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This year, those small caves collapsed and the overburden was tipped into the river.

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The overburden will be washed away in future floods, and the whole process will begin again. River bank erosion and migration are a natural process, but the irresponsibly located coal ash ponds could be undercut by erosion and collapse if they remain in the floodplain. Last year, Dynegy proposed a over-sized massive bank armoring project that would create a feet long scar on the riverbank.

PRN opposed the project and called for a temporary, removable bank armoring project that could be installed quickly when necessary, but also removed if the coal ash is ultimately removed from the floodplain.

Riverbanks Remain invitation, 16th November | Unity Books

A corrugated metal pipe was observed. This is the first time that PRN staff have seen this particular pipe picture above. Erosion may have unearthed this pipe over the past year, or it may have been hidden by foliage in previous years. The pipe appears to be filled with soil, but any pipe running under the coal ash ponds presents risks.

Coal Ash on the Middle Fork: Still Seeping

In past years, a clay tile drain was found sticking out of the river bank as well. The water level was too high to see the clay tile on this trip. Currently, however, a large percent of floodplain forests in Southeast Asia are unprotected and open to development.

Marikina Horror Stories - Marikina Riverbanks (Ep.18)

While the conservation benefits of preserving riparian forest corridors are clear, conventional wisdom holds that there is little economic incentive for plantation developers to leave intact forest on fertile — and potentially profitable — river floodplains. Horton and his colleagues found that rather than hurting profits, leaving at least 10 meters of riparian forest between the riverbank and oil palm crop can actually maximize yield and prove more profitable than planting oil palm right up to the riverbank.

Plantations can produce more palm oil if they keep riverbanks forested

To model the erosion prevention benefits of a riparian forest buffer, the team looked at a kilometer stretch of the Lower Kinabatangan River, located in Sabah, a major oil palm-growing state in Malaysian Borneo. Since , the majority of the floodplain forests along the Kinabatangan have been converted to oil palm plantations, and 36 percent of the riparian forests in the study area are currently unprotected.

The researchers modeled bank erosion rates at year intervals — the length of an average oil palm crop growing cycle — for up to years. They also compared potential palm oil yields given ten different forest buffer widths between 10 and meters.

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The team found that a larger buffer has a bigger payoff in the long term, but a forest buffer of 10 to 20 meters could maximize yields even within a ten-year period. Meanwhile, buffers of 30 meters or more could maximize yields in the long term.

The authors also note that the erosion prevention they projected for riparian forests are based on conservative calculations, meaning that preserving a riparian forest buffer could be even more economically beneficial than their estimates indicate. Riparian forests also mitigate the impacts of flooding, which the researchers say could have an even greater effect on short-term profits.

They also note that while their research focused on the erosion prevention benefits to oil palm plantations on the Kinabatangan River, their approach is generalized enough that their findings likely extend to other regions, as well as other forms of agriculture adjacent to forested tropical floodplains.

Citation: Horton, A.


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Can riparian forest buffers increase yields from oil palm plantations? If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Mongabay Series: Global Palm Oil Plantations can produce more palm oil if they keep riverbanks forested. Conservationists have long known that keeping riverbanks forested in regions with heavy palm oil development helps protect wildlife and their habitat.