Posts Tagged ‘biodiversity’
Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on October 29th, 2012
“Figure 3. Multiple indicators of cropping system performance” from Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health
From “A Simple Fix for Farming” by Mark Bittman:
It’s becoming clear that we can grow all the food we need, and profitably, with far fewer chemicals. And I’m not talking about imposing some utopian vision of small organic farms on the world. Conventional agriculture can shed much of its chemical use — if it wants to.
This was hammered home once again in what may be the most important agricultural study this year, although it has been largely ignored by the media, two of the leading science journals and even one of the study’s sponsors, the often hapless Department of Agriculture.
The study was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.
The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.
In short, there was only upside — and no downside at all — associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons. And it’s a high-stakes game; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States.
Read the full article by Mark Bittman on the NY Times Opinionator blog, or check out the research paper, published on plos one:
“Results of our study indicate that more diverse cropping systems can use small amounts of synthetic agrichemical inputs as powerful tools with which to tune, rather than drive, agroecosystem performance, while meeting or exceeding the performance of less diverse systems.” Davis AS, Hill JD, Chase CA, Johanns AM, Liebman M (2012) Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47149. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047149
Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 14th, 2011
From “Yorkshire’s revived river Aire is a lesson in people power” by Peter Lazenby:
News that Britain’s once foully polluted rivers are achieving levels of cleanliness and wildlife occupation not seen since the industrial revolution is to be welcomed. But credit for this cannot be claimed only by the government’s environment agency and anti-pollution legislation. Behind many of the improvements lies people power – the mobilisation of individuals and organisations to force polluters to clean up their act. In the 1980s and 90s, that is exactly what happened in my part of the world, industrial west Yorkshire.
The river Aire starts out as a healthy river in the Yorkshire dales, springing from beneath a limestone cliff known as Malham Cove, where falcons nest. By the time it wound its way through Bradford and Leeds, some 50 miles downstream, it had received the industrial waste of textile, chemical and engineering industries, plus the domestic waste of more than a million people. The pollutants killed off the river’s oxygen supply.
In the 1980s, a group was formed called Eye on the Aire. Its volunteers brought together more than 30 organisations with an interest in the river. They included community groups representing people living near its banks, conservation and environmental organisations, sporting groups such as rowing clubs, local councils and companies such as Tetley’s brewery, which had a riverside location. For a decade the group campaigned to press Yorkshire Water to install an extra level of filtration at its sewage works – tertiary treatment. The system involves the filtering of already treated sewage effluent through pebbles and increasingly fine layers of sand. It took a decade to win the campaign, which included the harnessing of government influence and action by the environment department.
Yorkshire Water installed the tertiary treatment at a cost of millions of pounds. The effluent it produced was often as clean as the fresh river water into which it passed. The effect was near miraculous.In the late 1990s, more than a decade ahead of much of the rest of Britain, otters, heron and other wildlife began to return to the river Aire in the heart of industrial Leeds. Salmon appeared in the lower reaches, blocked only by weirs and other obstacles. Water passes will eventually allow them to reach spawning grounds in the Yorkshire dales where they have not been seen in more than two centuries.
There was an economic spin-off. The Aire in Leeds had been part of a comprehensive canal and river transport network in the days before rail. Its city riverside was littered with semi-derelict warehouses and factories not used in decades. No one wanted to invest in and develop buildings adjacent to a stinking open sewer. The restoration of the river to life changed all that. Today the Leeds waterfront thrives with homes, restaurants, bars and markets. The Aire hosts an annual water festival.
The driving force behind the return to life of the river was Eye on the Aire, an organisation made up of ordinary people with determination and a belief in their cause. We should remember their example in the face of future struggles.
Read the full article by Peter Lazenby for the Guardian
The Slow Food Almanac for 2011 is now available to read online. Introduction by Carlo Petrini:
A recent addition to the movement’s publications, each edition paints an increasingly effective picture of what we are doing in the world. Once again the Almanac is rich in stories that describe who we are and what we do: Slow Food and Terra Madre’s activities on every continent to defend biodiversity, promote local food through taste education and grow our network with projects, meetings and exchanges. They are stories of men and women, young people and elders, cooks and teachers who are united by the Slow Food movement – active, determined, working together to bring change to their communities. Through their perseverance and imaginative approaches, and sharing in our global network, their examples become a stimulus and an opportunity for common growth and exchange.
The 2011 Almanac speaks about us and the land we live on – our true wealth. It offers a glimpse of how vast geographic diversity and human interactions with ecosystems have allowed us to be creative and produce food in a good, clean and fair way, and thus continue to hope for a better world. This is our culture, the culture of Slow Food.
I hope you will enjoy the inspiring stories and wonderful photographs in this electronic publication. It also contains links for further information – connecting to the various sections of the Slow Food website, as well as other websites, photo galleries and video footage. Please share it with friends who may be interested in joining Slow Food.
To read the Almanac, click here.
Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 16th, 2011
From “Green Gyms and Medical Miles: Promoting Public Health with Parks” by Ryan Donahue:
We’ve previously looked at ways in which the medical community is using exercise prescriptions as a way to combat obesity and inactivity. Park prescriptions are only a portion of the spectrum of exercise prescription programs. Fortunately, the growing awareness of the benefits of outdoor exercise – in addition to the cooperation of parks departments, environmental nonprofits, and individual parks – means that these programs should continue to grow. Once patients have left the doctor’s office with a prescription in hand, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Someone has to ensure that public parks are meeting the needs of people trying to develop good exercise habits, and that newly inspired patients can find interesting and engaging ways to exercise in local parks. A growing body of evidence that suggests that exercise in the outdoors provides some quantifiable benefits over indoor exercise. A study released February in the journal Environmental Science and Technology analyzed data from 11 different studies that compared benefits from outdoor and indoor exercise programs, and found that outdoor exercise was associated with “greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression.” Not surprisingly, those who participated in outdoor exercise “stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.”
