• Bandar Baru Bangi, Malaysia

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Just a slight correction to Stephen Hesse’s Jan. 23 Our Planet Earth column, “Forests worldwide: a primer.” Hesse referred to “oil palm plantations” — not “palm oil plantations” — as an example of “forest” monoculture.

While it is true that oil palm is an industrial monoculture responsible for widespread deforestation and loss of biodiversity, it does not fall within the definition of “forest” by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, as it does not fulfill the criteria for woody biomass.

As such, oil palm plantations are never included within official records of forest cover. The real insidious threat of forest monoculture in Southeast Asia is currently rubber plantations, because these are included within the definition of “forest” and can be cultivated for both latex and timber.

In Malaysia particularly, this problematic definition of what constitutes a forest has resulted in large swaths of natural forest reserves being replaced by Latex Timber Clone monoculture, while the percentage of “forest cover” being reported to FAO remains the same.

sheema aziz

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