SOC stock changes and greenhouse gas emissions following tropical land use conversions to plantation crops on mineral soils, with a special focus on oil palm and rubber plantations

The increasing global demand for vegetable oils has resulted in a significant increase in the area under oil palm in the tropics during the last couple of decades, and this is projected to increase further. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil discourages the conversion of peatlands to oil palm and rubber plantations. However, our understanding of the effects on soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks and associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of land use conversion is incomplete, especially for mineral soils under primary forests, secondary forests, rubber and other perennial plantations in the tropics. In this review we synthesised information on SOC stocks and GHG emissions from tropical mineral soils under forest, oil palm and rubber plantations and other agroecosystems across the tropical regions. We found that the largest SOC losses occurred after land use conversion from primary forest to oil palm and rubber plantations. Secondary forest and pasture lands showed lower SOC losses as well as total GHG (CO2, N2 O and CH4) emissions when converted to oil palm and rubber plantations. However, due to the limited data available on all three GHG emissions, there remains high uncertainty in GHG emissions estimates, and regional GHG accounting is more reliable. We recommend long-term monitoring of oil palm and other perennial plantations established on tropical mineral soils on different soil types and regions on SOC stock changes and total GHG emissions and evaluate appropriate management practices to optimise production and sustainable economic returns, and minimise environmental impact. © 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
  • Authors: Shanmugam, S., Dalal, R.C., Joosten, H., Raison, R.J., Joo, G.K.
  • Author Affiliation: University of Queensland, University of Greifswald, The Mullion Group, Advanced Agriecological Research Sdn.Bhd.
  • Subjects: oil palms, plantations, peatlands, tropics, soil organic carbon, emissions, rubber, conversion, land use, systematic reviews
  • Publication type: Journal Article
  • Source: Agriculture 8(9): 133
  • Year: 2018
  • DOI:
Latest posts


Founding member states
Republic of Indonesia Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo Republic of Peru
Coordinating partners
Ministry of Environment and Forestry Republic of Indonesia CIFOR UN Environment FAO