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

Biosecurity and conservation jobs for redeployed workers

Up to 160 redeployed workers are set to pick up jobs in 55 biosecurity and conservation projects to get the regional economy moving again, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage have announced.

The new projects in Northland, East Coast, Hawke’s Bay and Canterbury are part of the Government’s $100 million redeployment support package announced in March and will tackle the invasive wilding pines, a $4.6 billion dollar threat to farmland, waterways and ecosystems.

“As we rebuild the economy, linking up people and jobs is vital,” Damien O’Connor said.

“This is work that needs to be done and what we’ve done is accelerate projects which also saves money as the cost of removing wilding pines rises by 30 per cent each year. Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling on NZ’s largest irrigation dam proposal is examined

Massey University Associate Professor Christine Cheyne, in a guest post published on Sciblogs (HERE) discusses the recent Supreme Court rejection of a proposed land swap that would have flooded conservation land for the construction of the country’s largest irrigation dam.

The court was considering whether the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s investment arm could build a dam on 22 hectares of the protected Ruahine Forest Park in exchange for 170 hectares of private farm land.

The proposed dam is part of the $900 million Ruataniwha water storage and irrigation scheme.

The Government’s response to the ruling was to consider a law change to make land swaps easier.

Associate Professor Cheyne says the Supreme Court ruling has significant implications for the Ruataniwha dam.

“In addition, it asserts the importance of permanent protection of high-value conservation land. The ecological value of the Ruahine Forest Park land was never in question. The conservation land includes indigenous forest, a unique braided river and wetlands that would have been destroyed.

“The area is home to a dozen plants and animals that are classified as threatened or at risk. The developer’s ecological assessment acknowledged the destruction of ecologically significant land and water bodies. However, it argued that mitigation and offsetting would ensure that any effects of habitat loss were at an acceptable level.”

The guest post reviews what has happened and the need for the conservation of unique ecosystems and landscapes.

It also contains advice for the Government:

The ConversationAmending the Conservation Act to allow land swaps involves a significant discounting of the future in favour of present day citizens. This is disingenuous and an affront to constitutional democracy. It would weaken one of New Zealand’s few anticipatory governance mechanisms at a time when they are needed more than ever.”

The article was originally published (HERE )on The Conversation.