biodiversity

What seed saving can tell us about the end of the world

"In fewer than 100 years, seed-saving, a practice that had always been essential to human survival, went from mainstream to something most of us are barely aware of, something happening at the fringes of our food culture — small farms, Native communities, survivalists," write Kea Krause, in FERN's latest story, published with Orion Magazine. No paywall

Report: Farmers plowed up 1.8 million acres of grasslands in 2020

U.S. and Canadian farmers plowed up about 1.8 million acres of Great Plains grasslands to plant crops in 2020, according to a report released Tuesday by the World Wildlife Federation. The report also showed that, for the first time since 2016, wheat surpassed corn and soy as the leading crop driving annual grasslands loss across the entirety of the Great Plains, and not just within the northern Great Plains. 

Report: Biodiversity loss, climate change driving an ‘escalating nature crisis’

Wildlife populations plummeted 69 percent worldwide between 1970 and 2018, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Wildlife Fund. Food systems were a key driver of this biodiversity loss, responsible for 70 percent of the population decline of land animals and half of the decline in freshwater species. Conservation alone will not be enough to halt these declines, wrote the authors, who said that scaling up sustainable food production is crucial. (No paywall)

Soil, people, landforms are factors in tree diversity

For more than 200 years, scientists have known that tree diversity — the number of different types of trees found near each other — is highest near the equator and diminishes moving into the middle and higher latitudes. The conventional explanation for this decline in local species richness has been temperature and precipitation.

Frustrated by official process, conservationists release plan for wolves in Colorado

In November 2020, Colorado voters approved a measure to reintroduce gray wolves to the state, 76 years after the last wolf was killed there. Now Colorado Parks and Wildlife is developing a plan to reintroduce wolves. But conservation groups say the process to date hasn’t included enough public input and has instead been dominated by the very groups responsible for the eradication of wolves in the first place — hunters and ranchers. (No paywall)

Fragile recovery in monarch butterfly population

The monarch butterfly is imperiled by the loss of food and habitat as well as climate change but an expansion in its winter hibernation area was "a sign of recovery — albeit a fragile one," WWF said in an annual survey.

High commodity prices shift conservation lands to crop fields

Landowners told the USDA they will take 1.7 million acres out of the long-term Conservation Reserve and put it back into crop production, betting on profits from sky-high commodity prices. This year’s “general signup” for the reserve would also bring the smallest amount of land into the reserve …

Bringing back ‘good fire’ to the eastern seaboard

“A growing movement of scientists, land management agencies, conservation organizations, and indigenous groups is working to return fire to fire-adapted ecosystems, including forests and grasslands, throughout the U.S.,” writes Gabriel Popkin in FERN's latest story, published with Yale Environment 360.

Report: Land use and farming have crucial role to play in avoiding climate catastrophe

A major UN climate report released on Monday lays out a broad array of strategies for limiting emissions and mitigating climate change. While the most critical priority is to quickly phase out the use of fossil fuels, the report outlined many opportunities to help limit climate change by altering how land is managed and food is produced. And, critically, most of these options are “available and ready to deploy,” the authors wrote. (No paywall)

Study: Ag’s ammonia emissions rose 78 percent over last 40 years

Agricultural intensification and a lack of regulations drove a 78-percent increase in the farm sector’s ammonia emissions between 1980 and 2018, according to a paper published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. 

British Columbia’s booming wood-pellet industry threatens old-growth forests

“BC’s inland rainforest — which once totaled over 1.3 million hectares — is endangered, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria, and could experience ecological collapse within a decade if current logging rates continue,” as Brian Barth reports in …

Report: Food-system change ‘startlingly absent’ from countries’ climate change commitments

Food systems account for roughly a third of global greenhouse emissions worldwide, yet a new analysis finds that strategies to reform how food is grown, processed and consumed are “startlingly absent” from most countries’ plans to tackle climate change. (No paywall)

How many species of trees? 73,000 worldwide

Some 64,000 species of trees are known worldwide, but that's nowhere close to the real number, according to a research project involving 100 scientists worldwide. In a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists estimate 9,400 species are yet to be discovered.

Europe’s butterflies are vanishing along with small farms

Across Europe, butterfly populations are undergoing huge declines, with grassland butterfly abundance dropping by 39 percent between 1990 and 2017. Spain's Catalonia region offers an extreme example of this continent-wide wave of biodiversity loss: Over the past 25 years, populations of the most common grassland species have declined here by 71 percent, reports FERN's latest story, produced with National Geographic. (No paywall)

As COP26 nears, activists say agriculture should be a bigger part of the agenda

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which starts Oct. 31 in Glasgow, has been billed as a “turning point” for humanity and the “last, best chance” of averting climate disaster. And given the growing awareness of the central role that food and agricultural systems play in climate change—both as a cause and as part of a potential solution—many activists say that the sector is not as big a piece of the COP26 agenda as it should be. (No paywall)

Farming boom threatens Biden’s climate and conservation goals

High prices for corn and soybeans, coupled with the ethanol mandate and generous crop insurance, are spurring farmers in the Great Plains to plow up native grasslands in favor of commodity crops. The loss of these ancient carbon sinks "poses a conundrum for the Biden administration," which wants to cut agriculture's carbon emissions to net zero and conserve 30 percent of the nation's land in a bid to protect biodiversity.(No paywall)

IUCN Congress dispatch: A paradigm shift for the food system

In the face of climate change, biodiversity loss, and growing global food insecurity, conservationists, farmers, and policymakers called for a “paradigm shift” in global food production at the IUCN World Conservation Congress on Tuesday. To get there, they urged the expansion of agroecology as a way to build a food system that can help protect and restore the environment while feeding the world.(No paywall)

A bio-economy in the Amazon to prevent deforestation

In the Amazon rainforest of Brazil, a nascent but significant movement is underway to protect the rainforest by connecting small-scale producers tapping rubber trees with multinational brands, report Brian Barth and Flávia Milhorance in FERN's latest story, produced with The New Republic.(No paywall)

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