Study warns that some misguided climate change adaptation efforts could do more harm than good

Sea level is rising, and will continue to rise for centuries even if we cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Sea level is rising, and will continue to rise for centuries even if greenhouse gas emissions are stopped immediately, and low-lying areas like the Mississippi Delta are already feeling the effects. @bberwyn photo.

‘Functioning and intact forests, grasslands, wetlands and coral reefs represent our greatest protection against floods and storms’

Staff Report

Climate change adaptation is more than a slogan in many parts of the world, as communities work to protect themselves from the impacts of a warming world.

But a new study says planners must carefully think through their responses — some changes could leave people worse off in the future, according to scientists with CSIRO, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of Queensland.

Their findings, published in Nature Climate Change, discusses how certain adaptation strategies may have a negative impact on nature which in turn will impact people in the long-term. Many climate adaptation strategies such as sea wall construction and new agricultural practices do more harm than good, the researchers concluded. Continue reading

Wild bees disappearing from where they’re needed most

Where have all the wild bees gone? @bberwyn photo.

Where have all the wild bees gone? @bberwyn photo. @bberwyn photo.

New study to guide conservation and restoration efforts

Staff Report

A steep decline in wild bee populations could raise costs for farmers and potentially even destabilize the nation’s crop production, according to a new study that maps regional bee population trends.

The findings suggest wild bees are disappearing from many of the country’s most important farmlands, including California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s corn belt, and the Mississippi River valley.

The research team, led by Insu Koh at the University of Vermont, estimates that wild bee abundance between 2008 and 2013 declined in 23 percent of the contiguous U.S. The study also shows that 39 percent of US croplands that depend on pollinators — from apple orchards to pumpkin patches — face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees. Continue reading

Food insecurity grows in world’s mountain regions

Mountain populations of Asia are particularly prone to vulnerability. A woman in traditional dress performs a prayer ritual in the Himalayas, Namche Bazar, Nepal.

Mountain populations of Asia are particularly prone to vulnerability. A woman in traditional dress performs a prayer ritual in the Namche Bazar, Nepal. Photo courtesy UN FAO.

329 million mountain people face hunger in the world’s developing countries

Staff Report

The world’s mountain people are among the hardest hit by hunger and malnutrition, experts said in a new study released on International Mountain Day 2015 (Dec. 11).

Even though there has been some progress in addressing food security on a global scale, that hasn’t been the case in mountain regions, where the number of people facing hunger and malnutrition grew by 30 percent between 2000 and 2012.

The study, released by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the Mountain Partnership, maps the vulnerability of mountain peoples to food insecurity. In developing countries, there are now 329 million people facing food insecurity, up from 253 million in 2000.  Continue reading

Biodiversity: Scientists say other insects beside bees are also an important part of the pollinator picture

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Bees are only part of the pollinator equation. Other insects also play an important role. @bberwyn photo.

Global reliance on honeybees for pollination is a risky strategy

Staff Report

Australian scientists say it’s important to consider other pollinators besides bees when deciding on the application of pesticides. Farmers  using pesticides that spare bees but kill other insects might be ignoring important sources of crop pollination, the new study found.

“Many crops — including mangoes, custard apples, kiwi fruit, coffee and canola — depended on non-bee insect pollinators such as flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, ants, and thrips,” said University of Queensland plant ecologist Dr Margie Mayfield. Continue reading

Neonicotinoid pesticide impacts extend to wild bees

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Study tracks neonicotinoid pesticide exposure in wild bee populations. @bberwyn photo.

Are native bees at risk from systemic pesticides?

Staff Report

Native wild bees are being exposed to toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research in northeastern Colorado.

The research focused on native bees because there is limited information on their exposure to pesticides. In fact, little is known about how toxic these pesticides are to native bee species at the levels detected in the environment.

“We found that the presence and proximity of nearby agricultural fields was an important factor resulting in the exposure of native bees to pesticides,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author. “Pesticides were detected in the bees caught in grasslands with no known direct pesticide applications.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Rainy day(s)

Finding color on rainy, gray days isn’t all that hard, especially in the fall, when the plant world erupts in one last blast of color before winter’s grays and whites take over. Keeping my iPhone dry deep in the pocket of a raincoat, I set out for a short walk along the base of the Pöstlingberg, where residential streets give way to small urban garden plots, hedges and farm fields, looked for the brightest splotches I could find, including backyard fruit trees and berry bushes along the trail.

Feds track record Central Valley groundwater depletion

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California’s Central Valley, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

‘The Central Valley has many areas where recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historical low …’

Staff Report

Farmers in California’s Central Valley pumped more groundwater than ever during the state’s ongoing drought, causing aquifers to drop to new record low levels, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The agency recently launched a website to help track Central Valley groundwater depletion and land subsidence. A new paper released about the same time shows geographical nuances in the decline. The biggest changes are in the southern Central Valley, where farmers have shifted from planting annual and seasonal crops to perennial plants. Continue reading

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