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.

22 October 2018

A paper reviews how “working lands” such as farms, forests and rangelands can be managed to protect biodiversity and ecosystems services. The paper points out that the management of working lands can be complementary to using protected areas to conserve biodiversity.

2 October 2018

The common weed killer glyphosate targets an enzyme only found in plants and microorganisms. However, a new paper finds that glyphosate can harm honey bees even though they lack the targeted enzyme. Glyphosate does this by changing the balance of microorganisms (some of which contain the relevant enzyme) found in the bees’ guts, making the bees more susceptible to infections.

2 October 2018

Birds catch insects less frequently in silvopastures (grazing land with substantial tree cover) than in forest fragments, according to a study in the Colombian Andes. This suggests that silvopasture provides relatively lower quality habitat for the bird species studied. However, the paper proposes some measures to improve the quality of silvopastures as habitats for birds, including encouraging certain tree species and forming particular microhabitats, such as vine tangles and hanging dead leaves.

2 October 2018

27% of global deforestation since 2001 has been caused by permanent land use change for producing commodities (such as beef, soy and palm oil), according to a recent paper. The researchers used satellite imagery to assess 10 km by 10 km grid cells across the globe and categorised each cell by likely forest disturbance type: commodity production, shifting agriculture, managed forestry, wildfire, or urbanisation.

25 September 2018

This book, by Leonard Rusinamhodzi, describes the concept of ecosystems services, shows how to identify and quantify ecosystems services in the context of sustainable food systems, and examines the challenges of maintaining ecosystems services in the face of climate change.

18 September 2018

The University of East Anglia’s Global Environmental Justice Group is running a five-week online course on “Environmental Justice”, hosted on the Future Learn website. Several food-relevant topics will be covered, including water justice, forest governance, biodiversity conservation, and climate justice.

18 September 2018

When given a choice between food with or without an added neonicotinoid pesticide (thought to be harmful to bees), bees initially show no preference for the pesticide, but over time choose to feed on the pesticide-laced food. This means that pesticide-treated crops may become disproportionately attractive to bees, increasing the bees’ exposure to harmful compounds. The study did not identify the mechanism by which bees develop a preference for the pesticide.

12 September 2018

Lasers might replace poison or shotguns to stop birds from eating fruit crops, according to some farmers who have used automated laser systems to successfully defend their crops. The systems are also quieter than propane cannons and more reliable than trained falcons. However, it isn’t clear whether the lasers can harm birds’ eyes.

12 September 2018

The Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration’s report “Restoring forests and landscapes: the key to a sustainable future” presents case studies of the successful restoration of landscapes that have been affected by deforestation and land degradation.

20 August 2018

The Trump administration has reversed a ban on using neonicotinoid pesticides (linked to declining bee populations) and genetically modified crops in over 50 national wildlife refuges (out of 560 total). Limited farming activity is permitted in some of the wildlife refuges. Previously, a blanket ban had prohibited the use of neonicotinoids and genetically modified crops in the wildlife refuges, but now decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.

20 August 2018

The first systematic analysis of marine wilderness around the world finds that only 13% of the ocean can still be classed as wilderness, i.e. having experienced low impacts from human-caused stressors such as fertilizer runoff, fishing and climate change. Only 4.9% of that wilderness (covering 0.6% of total ocean area) falls within official marine protected areas.

24 July 2018

Managing tropical forest conservation on the basis of maximising carbon storage might not protect the most biodiverse regions of forest, according to a recent paper. Using datasets from Brazil, the authors found that the correlation between biodiversity and levels of carbon stored in forests depended on whether and how the forest had been disturbed by human activity.

10 July 2018

In a guest post for Carbon Brief, Professor Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen discusses recent research on how climate mitigation through negative emissions could affect biodiversity, through changes in land use. He argues that bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) should be implemented sooner rather than later, because of the risk of not meeting climate mitigation targets if BECCS is left until later in the century and because a study estimated that natural land loss could be lower if BECCS is deployed earlier in the century.

10 July 2018

Trase - a partnership between the Stockholm Environment Institute and Global Canopy - has released the Trase Yearbook 2018, which presents the latest insights on the sustainability of global agricultural commodity supply chains associated with tropical deforestation: the focus this year is on soy. The Trase Yearbook highlights how just six companies account for 57% of Brazilian soy exports. Taken together, the supply chains of these six traders are associated with two-thirds of the total deforestation risk directly linked to soy expansion, the majority of it in the Cerrado, one of the world’s most biodiverse savannahs.

26 June 2018

A new paper examines how both climate change and land use could affect future biodiversity. It finds that, by 2070, climate change could become a greater driver of species loss than land use change. Climate change alone could cause species loss of 11% to 29% relative to 1961-1960, depending on the severity of temperature rise.

11 June 2018

TEEBAgriFood, part of the UN Environment initiative The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, has released a report on the environmental, health and social costs and benefits of the agriculture and food system. It finds that the food system does not keep everyone healthy or protect the environment. It calls for a reform in how we measure food system performance, because relying on yield per hectare and market prices neglects other costs such as food-borne disease and environmental degradation.

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.

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.