Increasing demand for natural rubber necessitates a robust sustainability initiative to mitigate impacts on tropical biodiversity

Warren-Thomas, Eleanor, Dolman, Paul ORCID: and Edwards, David (2015) Increasing demand for natural rubber necessitates a robust sustainability initiative to mitigate impacts on tropical biodiversity. Conservation Letters, 8 (4). 230–241. ISSN 1755-263X

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Strong international demand for natural rubber is driving expansion of industrial-scale and smallholder monoculture plantations, with >2 million ha established during the last decade. Mainland Southeast Asia and Southwest China represent the epicenter of rapid rubber expansion; here we review impacts on forest ecosystems and biodiversity. We estimate that 4.3–8.5 million ha of additional rubber plantations are required to meet projected demand by 2024, threatening significant areas of Asian forest, including many protected areas. Uncertainties concern the potential for yield intensification of existing cultivation to mitigate demand for new rubber area, versus potential displacement of rubber by more profitable oil palm. Our review of available studies indicates that conversion of forests or swidden agriculture to monoculture rubber negatively impacts bird, bat and invertebrate biodiversity. However, rubber agroforests in some areas of Southeast Asia support a subset of forest biodiversity in landscapes that retain little natural forest. Work is urgently needed to: improve understanding of whether land-sparing or land-sharing rubber cultivation will best serve biodiversity conservation, investigate the potential to accommodate biodiversity within existing rubber-dominated landscapes while maintaining yields, and ensure rigorous biodiversity and social standards via the development of a sustainability initiative.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: agroforestry,carbon emission,plantation,monoculture,ecosystem services,forest loss,land-use change,land-sparing ,land-sharing,hevea brasiliensis,ecology, evolution, behavior and systematics,ecology,global and planetary change,nature and landscape conservation,sdg 2 - zero hunger,sdg 15 - life on land ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1100/1105
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences
Faculty of Science > Research Centres > Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Environmental Biology
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Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2015 22:25
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2022 00:52
DOI: 10.1111/conl.12170


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