B+LNZ calls for improvements to latest biodiversity reforms

The Government last week released the exposure draft of the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity and is seeking feedback. The consultation period closes at 11.59 pm on Thursday 21 July 2022.  B+LNZ has undertaken a preliminary analysis of the exposure draft and has emailed these observations to farmers: 

The Government released updated proposals to the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB) last week.

The NPS for biodiversity is of particular relevance to sheep and beef farmers given the significant amount of native vegetation on our farms – some 2.8 million hectares, according to research by the University of Canterbury.

B+LNZ, along with other primary sector groups, successfully convinced the Government to pause the initial biodiversity reforms in 2020. Farmers had significant concerns about the proposed rules, particularly around Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) and the potential restrictions on what they could do in those areas. Continue reading

Agriculture and climate change combined can halve insect populations

Interplay between historical climate warming and intensive agricultural land use is associated with a reduction of almost 50% in insect abundance, reports a paper in Nature.

Climate change and land-use change are known to affect insect biodiversity, and these factors can act synergistically; for example, removing natural habitats to make agricultural land can alter the microclimate and increase temperature extremes. But the effect of interactions between these factors and insect biodiversity is less well understood than for other animal species.

To address this gap in knowledge, Charlotte Outhwaite, Peter McCann and Tim Newbold combined data on temperature changes and land-use changes with data on insect biodiversity in more than 6,000 different locations around the world, with the data spanning a 20-year period. Continue reading

Pollinators: the ominous findings of first global risk index for species declines

Disappearing habitats and the use of pesticides are driving the loss of pollinator species around the world, posing a threat to “ecosystem services” that provide food and wellbeing to many millions — particularly in the Global South — as well as billions of dollars in crop productivity.

This is according to an international panel of experts, led by the University of Cambridge, who used available evidence to create the first planetary risk index of the causes and effects of dramatic pollinator declines in six global regions.

The bees, butterflies, wasps, beetles, bats, flies and hummingbirds that distribute pollen, vital for the reproduction of over 75% of food crops and flowering plants — including coffee, rapeseed and most fruits — are visibly diminishing the world over, yet little is known of the consequences for human populations. Continue reading

Turning the next page on predator control in New Zealand

The catastrophic loss of indigenous biota triggered by the introductions of small mammals to New Zealand is well known.  The country’s deeply endemic bird species, highly adapted to New Zealand’s pre-predator environments, are particularly vulnerable because of traits such as flightlessness, ground nesting, and highly specialised diet.

In response, numerous ecological restoration projects have been set up across the country and its offshore islands.

Each project has reported local predator control successes, but their collective contribution to the overall biodiversity narrative has remained unclear. Continue reading

Agricultural expansion could cause widespread biodiversity declines by 2050

Almost 90% of terrestrial vertebrate species around the world might lose some of their habitat by 2050 as land is cleared to meet the future demand for food, according to a modelling study published in Nature Sustainability.  But the implementation of policies focusing on how, where and what food is produced could reduce these threats while also supporting human well-being.

Habitat loss driven by agricultural expansion is a major threat to terrestrial vertebrates.

Projections based on human population growth and dietary needs estimate that we will need 2–10 million km2 of new agricultural land to be cleared at the expense of natural habitats.

Conventional conservation approaches — which often focus on a small number of species and/or a specific landscape — may be insufficient to fight these trends. Adequately responding to the impending biodiversity crisis requires location- and species-specific assessments of many thousands of species to identify the species and landscapes most at risk.

David Williams, Michael Clark and colleagues developed a model that increases both the breadth and specificity of current conservation analyses.

The authors examined the impacts of likely agricultural expansion on almost 20,000 species. They found that under current trajectories, 87.7% (17,409) of the terrestrial bird, amphibian, and mammal species in the analysis might lose some habitat by 2050, including around 1,200 species projected to lose more than 25% of their remaining habitat.

Projected mean habitat losses were greatest in sub-Saharan Africa with large losses also projected in the Atlantic forest of Brazil, in eastern Argentina and in parts of South and Southeast Asia.

However, the authors also show that policies such as increasing agricultural yields, transitioning to healthier diets and reducing food waste, may have considerable benefits, with different approaches having bigger impacts in different regions.

The research is HERE.

Source:  Scimex

Ecologically friendly agriculture doesn’t compromise crop yields

Increasing diversity in crop production benefits biodiversity without compromising crop yields, according to an international study comparing 42,000 examples of diversified and simplified agricultural practices.

Diversification includes practices such as growing multiple crops in rotation, planting flower strips, reducing tillage, adding organic amendments that enrich soil life, and establishing or restoring species-rich habitat in the landscape surrounding the crop field.

“The trend is that we’re simplifying major cropping systems worldwide,” says Giovanni Tamburini at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and lead author of the study.

“We grow monoculture on enlarged fields in homogenized landscapes. According to our study diversification can reverse the negative impacts that we observe in simplified forms of cropping on the environment and on production itself.”

