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Tire industry growth `threatens biodiversity` in SE Asia (25-05-2015)

 

Norwich, UK – Demand for natural rubber, fuelled by the tire industry, is threateningbiodiversity in protected parts of southeast Asia, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA).  

Up to 8.5 million hectares of additional rubber plantations are expected to be required to meet increasing global demand for tires by 2024, a study at the UK university found.

Expansion on this scale, said the report, will have `catastrophic` biodiversity impacts, with globally threatened unique species and ecosystems all put under threat.

The extent of the problem is comparable to that being created in the oil palm sector, suggests the research team,. They are, therefore, urging tire makers, such as Goodyear and Michelin, to back sustainability initiatives and drive change in the industry.

`The tire industry consumes 70 percent of all natural rubber grown, and rising demand for vehicle and aeroplane tires is behind the recent expansion of plantations,` said lead researcher Eleanor Warren-Thomas from UEA`s School of Environmental Sciences.

`We predict that between 4.3 and 8.5 million hectares of new plantations will be required to meet projected demand by 2024,` she said.  `There has been growing concern that switching land use to rubber cultivation can negatively impact the soil, water availability, biodiversity, and even people`s livelihoods.

`But this is the first review of the effects on biodiversity and endangered species, and to estimate the future scale of the problem in terms of land area.`

The UEA study focuses on four `biodiversity hotspots` in which rubber plantations are expanding – Sundaland (Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali), Indo-Burma (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, most of Myanmar and Thailand, and parts of Southwest China, including Xishuangbanna and Hainan Island), Wallacea (Indonesian islands east of Bali and Borneo and west of New Guinea, plus Timor Leste) and the Philippines.

– European Rubber Journal report

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