Using soundscapes to assess biodiversity in Neotropical oil palm landscapes
Expanding oil palm plantations have caused widespread deforestation and biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia, stigmatizing the industry around the world regardless of regional context. In Latin America, oil palm plantations are primarily replacing other agroindustrial land uses with uncertain implications for local biodiversity.
Our aim was to create empirical baseline data to help guide development of future plantations into areas where biodiversity impacts are minimized. We used soundscapes to assess fauna in oil palm landscapes of Colombia, the world’s 4th largest palm oil producer.
Soundscapes capture daily patterns of acoustic activity that can be used to measure differences between biotic communities between habitats. Using remnant forest fragments as reference sites, we sampled land use classes that are commonly replaced by commercial oil palm including cattle pastures, rice fields, and banana plantations.
Soundscape analysis showed that even highly degraded forests have a unique soundscape compared to production systems. Similarities were found among closed canopy production sites (oil palm, banana) and open production habitat (pastures, rice), suggesting the importance of habitat structure for acoustic communities. Oil palm also showed notable overlap with pastures, but had soundscapes that were more similar to forest than the other production types.
Future oil palm development in Latin America can replace cattle pastures and other commodity plantation agriculture with minimal impacts on acoustic communities. New supply chain governance approaches such as the zero-deforestation agreements being implemented in the Colombian oil palm and cattle sectors may help guide the industry toward more sustainable development by continuing to target previously cleared lands.
KeywordsBioacoustics Biodiversity conservation Commodity crops Forest patch Indicator species Latin America Riparian forest Sustainability
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