Oil Palm expansion over Southeast Asia: land use change and air quality
Abstract:Over recent decades oil palm plantations have rapidly expanded across Southeast Asia (SEA). Much of this expansion has come at the expense of natural forests and grasslands. Aircraft measurements from a 2008 campaign, OP3, found that oil palm plantations emit as much as 7 times more isoprene than nearby natural forests. Furthermore, SEA is a rapidly developing region, with increasing urban population, and growing air quality concerns. Thus, SEA represents an ideal case study to examine the impacts of land use change on air quality in the region, and whether those changes can be detected from satellite observations of atmospheric composition.
We investigate the impacts of historical and future oil palm expansion in SEA using satellite data, high-resolution land maps, and the chemical transport model GEOS-Chem. We examine the impact of palm plantations on surface-atmosphere processes (dry deposition, biogenic emissions). We show the sensitivity of air quality to current and future oil palm expansion scenarios, and discuss the limitations of current satellite measurements in capturing these changes. Our results indicate that while the impact of oil palm expansion on air quality can be significant, the retrieval error and sensitivity of the satellite measurements limit our ability to observe these impacts from space.