Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Biodiversity and ecosystems

With large scale habitat loss, overharvesting, climate change and invasive species affecting most regions in the world, many thousands of animal and plant species are at risk of extinction due to human actions. The food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. At the same time, food production is closely interlinked with and dependent on the continued existence of specific natural areas, because it relies on ecosystem services such as pollination, fish stock renewal and rain water cycling and countless others.

4 June 2018

FCRN member Seth Cook of the International Institute for Environment and Development has written a discussion paper on the importance of agricultural biodiversity. The report notes that crop diversity is declining: today, just 30 crops supply 95% of food calories, with maize, rice, wheat and potatoes providing over 60%. For comparison, humans have domesticated or collected around 7000 species of food plants.

Image: Sheep81, Northern White Rhinoceros Angalifu, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain
22 May 2018

Although humans only make up 0.01% of life on Earth by weight, 83% of wild mammals and 15% of fish have been lost since the start of human civilisation, according to a new study. The study also finds that, of all mammals on Earth, 36% are humans, 60% are livestock and 4% are wild mammals, while 70% of birds are chicken and other poultry with only 30% being wild.

15 May 2018

FCRN member Gary Bentrup, of the USDA National Agroforestry Centre, has co-authored a report on how agroforestry can be used to help agriculture both mitigate and adapt to climate change. The report defines agroforestry as “the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal production systems”, which it further categorises into silvopasture, alley cropping, forest farming (or multi-storey cropping), windbreaks and riparian forest buffers. Topics covered include ecosystems services provided by agroforestry, the relationship of agroforestry to greenhouse gas emissions, economic and sociocultural considerations and an overview of agroforestry in different US regions, Canada and Mexico.

Image: Brocken Inaglory, Total internal reflection of Chelonia mydas, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
9 May 2018

Many important marine species, including marine mammals, sea turtles and seabirds, are threatened by bycatch - i.e. being accidentally caught by fishers who are targeting other species. A new paper finds that around half of the populations threatened by bycatch could be protected by managing fish stocks to maximise fishery profits, which would reduce bycatch as a side-effect of reducing overfishing.

30 April 2018

The Nature Friendly Farming Network connects farmers who want to farm sustainably and seek positive changes in policy. You can sign up for newsletter from the network: join as a farmer here, or as a member of the public here.

Image: NASA, Deforestation in Amazonia, seen from satellite, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
30 April 2018

Tropical deforestation is nearing a critical point, beyond which the rate of forest fragmentation could increase much more rapidly than the rate of forest area loss, according to a study. Fragmentation can have negative effects on biodiversity and also increases carbon emissions beyond those from just the deforested areas, since trees are at greater risk of dying on the edges between forest and cleared land. The researchers predict that reforestation and a reduction in the rate of deforestation are both needed if fragmentation is to be reversed.

Image: Jackie Proven, Leaping deer in wheat field near Hawklaw, Geograph, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
30 April 2018

Intensifying agricultural production can make farmland less valuable for wildlife, says a new paper, but optimising land use (by intensifying agriculture in areas where it will cause the least biodiversity loss) can reduce the projected biodiversity loss by up to 88%. The winners and losers of this strategy depend on whether land use is optimised globally or nationally.

Image: Adcro, The exterior of an Iceland supermarket in Horwich, Bolton, Greater Manchester, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International
24 April 2018

Frozen food supermarket Iceland has pledged to remove palm oil from all of its own-brand lines by the end of 2018, citing concerns over collapsing orangutan populations and deforestation. The initiative - the first of its kind among major UK supermarkets - should reduce demand for palm oil by over 500 tonnes a year.

Image: Alistair Kitchen, Orangutan Baby, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
23 April 2018

A study shows that 100,000 orangutans in Borneo have been lost between 1999 and 2015 - around half of the population. The results show that this precipitous decrease is not just due to deforestation, since numbers of orangutans also declined in selectively logged and intact forests.

Image: Dudarev Mikhail, Stumps in the valley caused by deforestation and slash and burn types of agriculture in Madagascar, IPBES Media Resources
10 April 2018

Land degradation caused by human activities is driving the world towards a sixth mass species extinction, makes climate change worse, has negative impacts on at least 3.2 billion people and costs the world the equivalent of 10% of annual GDP through lost biodiversity and ecosystems services, according to a report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Image: Travis Isaacs, Orangutan, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
19 March 2018

This paper sets out principles of what the authors call “just conservation”, aiming to find a balance between the conservation of nature and social justice. The authors propose two principles to guide decision-making: the non-anthropocentric principle and the safeguard principle.

6 March 2018

This book, edited by Joshua Zeunert and Tim Waterman, sets out a wide array of interdisciplinary knowledge on landscapes, agriculture, food and sustainability.

Image: Angus MacAskill, Japanese knotweed 2, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
20 February 2018

A perspective piece and an editorial have featured in the same edition of Biological Conservation (March 2018): both tackle a recent debate among conservation biologists as to whether at a local level biodiversity or species richness is changing and in what direction.

Image: Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons
13 February 2018

This paper by researchers from the USA, UK and Mexico examines the biodiversity conservation and carbon storage implications of a number of land-use scenarios related to cattle ranching in Yucatán, Mexico.

1 February 2018

Geoengineering to fix climate change could harm biodiversity, according to two modelling studies.

13 January 2018

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre has developed a new online tool. DOPA Explorer 2.0 provides allows users to explore and compare protected areas, with regard to their species and ecosystems, and the pressures they are exposed to through human development. 

12 December 2017

The planetary boundaries concept provides a theoretical upper limit on human activity which the planet is able to sustain without major perturbation to the current ‘Earth system’. Previously, nine planetary boundaries (PBs) have been proposed and recently Steffen et al. (2015) have updated these boundary definitions and assessed the current state of the position of human activity with respect to each boundary. In this article, researchers from a number of food, climate change, agricultural and environmental research institutions around the world build on this work by assessing the impact of agriculture on each PB status, based on a detailed literature review of the available research.

Pages