Study: U.S. commodity farmers imperil biodiversity for ever-lower yields

In less than a decade, U.S. corn, soybean and wheat fields wiped out an expanse of native grasslands and other ecosystems larger than the state of Maryland, according to a new analysis, destroying crucial wildlife habitat and spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The new fields produced lower crop yields than existing farmland.(No paywall)

To save humanity, save biodiversity: Q&A with Enric Sala

Dr. Enric Sala, founder of the ocean conservation initiative Pristine Seas, constructs an enlightened defense for biological diversity in his first book, The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild, in which he describes Covid-19 as "the most powerful wake-up call to the world about the enormous risks to human health posed by our broken relationship with nature.” (No paywall)

In ‘final report card,’ world fails to meet biodiversity goals, says UN

In 2010, global leaders set 20 goals for preserving biodiversity worldwide in the decade ahead. Today, none of the targets has been met fully and only six are even partially achieved, said the United Nations in "a final report card" on the effort. "Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate,” said the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report, “and the pressures driving the decline are intensifying." Still, the UN said, "it is not too late to slow, halt, and reverse current trends." (No paywall)

As agriculture expands, tropical forest losses soar

In September 2015, UN member states set a goal of halting deforestation by 2020 as part of its “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” But according to Frances Seymour, distinguished senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, “we seem to be going in the wrong direction.” Satellite data gathered by the University of Maryland and recently released via Global Forest Watch, an online forest monitoring platform directed by the WRI, indicate that 2019 was the third highest year for tropical primary forest loss since the turn of the century.

With Covid-19, wild-animal markets face new pressures to shutter

The trade in wild animals is coming under increasing pressure to shut down, ever since the source of the Covid-19 pandemic was linked to a "wet market" in Wuhan, where throngs of customers shop for live animals held in cramped quarters, according to FERN's latest story, by Brian Barth. (No paywall)

A dearth of data spurs debate over ‘insect apocalypse’

In recent months, the media have been abuzz about a series of studies that describe a looming "insect apocalypse," a steady loss of bugs that would eventually put all life on earth at risk. Now Mongabay, an online magazine that covers environmental science and conservation issues, has launched a four-part series that will examine the science behind these studies to determine whether the conclusions are premature. 

Animal populations fall by 60 percent in four decades

Global populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have declined, on average, by 60 perent since 1970s, said the World Wildlife Fund in its Living Planter Report 2018 on Monday. "The top threats to species identified in the report are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and over-exploitation of wildlife," said WWF.

Syrian seeds shake up Europe’s plant patent regime

Salvatore Ceccarelli knew he was engaging in a subversive act when, in 2010, he took two twenty kilo sacks of bread and durum wheat seeds from a seed bank outside of Aleppo, Syria and brought them to Italy during a visit back to his home country. Now, seven years later, those seeds from the Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of domesticated agriculture, with thousands of years of evolution behind them, are poised to challenge the system of plant patenting in Europe, and, soon enough perhaps, the United States.

New study says biodiversity is crucial to ecosystem health

A new analysis of data from a number of sources, by researchers at Smithsonian and the University of Michigan, found that biodiversity plays an even greater role in ecosystem resilience and overall health than previously thought—more important than even temperature and nutrients. The analysis was published in the journal Nature.