Promoting landscape heterogeneity to improve the biodiversity benefits of certified palm oil production: Evidence from Peninsular Malaysia

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Badrul Azhar
  • Norzanalia Saadun
  • Chong Leong Puan
  • Norizah Kamarudin
  • Najjib Aziz
  • Siti Nurhidayu
  • Joern Fischer

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is responsible for the certification of palm oil producers that comply with sustainability standards. However, it is not known whether RSPO-certified plantations are effective in maintaining biodiversity. Focusing on Peninsular Malaysia, we show that both RSPO-certified plantations and uncertified large-scale plantations are characterized by very low levels of landscape heterogeneity. By contrast, heterogeneity measures were many times higher in palm oil producing smallholdings, despite their lack of RSPO certification. The low heterogeneity of large-scale oil palm plantations, including those certified by the RSPO, is likely to severely limit their value for biodiversity conservation. Uncertified smallholdings, in contrast, are much more heterogeneous and therefore hold substantially greater promise for the integration of palm oil production and biodiversity conservation than large-scale plantations. With oil palm agriculture further expanding, certification schemes should mandate producers to improve biodiversity conservation through landscape management that promotes greater landscape heterogeneity.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Pages (from-to)553-561
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank M.S. Yahya for assisting this research in the field and for providing computer technical support in data analysis. This study was not supported by any research grants, but authors used existing resources available from Universiti Putra Malaysia to conduct this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Authors.

    Research areas

  • Biodiversity, Landscape heterogeneity, Oil palm, Plantations, RSPO, Smallholdings
  • Sustainability Science