UN report shows staggering cost of land degradation

Shifting to sustainable land use practices would boost global economy and help address global warming


Unsustainable land use practices, exacerbated by climate change, could result in mass migration of 50 million people within 10 years. Photo courtesy UN.

Staff Report

Unsustainable land-use practices are a $6.3 trillion drain on the global economy, according to a new report from the United Nations University, which assesses the value of ecosystem services provided by land resources such as food, poverty reduction, clean water, climate and disease regulation and nutrients cycling.

That figure is equal to about 15 percent of global GDP, the researcher said, adding that unchecked land degradation could force up to 50 million people to migrate away from affected areas within the next 10 years.

Effectively addressing land degradation could help avert that humanitarian crisis and add US $75.6 trillion to annual world income, according to the report, “The Value of Land”, produced by The Economics of Land Degradation Initiative.

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Court maintains river flows for Northern California salmon

Latest water skirmish ends with win for fish

Spawning salmon. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

Spawning salmon. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Life has been tough for California’s freshwater fish during the state’s extended drought. But some salmon in the northern part of the state will have a fighting chance after a federal judge last week decided to maintain a key flow program aimed at boosting flows in the Trinity River.

The Trinity is a tributary of the Klamath River, where major salmon runs are currently facing the threat of a major fish kill due to the drought. U.S. Judge Lawrence O’Neill, based on Fresno, California, ruled that the risks from shutting down a federal program to release additional reservoir water to protect the salmon were too great, and the potential benefit to irrigators too uncertain. Continue reading

Environment: Wild bees are critical to pollination


Wild bees need love, too. @bberwyn photo.

‘protecting a wide variety of our wild bees is crucial …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new bee tracking study shows that protecting wild bees may be just as important as tackling the decline of domesticated honeybee colonies.

After tracking bees around the world, researchers concluded that only two percent of wild bee species pollinate 80 percent of bee-pollinated crops worldwide.

That means there’s a powerful economic rationale for conserving wild bees. It calculates the value of wild bee pollination to the global food system at $3,000 per hectare of insect-pollinated agricultural land, amounting to billions of dollars globally. Continue reading

Environment: Honeybees take another big hit

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off.

A widely used class of pesticides is probably responsible for a massive honeybee die-off. @bberwyn photo.

Annual survey shows disturbing rise in summer bee colony losses

Staff Report

FRISCO — Commercial beekeepers took another big hit last summer, reporting that they lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the past year. Summer losses were higher than winter losses for the first time in five years, stoking concerns over the long-term trend of poor health in honey bee colonies, according to University of Maryland scientists. Continue reading

Can organic farming save the world from global warming?


Feed the world, and cut greenhouse gases? It can be done, scientists say. Photo courtesy USDA.

China study shows benefits of switching to sustainable, organic agriculture

Staff Report

FRISCO — A large-scale shift to sustainable organic farming could dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions — and improve soil quality and crop resistance to pests at the same time, according to a new study from China.

Since about a third of all global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by agriculture, scientists have been taking a close look at how to manage the production of food in a way that reduces the global warming footprint. With best practices in place, agriculture could become a net carbon sink instead of a source of heat-trapping pollution, some scientists assert. Continue reading

Study tracks huge surge in use of bee-killing pesticides

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria.

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Treatment of corn and soybean seeds driving the increase

Staff Report

FRISCO — Penn State researchers say the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides spiked in the mid-2000s, not in response to a documented crop threat, but as a prophylactic treatment against uncertain insect attacks.

The growth is primarily due to the use of neonicotinoids in the treatment of corn and soybean seeds. In 2000,  less than 5 percent of soybean acres and less than 30 percent of corn acres were treated with an insecticide, but by 2011, at least a third of all soybean acres and at least 79 percent of all corn acres were planted with neonicotinoid-coated seed. Continue reading

EPA dials back use of dangerous systemic pesticides


Pesticide-free sunflowers thrive on this organic farm in Austria. @bberwyn photo.

Agency says it won’t permit any new uses until pollinator safety studies are done

By Bob Berwyn

*More Summit Voice stories on pesticides and honey bees here

FRISCO — Under persistent pressure from the public and environmental activists, the EPA today started dialing back the use of systemic neonicotinoid pesticides that have been implicated in the decline and collapse of honeybee colonies around the world.

In a notice to entities using those pesticides, the EPA said it would not be accepting any new applications: “EPA believes that until the data on pollinator health have been received and appropriate risk assessments completed, it is unlikely to be in a position to determine that such uses would avoid “unreasonable adverse effects on the environment,” as required by federal environmental regulations, the agency wrote in its April 2 letter to registered users. Continue reading


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