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Can Oil Palm Explain The Lower Forest Loss Here?

Last year, tropical forest loss increased worldwide but Malaysia cut down less than it did the previous year, the fourth year it has done so. What explains this good news?

[First posted on 27 April, 12.17pm.]

Last year, the world lost 12% more tropical forest than it did in 2019, according to satellite census by forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch. Malaysia bucked the global trend: it lost less. 

In fact, Malaysia has trimmed its primary forest losses four years in a row. Losses fell from about 185,000 hectares in 2016 to nearly 73,000 hectares in 2020 (Figure 1).

At the same time, there is a slow down in the expansion of the sector most frequently linked to deforestation – oil palm. Oil palm area in Malaysia contracted in 2020 – the first drop in 44 years.

Could this explain Malaysia’s recent downtrend in primary forest losses? And can we expect forest loss to drop further?

(Photo: Malaysia has been losing less primary forest since 2016. Graph: YH Law)

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