto, Pujianto

Restoring understory and riparian areas in oil palm plantations does not increase greenhouse gas fluxes Thumbnail


Julia Drewer

Ribka Sionita Tarigan

Lindsay F. Banin

Stella White

Elizabeth Raine

Assistant Professor

Edgar C. Turner

Ute Skiba

Nicholas J. Cowan

Jassica Prajna Dewi

Andreas Dwi Advento

Anak Agung Ketut Aryawan

Jean-Pierre Caliman

Pujianto Pujianto


Oil palm (OP) plantations have replaced large areas of forest in the tropical landscape of Southeast Asia and are major emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs). To move towards more environmentally friendly plantation management, a hopeful approach is to implement strategies to increase vegetation complexity. These options include relaxed management of understory vegetation to increase complexity in productive plantations, passive restoration of forest areas around rivers by leaving mature oil palm during replanting, and active forest restoration along river margins with planting of forest trees. These practices have the potential to deliver a range of benefits such as soil protection, reduced erosion and sedimentation in rivers, pest control and support for biodiversity, but little is known about their impact on greenhouse gas fluxes. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of improved understory growth management and the use of riparian forestry on GHG fluxes in OP plantations, making use of two long-term experiments (the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Tropical Agriculture Understory Vegetation (BEFTA UV) Project; the Riparian Ecosystem Restoration in Tropical Agriculture (RERTA) Project) in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. We measured nitrous oxide (N 2 O), methane (CH 4) and ecosystem respiration (CO 2) from mature OP sites with different levels of understory vegetation and different riparian buffer restoration treatments using the static chamber method. We used linear mixed effects models to test for treatment effects, whilst accounting for soil moisture and experimental design factors (time and space). The understory vegetation treatments (normal, reduced and enhanced complexity of understory) had no effect on N 2 O and CH 4 flux. Regarding differences in ecosystem respiration, effects attributable to the understory vegetation treatments were not strong. For the riparian restoration treatments, the fixed effects variables in the models explained little variation in the fluxes of all GHGs. Therefore, given the proven benefits of more complex understory vegetation for supporting biodiversity and healthy ecosystem functioning, plus the potential for restored riparian buffers to support biodiversity and services and to reduce GHG emissions over time, our findings reinforce the concept that these features bring environmental benefits in OP landscapes, with no measurable effects on GHG emissions.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 11, 2024
Online Publication Date May 22, 2024
Publication Date May 22, 2024
Deposit Date May 22, 2024
Publicly Available Date May 23, 2024
Journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
Electronic ISSN 2624-893X
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Article Number 1324475
Keywords mineral soil, vegetation experiment, methane, ecosystem respiration, sustainable agriculture, Sumatra, Indonesia, nitrous oxide
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