What is FERN?
FERN stands for Fragmented Ecosystem Restoration Network. We are a group of researchers, science communicators, horticulturalists and volunteers working together to increase biodiversity in oil palm plantations.
FERN is an initiative from University of West England in Bristol to understand and reduce the effect of palm oil expansion. The focus of this research is to support and increase native biodiversity in oil palm by protecting and increasing the number of epiphytic ferns on oil palms. The ferns support a wide range of biodiversity, from microbes to insects and other organisms, and provide ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling and pest control. Ecosystem services such as these are vital for ecosystems to function.
The story of palm oil starts in the rainforest, home to more than half of the world's estimated 10m species of plants, animals and insects and seen as a potential source of cures for a range of diseases. Known as the ‘lungs of the planet’, rainforests recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen. They also store water, prevent soil erosion and protect biodiversity. But they're under serious threat.
Palm oil plantations in south-east Asia have tripled in just a decade, driving deforestation, habitat loss and the destruction of communities across Indonesia and Malaysia. These plantations also have a large impact on greenhouse gas emissions because they are often established on land converted from swamp forests, which release carbon dioxide and methane when they are cleared.