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

Relocating farmland could turn back clock 20 years on carbon emissions, scientists say

Scientists have produced a map showing where the world’s major food crops should be grown to maximise yield and minimise environmental impact. This would capture large amounts of carbon, increase biodiversity, and cut agricultural use of freshwater to zero.

The reimagined world map of agriculture includes large new farming areas for many major crops around the cornbelt in the mid-western US, and below the Sahara desert. Huge areas of farmland in Europe and India would be restored to natural habitat.

The redesign — assuming high-input, mechanised farming — would cut the carbon impact of global croplands by 71%, by allowing land to revert to its natural, forested state. This is the equivalent of capturing twenty years’ worth of our current net CO2 emissions. Trees capture carbon as they grow, and also enable more carbon to be captured by the soil than when crops are grown in it. Continue reading

IPCC begins process to approve report on impacts of climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has opened the virtual meeting to approve the Working Group II report: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

The report, which focuses on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change, includes a chapter specifically on Australia and New Zealand.

The session began on 14 February and the final report is expected on 28 February.

The report, a second instalment of the Sixth Assessment Report, integrates more strongly natural, social and economic sciences, highlighting the role of social justice and diverse forms of knowledge such as indigenous and local knowledge. It also reflects the increasing importance of urgent and immediate action to address climate risks.

It brings more knowledge at local and regional levels and linkages between biodiversity and climate change.

The report prepared by IPCC’s Working Group II will build on the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report released in August 2021 that showed climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying. 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

Coupled systems are the key to successful climate change outcomes

Treating climate, biodiversity and human society as coupled systems will be key to successfully mitigate the effects of climate change.

A landmark international report on Biodiversity and Climate change co-sponsored by IPBES (the 137 nation biodiversity policy platform of the United Nations) and IPCC (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says connecting the climate and biodiversity spheres is especially crucial at this moment when the world seems to be gearing up for stronger actions on both.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Researcher Dr Sandra Lavorel, who was a co-author of the report and is on the steering committee of the IPBES, says climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the most pressing contemporary issues.  But while there is recognition in both scientific and policy-making circles that the two are interconnected, in practice they are largely addressed in their own silos. 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

Treated like dirt: urban soil is often overlooked as a resource

Roisin O’Riordan, from Lancaster University, writes about city-based agriculture and the use of urban soil in a quest post at Sciblogs.

He says when you think about soil, you probably think of rolling fields of countryside. But what about urban soil?

With city dwellers expected to account for 68% of the world’s population by 2050, this oft forgotten resource is increasingly important…

City-based agriculture is on the rise. But urban soil is more often associated with contamination and risks to health. However, the earth in our parks, gardens and roadsides actually underpins many aspects of daily life. As our recent research paper highlights, urban soil hosts wildlife, stores water, provides food, helps combat the climate crisis and improves wellbeing.

In other words, soil provides multiple ecosystem services: the benefits we derive from the environment.

Soil is anything but inert material. In New York’s Central Park, researchers in 2014 were surprised to find the breadth of microbial diversity in the soil was similar to that found across the world including in arctic, tropical and desert soils. Less than 17% of the 167,000 kinds of microbes they identified in the park had ever been discovered before. Continue reading

Designing diverse plantings to support non-bee and bee pollinators

Ecological intensification of agriculture is viewed as a means of managing natural biodiversity and ecology to support agriculture. Supporting insect pollinator abundance and diversity is integral to this goal.

One strategy to achieve this is to establish, manage and protect biodiverse semi-natural habitats.

To design biodiverse semi-natural plantings it’s essential to account for the variation in species-level relationships between insects crops and non-crop plants within regions. Otherwise designed habitats might not only fail to improve crop pollination but create pest reservoirs.

Research on global crop pollination has mostly focused on bees, despite the fact that numerous non-bee insect species contribute to crop pollination. There is currently a lack of research about how to optimally manage habitats to promote broader diversity in crop pollination.

In this study, scientists from Plant & Food Research demonstrated the concept of designing mixed species native plantings to optimise bee and non-bee crop pollinators in an intensively managed agricultural landscape. The plantings on three farms were designed using existing literature to identify and anticipate interactions between native plants and crops with pests and pollinators.

The scientists found that five years post planting 20 pollinating species were supported by the designed plantings (out of the 21 anticipated).

While the expected bee-plant species interactions were confirmed by the study, the networks of non-bee pollinators were bigger and more complex than predicted. This indicates that the plantings were highly effective in supporting these interactions. Immature life stages of non-bee pollinators, however, were not supported by plantings suggesting that alternative strategies should be sought for larval requirements.

The findings are being shared with industry to support the development of designed habitats on farms.

Journal Reference
B.G. Howlett, J.H. Todd, B.K. Willcox, R. Rader, W.R. Nelson, M. Gee, F.G. Schmidlin, S.F.J. Read, M.K. Walker, D. Gibson, and M.M. Davidson. Using non-bee and bee pollinator-plant species interactions to design diverse plantings benefiting crop pollination services.  Advances in Ecological Research. DOI: 10.1016/bs.aecr.2020.11.002

Source:  Plant and Food Research

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