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)
The U.S. appeals court in Washington unanimously ordered the EPA to reconsider its Renewable Fuel Standard for 2018 because it failed to account for the potential impact of full-throttle corn production on endangered species and habitat. Even though the decision was directed at agency deliberations that took place in 2017, the Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said the EPA will have to take the ruling into account in writing the RFS for 2020.
Scientists are discovering that wild bees are far better pollinators than the honeybees that dominate commercial agriculture, according to FERN's latest story, published with HuffPost. But that discovery, which coincides with a worldwide collapse in pollinator numbers, spotlights a "desperate need" for new approaches to farming that work with these wild bees.(No paywall)
An annual survey of monarch butterflies hibernating in Mexico found that the population was 144 percent higher than it was in 2018. The results, said the World Wildlife Fund on Wednesday, offered “a testament to the power of conservation.”
In his new book, Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter, FERN contributor Ben Goldfarb makes the case that this widely vilified rodent, which was trapped nearly out of existence in the U.S., is not only making a comeback but could play a major role in mitigating the effects of climate change and other problems afflicting farmers. (No paywall)
Thanks to climate change, "marine waters, even far out in the high seas, are losing oxygen ... upending where and how sea creatures live," says National Geographic, citing a study in the journal Science. "The authors conclude that it’s emptying vast regions of the ocean, changing what and where creatures live and eat, threatening to shrink fish populations and individual fish, and making overfishing more likely."
The annual Plowprint report by the World Wildlife Fund estimates 2.5 million acres of virgin grasslands in the Great Plains were converted to cropland, or energy and urban development last year. While it's a smaller loss than the 3.7 million acres of 2015, the perennial loss of grasslands is a threat to water quality and wildlife habitat in the Plains, which stretch from Texas into the Canadian prairies.
The world's largest seed company, Monsanto, says it will research restoration of habitat for sage grouse on 320 acres of its corporate ranch in Idaho, reports Capital Press. The work would mitigate the impact of a Caldwell Canyon phosphate mine that Monsanto intends to open.
Wild bees are disappearing in the country’s key farmlands from California to the Midwest to the Mississippi Valley, say researchers at the University of Vermont in the first study to map U.S. wild bee populations. The study found a 23-percent decline in wild bees in the contiguous U.S. between 2008 and 2013.