Using repeat airborne LiDAR to map the growth of individual oil palms in Malaysian Borneo during the 2015–16 El Niño

Lucy V J Beese, Dalponte Michele, Gregory P. Asner, David A. Coomes, Tommaso Jucker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Highlights

•The height growth of >500,000 individual oil palms was mapped using repeat LiDAR.

•Oil palms grew an average of 1.6 m yr−1 during the 2015–16 El Niño drought.

•Oil palms grew fastest when young and when planted near forest edges.

•Opportunities exist to optimise oil palm agriculture to reduce impacts on nature.




Abstract

Making oil palm agriculture as efficient as possible is essential to ensuring that this economically important crop can be grown sustainably. To determine how oil palm growth rates vary across tropical landscapes, we used repeat airborne LiDAR data to map the height growth of >500,000 oil palms in Malaysian Borneo over a two-year period coinciding with the 2015–16 El Niño drought. Despite uncharacteristically dry and hot weather conditions, oils palms grew an average of 1.6 m yr−1 in height over this period. However, oil palm growth rates varied across the landscape and in relation to plant age, tending to be fastest for younger individuals growing closer to forest edges, further from rivers and at higher elevations. Our results highlight the ability of oil palms to grow even during periods of drought and showcase how cutting-edge remote sensing technologies can help improve the efficiency and sustainability of oil palm agriculture.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103117
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Volume115
Early online date23 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

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