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Native Shrubs and Why They’re Essential for Carbon Sequestration

“Shrubbiness is such a remarkable adaptive design that one may wonder why more plants have not adopted it.” (H. C. Stutz, 1989)

In light of the newest IPCC and US climate change reports, coupled with reports of the ongoing declines of wild species—birds, insects—you name them, just so long as they aren’t human, I have turned to thinking about shrubs. It is precisely their adaptive characteristics that give shrubs their potential to be powerful players in soil carbon sequestration and ecosystem regeneration in certain parts of the world, such as the Midwest.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Although alarming, the reports are not surprising to anyone who’s been keeping track. The IPCC report says human global society has 12 years to reduce carbon emissions to 45% below 2010 levels if there is to be any hope of holding overall average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F).

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An Agro-Ecological Europe: A Desirable, Credible Option to Address Food and Environmental Challenges

Alarming signals about the need for a transition of the agricultural and food system in Europe have been accumulating for several years and social expectation for such a transition is growing. How can we feed Europe – and feed it well – while preserving nature and the climate? This is the purpose of a study, which main conclusions are summarized in this paper.

Key messages

1. Current diets, which are too rich and unbalanced (three times the recommended amount of sugar, double the recommended amount of protein, not enough fruit, vegetables or fibre):

  • contribute to the increase in many conditions (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases);
  • lead Europe to depend on the rest of the world for food, through its imports of 40 million tonnes of plant proteins, which represent 20 % of its utilised agricultural land and far exceed the level of its exports.

2. The TYFA scenario is based on abandoning pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, redeploying natural grasslands and extending agro-ecological infrastructures(hedges, trees, ponds and stony habitats) and the generalisation of healthy diets (fewer animal products, more fruit and vegetables).

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The Savory Institute’s Land to Market Verification Aims to Regenerate 1bn Hectares of Land

Author: Elizabeth Crawford | Published: March 27, 2018

After decades of a slow build, the regenerative agriculture movement is finally taking off, thanks in part to the Savory Institute, which has launched the Land to Market verification program, which is designed to help stakeholders not just sustain the environment, but also improve it.

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EU Agrees Total Ban on Bee-Harming Pesticides

The world’s most widely used insecticides will be banned from all fields within six months, to protect both wild and honeybees that are vital to crop pollination

Author: Damian Carrington | Published: April 27, 2018

The European Union will ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields due to the serious danger they pose to bees.

The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by member nations on Friday, is expected to come into force by the end of 2018 and will mean they can only be used in closed greenhouses.

Bees and other insects are vital for global food production as they pollinate three-quarters of all crops. The plummeting numbers of pollinators in recent years has been blamed, in part, on the widespread use of pesticides. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops that attract bees, such as oil seed rape, in 2013.

But in February, a major report from the European Union’s scientific risk assessors(Efsa) concluded that the high risk to both honeybees and wild bees resulted from any outdoor use, because the pesticides contaminate soil and water. This leads to the pesticides appearing in wildflowers or succeeding crops. A recent study of honey samples revealed global contamination by neonicotinoids.

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Climate Change, Human Impacts, and Carbon Sequestration in China

Authors: Jingyun Fang, et. al. | Published: April 17, 2018

The scale of economic growth in China during the past three decades is unprecedented in modern human history. China is now the world’s second largest economic entity, next to the United States. However, this fast economic growth puts China’s environment under increasing stresses. China can be viewed as a massive “laboratory” with complex interactions between socioeconomic and natural systems, providing an excellent opportunity to examine how environmental changes and intensive human economic activities influence natural systems. This special feature explores the impacts of climate change and human activities on the structure and functioning of ecosystems, with emphasis on quantifying the magnitude and distribution of carbon (C) pools and C sequestration in China’s terrestrial ecosystems. We also document how species diversity, species traits, and nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) stoichiometry mediate ecosystem C pool and vegetation production. This overview paper introduces the background and scientific significance of the research project, presents the underlying conceptual framework, and summarizes the major findings of each paper.

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Land Degradation Threatens Human Wellbeing, Major Report Warns

More than 3.2bn people are already affected and the problem will worsen without rapid action, driving migration and conflict

Author: Jonathan Watts | Published: March 26, 2018

Land degradation is undermining the wellbeing of two-fifths of humanity, raising the risks of migration and conflict, according to the most comprehensive global assessment of the problem to date.

