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Safeguarding biological diversity: EU policy and international agreements

April 24, 2015 Comments off

Safeguarding biological diversity: EU policy and international agreements
Source: European Parliament Think Tank

Biodiversity, the diversity of life on earth at all levels, is declining, mainly as a result of human-induced pressures such as over-exploitation of natural resources, loss of viable habitats, pollution, climate change or invasive alien species. EU biodiversity policy is based on the Birds and Habitats Directives, which served as the basis for the development of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites now covering 1 million square kilometres on land (or 18% of EU land area) and 250 000 square kilometres of marine sites. The policy is driven by the biodiversity strategy setting ambitious aims for 2020 (halting the loss of biodiversity) and 2050 (protecting and valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services), with the addition of a strategy on green infrastructure. The European Commission estimates that the Natura 2000 network delivers benefits worth between €200 and €300 billion per year, against management costs estimated at €5.8 billion per year. The LIFE Programme co-finances some measures related to biodiversity, especially as regards Natura 2000. Funding aimed at protecting biodiversity is also available under the agricultural, regional, fisheries, and research policies. The European Parliament has long been supportive of EU biodiversity protection policy. Developments in EU biodiversity policy include a process of ‘biodiversity proofing’ of the EU budget, improved monitoring, definition of priorities for the restoration of degraded ecosystems, ‘biodiversity offsetting’ of unavoidable residual impacts, and a ‘fitness check’ of EU nature legislation.

US protected lands mismatch biodiversity priorities

April 8, 2015 Comments off

US protected lands mismatch biodiversity priorities
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Because habitat loss is the main cause of extinction, where and how much society chooses to protect is vital for saving species. The United States is well positioned economically and politically to pursue habitat conservation should it be a societal goal. We assessed the US protected area portfolio with respect to biodiversity in the country. New synthesis maps for terrestrial vertebrates, freshwater fish, and trees permit comparison with protected areas to identify priorities for future conservation investment. Although the total area protected is substantial, its geographic configuration is nearly the opposite of patterns of endemism within the country. Most protected lands are in the West, whereas the vulnerable species are largely in the Southeast. Private land protections are significant, but they are not concentrated where the priorities are. To adequately protect the nation’s unique biodiversity, we recommend specific areas deserving additional protection, some of them including public lands, but many others requiring private investment.

Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability (2015)

March 30, 2015 Comments off

Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability (2015)
Source: National Research Council

By 2050 the world’s population is projected to grow by one-third, reaching between 9 and 10 billion. With globalization and expected growth in global affluence, a substantial increase in per capita meat, dairy, and fish consumption is also anticipated. The demand for calories from animal products will nearly double, highlighting the critical importance of the world’s animal agriculture system. Meeting the nutritional needs of this population and its demand for animal products will require a significant investment of resources as well as policy changes that are supportive of agricultural production. Ensuring sustainable agricultural growth will be essential to addressing this global challenge to food security.

Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability identifies areas of research and development, technology, and resource needs for research in the field of animal agriculture, both nationally and internationally. This report assesses the global demand for products of animal origin in 2050 within the framework of ensuring global food security; evaluates how climate change and natural resource constraints may impact the ability to meet future global demand for animal products in sustainable production systems; and identifies factors that may impact the ability of the United States to meet demand for animal products, including the need for trained human capital, product safety and quality, and effective communication and adoption of new knowledge, information, and technologies.

The agricultural sector worldwide faces numerous daunting challenges that will require innovations, new technologies, and new ways of approaching agriculture if the food, feed, and fiber needs of the global population are to be met. The recommendations of Critical Role of Animal Science Research in Food Security and Sustainability will inform a new roadmap for animal science research to meet the challenges of sustainable animal production in the 21st century.