Continue reading

How returning farmland to nature could save threatened species and soak up carbon

Returning parts of the world’s farmlands to nature could help mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss, according to research findings which have been aired in  the New York Times.

The article notes that storms and wildfires are worsening while as many as one million species are at risk of extinction.

The solutions are not small or easy, but scientists say they exist. Continue reading

What farmers think about biodiversity on their land – and what experts think about the survey findings

More than 90% of sheep and beef farmers who responded to a recent scientific survey – acknowledge the benefits of managing biodiversity on their farmland.

The  benefits were mainly social or environmental, such as protecting land for future generations.

But a majority of the respondents also identified barriers to conservation efforts, such as financial costs or time investments.

The survey of sheep and beef farmers around New Zealand received nearly 700 responses that described advantages to managing and protecting biodiversity on their land.

Lead author Dr Fleur Maseyk, from The Catalyst Group, says the study showed many farmers associate a range of values and benefits with biodiversity on-farm, spanning social, environmental and economic themes.

Social advantages were the most commonly recognised –  47% of the responses described benefits such as advantages to the farmer, their family and staff, and benefits beyond the farm gate such as inter-generational equity and meeting the responsibility of land management. Continue reading

Insect diversity boosted by combination of crop diversity and semi-natural habitats

Preserving semi-natural habitats and promoting crop diversity are both needed to enhance the number of beneficial insect species in agricultural land, according to new research published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied of Ecology.

The study, by researchers in Sweden, the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain and France, found that increasing the diversity of crops in agricultural landscapes increased the diversity of beneficial insects such as pollinators. But this benefit was only seen in landscapes with high proportions of semi-natural habitats such as forests and grassland.

In landscapes with both high crop diversity and semi-natural habitat cover, the researchers observed an increased diversity of ground beetle species as well as pollinators like bees and hoverflies. These insects have the potential to benefit crops through predating pests or pollinating flowering crop plants, both important for crop yields.

The same effects were not found for spiders, which surprised the researchers. Continue reading

Govt announces new biodiversity strategy to ensure nature thrives

The Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage, today launched Te Mana o te Taiao, the Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy, which envisions New Zealand as a place where ecosystems are healthy and resilient, and people embrace the natural world.

Many of New Zealand’s plants and wildlife species are found nowhere else on Earth, Ms Sage said.

“They are ancient and unique – we have giant invertebrates, flightless birds, penguins that live in the forest, trees that can live for over a thousand years, and the smallest dolphin in the world. These creatures and plants have been isolated to the islands and waters of Aotearoa since the days of the dinosaurs.  

“As New Zealanders, we all want to see kiwi in the wild, but wouldn’t it be even better to have them in our backyards?  These are sorts of aspirational goals that could become a reality if we work together on this.

“We recognise the value of nature and our obligation to protect it and importantly, to restore the mauri (the living essence) of nature and people.” 

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said many of our threatened species, habitats, and ecosystems are found not only on public land, but also on private and Māori owned land.

“Strengthening the Treaty Partnership between Māori and the Crown, Te Mana o te Taiao will also help to create and support partnerships throughout local government and iwi,” she said.  

“Coming together, sharing and using knowledge, especially mātauranga Māori, will benefit our work to protect and restore nature.  Te Mana o te Taiao includes goals that will make the roles and actions of local government clearer and easier.”  

Ms Sage said human activities to date have largely impacted heavily on nature, especially indigenous plants and wildlife and their habitats, through burning, forest clearance, over-fishing, and our introduction of predators such as rats, stoats, possums and hedgehogs.

“The new Biodiversity Strategy is a chance to reset our priorities and take action together so that nature thrives for its own sake and as the basis of human wellbeing.”

The Strategy sets out five core outcomes to ensure nature is thriving by 2050. There are three key themes; getting the system right, empowering action, and protecting and restoring; with specific objectives and goals for 2025, 2030, and 2050.

The Strategy anticipates a future where caring for nature is part of everyone’s values and an integral part of daily life. The Department of Conservation (DOC) consulted widely to develop it.

The next steps are to develop an action plan working closely with Treaty partners and local government and landholders as key agents for biodiversity work on the ground.

This strategy links to projects such as Predator Free New Zealand by 2050. It endorses community action like backyard trapping, restoration and revegetation projects.

As well as a public consultation phase in 2019, three key reference groups helped develop the new strategy.

The Te Ao Māori Reference Group was responsible for getting a Māori world view to form the basis of the strategy structure.

The Stakeholder Reference Group consisted of a range of stakeholder organisations involved in biodiversity protection and environmental sustainability.

  • Forest and Bird
  • Federated Farmers
  • Environmental Defence Society
  • Forest Owners Association
  • Fish and Game
  • Fisheries Inshore NZ

The Science Reference Group provided information that underpins many of the key decisions about the way forward for prioritising the recovery of biodiversity.

DOC has developed a companion technical document that describes the status and trend of biodiversity to help set priorities for the recovery of our most threatened species and ecosystems.

Source:  Minister of Conservation