Category Archives: Ecosystem services

Water Footprint in Food Production

By Max Troell

New studies that focus on the emerging issue of water usage in agriculture have been released.

Researchers from the University of Twente, the Netherlands, have provided a comprehensive account of the global green, blue and grey water footprints of different sorts of farm animals and animal products, distinguishing between different production systems and considering the conditions in all countries of the world separately. Some of the main findings from this study were:

  1. the blue and grey water footprints of animal products are larger for industrial systems than for mixed or grazing systems. From a freshwater perspective, animal products from grazing or mixed systems are therefore to be preferred above products from the bio-industry;
  2. the water footprint of any animal product is larger than the water footprint of a wisely chosen crop product with equivalent nutritional value;
  3. About 29% of the total water footprint of the agricultural sector in the world is related to the production of animal products; and
  4. one third of the global water footprint of animal production is related to beef cattle.

The same researchers have also carried out a complementary study that quantifies the green, blue and grey water footprints of hundreds of crops and crop products, showing variations from province to province, for all crops around the world.

You can download the two reports from:

ANIMALS-WATER

CROPS-WATER

Green light for IPBES

UN agreed to establish the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

IPBES write hopefully on their homepage

This is a major event in the world of biodiversity and ecosystem services as the IPCC-like platform will bridge the gulf between the wealth of scientific  knowledge on the accelerating declines and degradation of the natural world, with knowledge on effective solutions and decisive government action required to reverse these damaging trends.

Scale-crossing brokers: new theoretical tools to analyze adaptive capacity

Social network structure for ecosystem governance.

Social network structure matters for adaptive capacity. A key position are 'scale-crossing brokers' that link actors interacting with ecosystem processes at different ecological scales.

Together with colleagues from Stockholm University we have just published an article in Ecology and Society called:

Scale-crossing brokers and network governance of urban ecosystem services: the case of Stockholm

Henrik Ernstson, Stephan Barthel, Erik Andersson and Sara T. Borgström, Ecology and Society 2010: 15 (4), 28.

The article synthesizes empirical studies of urban ecological management in Stockholm. However, it also contributes to the theoretical discussions on adaptive governance of social-ecological systems (e.g. special issue in Global Environmental Change, Folke et al. 2005, Duit and Galaz, 2008). As such, the article is of interest for studies in marine, forest and agricultural systems.

Here I present some key theoretical ideas. (See also blog at Stockholm Resilience Centre.).

Framework for assessing adaptive capacity – linking ecological processess and social network structure

The article builds a theoretical framework that links ecological processes to social network structures to assess the adaptive capacity of ecosystem governance. In effect, the article pushes present theorizations in at least three aspects: 1) spatial complexity, 2) the role of social network structure, and 3) how to handle cross-scale interactions.

1) Spatial complexity

First, it builds a framework to more explicitly account for spatial complexity (and thus the complexity of the ‘resource’ in question). This is primarily done through empirically focus on the ecological processes of seed-dispersal and pollination, which are processes important for the re-generation and resilience of local ecosystems in the fragmented urban landscape of Stockholm.

2) Social network structure as intermediate variable

Second, the paper ‘looks’ beyond individual actors and their direct ties to others (often the case in the literature on for instance ‘bridging organizations’). Instead, actors that interact with ecological processes are seen as embedded in patterns of communication and social relations. This means that the paper acknowledges ‘social network structure’ and how this intermediate variable (not individual, not institution) mediates the agency of single actors, and the performance of the whole network to respond to change.

To capture social dynamics we take the idea from sociology that, just as ecological patches are part of greater scale patterns, social actors are part of emergent social network structures that constrain and shape social dynamics (Wasserman and Faust 1994). […] social network patterns are consequently an outcome of localized interactions between pairs of actors, and no actor can fully control the emergent structure. [This] allows for human agency, but an agency constrained and mediated through the network structure itself (Emirbayer and Goodwin 1994).

3) Cross-scale interactions and scale-crossing brokers

Third, the paper pushes the understanding of what it would mean for a set of identifiable actors to handle cross-scale interactions in social-ecological systems. This is done through developing a network model of how certain actor groups engage in ecological processes at different scales through their social practice, and to theorize a key network position called ‘scale-crossing broker’ (building on Burt’s notion of brokers):

Thus, by accounting for the structure of social networks between actor groups, and how they link to ecological scales, our resulting model consists of actor groups interacting both with each other and with ecosystem processes at different spatial scales, and at spatially separate sites [see figure at top].

A final central aspect of our model is the network position of scale-crossing broker [which is defined] as a social network position that links otherwise disconnected social actor groups which, through their social practices, interact with ecosystem processes at different ecological (and spatial) scales and at different physical sites.

In relation to the discussion on how governance systems can cope with slow changes on one hand, and rapid changes on the other, our answer indicates that we must look for this in the social network structure that links various actors across scales. In that sense, the scale-crossing broker becomes “a crossroad for possibilities” and could facilitate the “switching” between supporting localized social learning processes (in times of slow change), and centralized collective action (in times of rapid change):

Scale-crossing brokers can be seen as agents for nurturing the emergence of a purposeful social network structure, and for switching between a centralized collective action mode and a decentralized mode of social learning among a diverse set of local autonomous actor groups.

