The Role of the Oil Palm Plantation Similar with a Forest
Palm oil is a strategic commodity in the Indonesian economy. The development of oil palm has had a big positive impact on the Indonesian economy, but that does not mean that oil palm is inseparable from negative issues from who try to hinder the development of palm oil in the global market. One of the issues that are always aggressively carried out in anti-palm oil campaigns to tarnish the image of palm oil in the global community is environmental issues.
The issue that we always hear in these negative campaigns is the accusation that oil palm is the main cause or actor of deforestation and the loss of biodiversity in Indonesia. Environmental issues are a recurring issue, for example, as stated by Greenpeace in 2017 which stated that the palm oil industry was the main cause of deforestation in Indonesia and the same thing was occured again in 2008, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Even though the definitions of deforestation and forests are many, different and ”gray”, however, we as Indonesians, who are gifted by God are a blessing for the existence of oil palm plants that are not owned by other countries, must defend against from black campaign. One idea to defend oil palm plantations is to categorize them as forest plants.
As an ecosystem function, forests have a role as a provider of water sources, producing oxygen, habitat for millions of flora and fauna, balancing the environment, preventing global warming, and others. Oil palm plantations also have the same performance, namely their role as an absorber of carbon dioxide, a harvester of solar energy, and its role in the function of water systems.
The public’s mindset has assumed that if there is forest destruction or forest function change, it is considered that it will reduce nature’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide gas. Whereas every plant, both forest plants and oil palm plants, has the ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere.
When compared between oil palm and forests, each hectare of oil palm plantations can absorb about 64 tons of carbon dioxide annually and produce about 18 tons of oxygen. Meanwhile, forest in net is only able to absorb about 42 tons of carbon dioxide and produce about 7 tons of oxygen. Thus oil palm plantations are actually superior to forests in terms of carbon dioxide absorption and oxygen production.
Oil palm plantations and forests have a “harvesting tools” for solar energy for life on earth, even based on research showing that oil palm plantations are relatively superior to forests in this function. The photosynthetic efficiency of oil palm plantations reaches 3.18 percent, while forest efficiency is only 1.73 percent. The radiation energy conversion efficiency of oil palm plantations is also higher, namely 1.68 g/mj compared to forests which are only 0.86 g/mh. However, for energy storage (biomass), forests are superior to oil palm plantations.
The role of oil palm plantations is not only in absorbing carbon dioxide and harvesting solar energy, but also in the function of ecosystem water systems that play a role in preserving the water system. When compared between oil palm plantations and forests, in general, oil palm plantations have the same role in conservation and hydrological functions.
The facts above can be used evidence that oil palm plantations also have the same role and contribution as a forests, even relatively superior in several aspects. Therefore, we should be proud that oil palm plantations in addition to having a role in environmental aspects are almost the same as forests, but oil palm plantations are also able to generate various benefits for social and economic life both at the regional and national levels.
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