Read the rest of this article by Ryan Donaghue to find out more about Green Gyms, Prescription Trails and an Urban Ecology Centre in Milwaukee.
Source: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Banking on biodiversity by Dilys Roe, Pavan Sukhdev, David Thomas and Robert Munroe
We’re in the midst of a biodiversity crisis. For those of us in the North, that can seem abstract; for the rural poor in the developing world, it’s all too real. Their absolute dependence on the bounty of forests, deserts and coasts means ‘biodiversity loss’ can mean losing all: food, fuel, building material, medicine, forage, livelihoods and culture. The good news is that it can work the other way. Poor communities, as long-term stewards of the South’s natural riches, are steeped in profound knowledge about them. As this pocketbook shows, working with them can reverse the downward spiral of environmental degradation. By banking on biodiversity, we can protect our natural legacy while tackling poverty locally, nationally and globally.
New wealth of nations: biodiversity and poor economies
Take a forest in rural India. Local villagers graze their livestock, gather fuelwood, fruit and medicinal bark, and hunt for honey. The trees help prevent drought and flood damage by drawing up groundwater and anchoring soils with their roots. Most, if not all, of such direct and indirect ‘flows’ of value into rural or forest-dependent households are public goods and services — received free from wild nature, and not priced or traded in any markets. Because of this, ‘ecosystem services’ are economically invisible. And they do not generally figure in the national accounts that measure a country’s economic activity. Does this matter? Yes. We cannot manage what we do not measure, and economic invisibility is not a good starting point for ensuring that ecosystem services thrive. We risk depleting them because of tradeoffs such as replacing forests with cultivated crops. Putting a value on nature and factoring that into national accounting can help governments and business wake up to the fact that healthy economies rest on healthy ecosystems — as do the wellbeing and livelihoods of the poorest of the rural poor.
From “Back Biodiversity 100, save our wildlife” by George Monbiot & Guillaume Chapron:
A few weeks ago, the Guardian launched the Biodiversity 100 campaign to prod governments into action. We asked the public and some of the world’s top ecologists to help us compile a list of 100 specific tasks that will show whether or not governments are serious about protecting biodiversity. Each task would be aimed at a government among the G20 nations, and they would be asked to sign up to it at Nagoya.
Biodiversity conservation is, or should be, all about specific action. It cannot be achieved by vague commitments. As the celebrated British ecologist Prof Sir John Lawton says: “Politicians keep talking about the threat of the loss of biodiversity. But nothing happens. Those of us who care have got to put pressure on the world’s governments to stop saying one thing and doing something completely different. This campaign will make a real contribution.”
We hope he’s right. And we see no reason why he shouldn’t be, given the recent conservation successes – Montenegro’s decision to postpone its dam-building programme; Russia’s vast new national parks; Ecuador’s determination not to allow new oil drilling in its rainforests. But to make this campaign work, you have to get behind it. That means pestering your MP, bothering your environment minister, demanding that your government stops hiding behind platitudes and starts talking about specifics. It means insisting that they treat the world’s natural wonders not as a disposable asset but as a precious charge.
Biodiversity 100: actions for Australia – Recommendations for Australia focus on invasive plants and fish that damage native populations.
Visit the campaign website for more information, including links to other regions’ actions.
Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 26th, 2010
From “Biodiversity for Low and Zero Carbon Buildings: A Technical Guide for New Build (Book Review)” by Kimberley Mok:
With major declines observed in bee, bat, bird and other critical species, it makes sense that newer built environments now being designed with zero- or low-carbon status in mind should also integrate ways to boost wildlife diversity as well. That’s the premise of Biodiversity for Low and Zero Carbon Buildings: A Technical Guide for New Build by Dr. Carol Williams.
Dr. Williams, who is associated with the UK-based Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), points out that imperfections in the craftsmanship of traditional buildings allowed certain species to find ecological niches and roosting opportunities right alongside humans. Not so with newer, ‘air-tight’ construction, hence the need to accommodate and integrate built-in habitats for now-threatened species ranging from certain bats, owls and peregrine falcons. Thus, the book is apparently the first of its kind to consciously target biodiversity enhancement in new developments, rather than retrofitting existing structures.
Unless biodiversity is considered early on in the design process, these ever more stringent demands for increased energy efficiency of buildings will lead to losses in the biodiversity that have shared our built environment for centuries. This book addresses this issue because if we do not, there will be very few, if any, future roosting opportunities for bats or nesting opportunities for birds in our buildings. Without these measures, key species will be adversely affected by new developments; not only meaning a failure to achieve truly sustainable building, but also an erosion of the quality of life we all hope to experience in our working and home environments.
With a focus on the sustainable building process and wildlife in the United Kingdom, the book is practical in its scope, providing plenty of tables and technical information on how to size and orient suitable building elements that each particular species could call home. There’s also valuable information on prefabricated wildlife-friendly components from various manufacturers, plus a chapter on living walls, roof gardens and artificial lighting. Full of clearly annotated architectural drawings, colour photos and well-organised information, this book will be an excellent reference for architects and developers in the sustainable building industry.
Original article by Kimberley Mok on Treehugger.