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Satellite reveals age and extent of oil palm plantations in Southeast Asia

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Abstract: In recent decades, global oil palm production has shown an abrupt increase,with almost 90 produced in Southeast Asia alone. Monitoring oil palm islargely based on national surveys and inventories or one-off mapping studies.However, they do not provide detailed spatial extent or timely updates andtrends in oil palm expansion or age. Palm oil yields vary significantly withplantation age, which is critical for landscape-level planning. Here we showthe extent and age of oil palm plantations for the year 2017 across SoutheastAsia using remote sensing. Satellites reveal a total of 11.66 (+ - 2.10)million hectares (Mha) of plantations with more than 45 located in Sumatra.Plantation age varies from ~7 years in Kalimantan to ~13 in Insular Malaysia.More than half the plantations on Kalimantan are young (<7 years) and not yetin full production compared to Insular Malaysia where 45 of plantations areolder than 15 years, with declining yields. For the first time, these resultsprovide a consistent, independent, and transparent record of oil palmplantation extent and age structure, which are complementary to nationalstatistics.

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