Mitigating Reptile Road Mortality: Fence Failures Compromise Ecopassage Effectiveness

March 27, 2015 Comments off

Mitigating Reptile Road Mortality: Fence Failures Compromise Ecopassage Effectiveness
Source: PLoS ONE

Roadways pose serious threats to animal populations. The installation of roadway mitigation measures is becoming increasingly common, yet studies that rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of these conservation tools remain rare. A highway expansion project in Ontario, Canada included exclusion fencing and ecopassages as mitigation measures designed to offset detrimental effects to one of the most imperial groups of vertebrates, reptiles. Taking a multispecies approach, we used a Before-After-Control-Impact study design to compare reptile abundance on the highway before and after mitigation at an Impact site and a Control site from 1 May to 31 August in 2012 and 2013. During this time, radio telemetry, wildlife cameras, and an automated PIT-tag reading system were used to monitor reptile movements and use of ecopassages. Additionally, a willingness to utilize experiment was conducted to quantify turtle behavioral responses to ecopassages. We found no difference in abundance of turtles on the road between the un-mitigated and mitigated highways, and an increase in the percentage of both snakes and turtles detected dead on the road post-mitigation, suggesting that the fencing was not effective. Although ecopassages were used by reptiles, the number of crossings through ecopassages was lower than road-surface crossings. Furthermore, turtle willingness to use ecopassages was lower than that reported in previous arena studies, suggesting that effectiveness of ecopassages may be compromised when alternative crossing options are available (e.g., through holes in exclusion structures). Our rigorous evaluation of reptile roadway mitigation demonstrated that when exclusion structures fail, the effectiveness of population connectivity structures is compromised. Our project emphasizes the need to design mitigation measures with the biology and behavior of the target species in mind, to implement mitigation designs in a rigorous fashion, and quantitatively evaluate road mitigation to ensure allow for adaptive management and optimization of these increasingly important conservation tools.

See: Mitigating reptile road mortality

CRS — Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs (January 12, 2015)

March 10, 2015 Comments off

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide to Programs (PDF)
Source: Congressional Researach Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer close to 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The differences and number of these programs has created general confusion about the purpose, participation, and policies of the programs. While recent consolidation efforts removed some duplication, a large number of programs remain.

CRS — Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides (February 9, 2015)

February 23, 2015 Comments off

Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Over the past few decades there has been heightened concern about the plight of honey bees as well as other bee species. Given the importance of honey bees and other bee species to food production, many have expressed concern about whether a “pollinator crisis” has been occurring in recent decades. Although honey bee colony losses due to bee pests, parasites, pathogens, and disease are not uncommon, there is the perception that bee health has been declining more rapidly than in prior years, both in the United States and globally. This situation gained increased attention in 2006 as some commercial beekeepers began reporting sharp declines in their honey bee colonies. Because of the severity and unusual circumstances of these colony declines, scientists named this phenomenon colony collapse disorder (CCD). Since then, honey bee colonies have continued to dwindle each year, for reasons not solely attributable to CCD. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that CCD may not be the only or even the major cause of bee colony losses in recent years. In the United States, USDA estimates of overwinter colony losses from all causes have averaged nearly 30% annually since 2006.

The precise reasons for honey bee losses are not yet known. USDA and most scientists working on the subject seem to agree that no research conclusively points to one single cause for the large number of honey bee deaths. This general conclusion was reconfirmed in a 2013 joint report by USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Reasons cited for bee declines include a wide range of possible factors thought to be negatively affecting pollinator species. However, one issue widely noted is the role that pesticides—in particular, neonicotinoid pesticides—might play in overall bee health. Pesticides are the focus of this report. Pesticides are among many identified factors known to affect bee health, including pests and diseases, diet and nutrition, genetics, habitat loss and other environmental stressors, and beekeeping management issues, as well as the possibility that bees are being negatively affected by cumulative, multiple exposures and/or the interactive effects of several of these factors.

A lack of response of the financial behaviors of biodiversity conservation nonprofits to changing economic conditions

February 17, 2015 Comments off

A lack of response of the financial behaviors of biodiversity conservation nonprofits to changing economic conditions
Source: Ecology and Evolution

The effectiveness of conservation organizations is determined in part by how they adapt to changing conditions. Over the previous decade, economic conditions in the United States (US) showed marked variation including a period of rapid growth followed by a major recession. We examine how biodiversity conservation nonprofits in the US responded to these changes through their financial behaviors, focusing on a sample of 90 biodiversity conservation nonprofits and the largest individual organization (The Nature Conservancy; TNC). For the 90 sampled organizations, an analysis of financial ratios derived from tax return data revealed little response to economic conditions. Similarly, more detailed examination of conservation expenditures and land acquisition practices of TNC revealed only one significant relationship with economic conditions: TNC accepted a greater proportion of conservation easements as donated in more difficult economic conditions. Our results suggest that the financial behaviors of US biodiversity conservation nonprofits are unresponsive to economic conditions.

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