Rubber plantations in the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot: habitat loss, biodiversity and economics

Warren-Thomas, Eleanor (2017) Rubber plantations in the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot: habitat loss, biodiversity and economics. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Natural rubber is in high demand for the manufacture of tyres, and rubber plantations are expanding globally. Southeast Asia is the epicentre of rubber cultivation, where deforestation to make way for rubber has been occurring for decades. This process has caused substantial biodiversity loss and carbon emissions. Expansion has recently shifted northwards into mainland Southeast Asia (the
Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot) due to the development of hardier rubber varieties that can survive longer dry seasons and cooler climates. The northward shift has been exacerbated by replacement of rubber with oil palm further south. Profitability and extent of rubber are comparable to oil palm, but rubber has received far less attention and scrutiny from civil society. Future demand for natural rubber is predicted to require 4.3 – 8.5 million ha of additional plantation area by 2024, relative to a
2010 baseline. Profits accruing from logging and conversion of forest to rubber in Cambodia are shown to be very high. The carbon prices that would be needed for a REDD+ program in Indo-
Burma to match costs of forest conservation where rubber is a threat, are $30 – 51 tCO2-1. These prices are far higher than those currently paid on carbon markets or through carbon funds, highlighting the importance of supply-chain initiatives, environmental governance and full valuation of ecosystem services for defending forests from conversion to rubber. Agroforestry methods for
cultivating rubber in Thailand were found to produce yields comparable to monocultural methods, while providing modest benefits for bird and butterfly diversity. Agroforests did not support any species of conservation concern, and contiguous forests are irreplaceable for the conservation of forest biodiversity. Functional diversity of birds was found not to differ between rubber agroforests and monocultures, and species that feed primarily on nectar and fruit were extremely scarce in both types of rubber plantation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2018 16:12
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2020 00:38

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