The UN-backed report underscores the urgent need for consumers, companies and governments to rein in excessive consumption – particularly of beef – and for farmers to draw back from conversions of forests and wetlands, according to the authors.

With more than 3.2 billion people affected, this is already one of the world’s biggest environmental problems and it will worsen without rapid remedial action, according to Robert Scholes, co-chair of the assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). “As the land base decreases and populations rise, this problem will get greater and harder to solve,” he said.

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Regenerative Farming Trailblazers: How Reintegrating Livestock and Restoring Soils Can Lead to More Resilient Farms

Author: Marcia DeLonge | Published: March 29, 2018

Across the United States, more farmers are finding that practices that have worked in the past are no longer cutting it. Persistent low prices for common crops (especially corn) paired with high production costs (for example, expensive equipment and fertilizers) have made it hard to stay afloat. At the same time agriculture has also moved increasingly toward systems dominated by a few annual crops—typically corn and soybeans—often with fields left bare between growing seasons. This trend has degraded core resources like soil and water, endangering the long-term viability of many farms.

Faced with growing pressures, some farmers are exploring their options, including testing regenerative farming practices that can rebuild soil health, conserve water, improve water quality, and more. For example, farmers are diversifying their crops and animals, implementing more complex crop rotations, and protecting soil year-round by using cover crops. Such changes come with both challenges and opportunities.

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Nature Can Reduce Pesticide Use, Environment Impact

Author: Michigan State University | Published: March 1, 2018

Farmers around the world are turning to nature to help them reduce pesticide use, environmental impact and, subsequently, and in some cases, increasing yields.

Specifically, they’re attracting birds and other vertebrates, which keep pests and other invasive species away from their crops. The study, led by Michigan State University and appearing in the current issue of the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, showcases some of the best global examples.

“Our review of research shows that vertebrates consume numerous crop pests and reduce crop damage, which is a key ecosystem service,” said Catherine Lindell, MSU integrative biologist who led the study. “These pest-consuming vertebrates can be attracted to agricultural areas through several landscape enhancements.”

For example, Lindell and graduate student Megan Shave led earlier research to bring more American kestrels to Michigan orchards. Installing nest boxes attracted the small falcons, the most-common predatory bird in the U.S., to cherry orchards and blueberry fields. The feathered hunters consume many species that cause damage to crops, including grasshoppers, rodents and European starlings. In cherry orchards, kestrels significantly reduced the abundance of birds that eat fruit. (Results from blueberry fields are pending.)

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Earth Talk: Regenerative Agriculture

Published: February 11, 2018

Dear EarthTalk: What is so-called Regenerative Agriculture and why are environmentalists so bullish on it?
– Jess Mancuso, Montgomery, PA

Regenerative Agriculture (RA) describes farming and grazing practices that help reverse climate change by rebuilding the organic matter in soil and restoring degraded soil biodiversity.

“Specifically, Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density,” reports California State University’s Regenerative Agriculture Initiative (RAI). “Regenerative agriculture improves soil health, primarily through the practices that increase soil organic matter. This not only aids in increasing soil biota diversity and health, but increases biodiversity both above and below the soil surface, while increasing both water holding capacity and sequestering carbon at greater depths.” The net result is a drawdown of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and the improvement of soil structure to reverse human-caused soil loss.

According to Terra Genesis International, which helps businesses integrate sustainable farming practices into their everyday operations, key principles guiding the implementation of RA include: progressively improving whole agroecosystems (soil, water and biodiversity); creating context-specific designs and making holistic decisions expressing the essence of each farm; ensuring and developing fair and reciprocal relationships among all stakeholders; and continually growing and evolving individuals, farms and communities to express their innate potential.

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What’s the Future of Farming? It Can Only Be Agroecology, Says Farms of the Future

Author: Niamh Michail | Published: August 1, 2017

Think of agriculture of the future and you may conjure up images of hydroponic lettuces grown in underground, urban bunkers or massive-scale precision farming using satellites and drones. But for campaign group Farms of the Future, the future is, and can only be, agroecology.

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