Agriculture

Disease may wipe out the world's bananas
February 8, 2016 07:11 AM - Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Cardiff University, The Ecologist

Bananas are at the sharp end of industrial agriculture's chemical war on pests and pathogens, writes Angelina Sanderson Bellamy. But even 60 pesticide sprays a year isn't enough to keep the diseases at bay. It's time to seek new solutions with little or no use of chemicals, working with nature, growing diverse crops on the same land - and breaking the dominance of the banana multinationals.

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Natural carbon sinks and their role in climate
January 10, 2016 11:32 AM - Mark Dwortzan | MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Protected areas such as rainforests occupy more than one-tenth of the Earth’s landscape, and provide invaluable ecosystem services, from erosion control to pollination to biodiversity preservation. They also draw heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and store it in plants and soil through photosynthesis, yielding a net cooling effect on the planet.

Determining the role protected areas play as carbon sinks — now and in decades to come — is a topic of intense interest to the climate-policy community as it seeks science-based strategies to mitigate climate change. Toward that end, a study in the journal Ambioestimates for the first time the amount of CO2 sequestered by protected areas, both at present and throughout the 21st century as projected under various climate and land-use scenarios.

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SPOTLIGHT

Did early agriculture stave off global cooling?

Fairs Samara, University of Virginia

A new analysis of ice-core climate data, archeological evidence and ancient pollen samples strongly suggests that agriculture by humans 7,000 years ago likely slowed a natural cooling process of the global climate, playing a role in the relatively warmer climate we experience today.

A study detailing the findings is published online in a recent edition of the journal Reviews of Geophysics, published by the American Geophysical Union.

“Early farming helped keep the planet warm,” said William Ruddiman, a University of Virginia climate scientist and lead author of the study, who specializes in investigating ocean sediment and ice-core records for evidence of climate fluctuations.

A dozen years ago, Ruddiman hypothesized that early humans altered the climate by burning massive areas of forests to clear the way for crops and livestock grazing. The resulting carbon dioxide and methane released into the atmosphere had a warming effect that “cancelled most or all of a natural cooling that should have occurred,” he said.

That idea, which came to be known as the “early anthropogenic hypothesis” was hotly debated for years by climate scientists, and is still considered debatable by some of these scientists. 

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