Assessing governance systems

As such, the scale-crossing broker becomes an analytical lens to use when assessing empirical governance systems. Upcoming research should thus aim to measure the extent to which you can find scale-crossing brokers in a particular system. Another such assessment tool lies in our conceptualization of a meso-scale in governance in the form of ‘city-scale green networks’ (see figure below).

In conclusion, and apart from its empirical findings not touched upon in this blog, the paper can be seen as bringing new theoretical ideas on how to discuss and analyze social-ecological complexity and adaptive capacity. For more information see the paper itself, the blog-post at Stockholm Resilience Centre, or my own blog In Rhizomia.

The article is part of a special issue in Ecology and Society on social network analysis and natural resource management.

Governance of complex ecological processes

Fig. 4. The figure demonstrates how one could identify the city scale green networks of pollination and seed dispersal in a particular area of Stockholm (suggested here by using digital mapping and ecological network analysis (cf. Andersson and Bodin 2008)). Note how certain local green areas are shared between the two city scale green networks, which give rise to network overlap (purple areas with bold vertical lines in city scale green network 2). Furthermore, it is suggested that midscale managers can take responsibility for particular city scale green networks. Taken as a whole, the figure demonstrates how particular ecosystem services can be viewed as embedded both in the physical landscape and within social networks of local actor groups (managing local green areas), scale-crossing brokers, and municipal to regional actors.

Adaptive governance PhD and Postdoctoral positions @ UW Madison

One postdoctoral research and one PhD student position are available with Dr. Adena Rissman‘s research group in Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The job ad states:

The geographic setting for this project is the Yahara Watershed, an urbanizing agricultural watershed in southern Wisconsin, containing the city of Madison. Here and elsewhere, human needs for freshwater are growing as changes in climate, landscapes, the built environment and institutions alter water flows and quality in sometimes unpredictable ways. These changes affect ecosystem services related to freshwater, such as flows of freshwater for domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational and other uses; regulation of floods; water quality; and aspects of human health. To strengthen conceptual frameworks and improve predictive capacity, our interdisciplinary project will integrate biophysical and social-economic aspects of regional water systems. The overarching question of our work is: How will ecosystem services related to freshwater vary and how can they be sustained in regional watersheds as climate, land use and land cover, land management, the built environment and human demands change? As a part of this overarching question, we ask: How can regional governance systems for water and land use be made more resilient and adaptive to meet diverse human needs? In what ways are regional human-environment systems resilient and in what ways are they vulnerable to potential changes in climate and freshwaters? These positions will focus on regional governance; adaptive management and decision making under uncertainty; spatial analysis and geovisualization; and the historical development of policy, politics, science and conservation interventions.

Applicants should have a prior degree in natural resources, geography, political science, planning, environmental policy, or related field. Previous research experience, social science background, and experience with coupled social and environmental systems are preferred. Experience with a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods are desired. Experience with ArcGIS, spatial analysis, and geovisualization desired but not required. Strong GPA, GRE scores, and oral and written communication skills are required. Applicants bringing diverse backgrounds and perspectives to the research program are encouraged to apply.

The PhD position will start Fall, 2011. Review of applications will begin December 20, 2010 and continue until an applicant is selected. Prospective PhD students should refer to the webpage for further information on applying to the UW-Madison.

The 2-year Postdoctoral Research position will begin in the Spring or Summer 2011. Review of applications will begin January 10, 2011 and continue until an applicant is selected.

To apply, email to arrissman@wisc.edu the following in a single PDF document: cover letter, CV with undergraduate/graduate GPA and GRE scores, and unofficial undergraduate/graduate transcripts.

Dr. Adena Rissman, Assistant Professor

Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

http://forestandwildlifeecology.wisc.edu/facstaff/rissman

Four PhD positions in sustainability and biodiversity

My colleague Joern Fischer is offering four new PhD positions at Leuphana University Lueneburg. He writes:

Expressions of interest are being sought for four new PhD positions, for commencement in 2011 (details to be negotiated). Please register your interest and send your CV to Joern Fischer (Joern.Fischer@uni.leuphana.de , also see https://sites.google.com/site/joernfischerspage/). Do not send complete applications at this stage.

The project
Unprecedented global change poses an urgent challenge to humanity because it threatens ecosystems and human well- being, especially in poor countries. We will implement a transdisciplinary research agenda to foster sustainable development in ancient agricultural landscapes in Central Romania. The area is fascinating because ancient agricultural practices without machinery or artificial fertilisers have maintained unusually high biodiversity, from large carnivores to rare orchids. Following its recent inclusion in the European Union, Central Romania now faces a delicate balancing act between the aspirations of local people for greater economic prosperity and the region’s unique heritage values. You will be part of a team involving natural scientists, social scientists and regional stakeholders. We will map biodiversity and the ecosystem services generated by it, and will identify formal and informal institutions that can provide leverage points for enabling sustainable land use practices.

The project is funded through a Sofja Kovalevskaja Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (through funds by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research). Visit https://sites.google.com/site/landscapefutures/Home

PhD 1: The future of birds and large carnivores
Primary focus: ecology. This component will gather data on birds and large carnivores, will map their distribution, quantify habitat relationships, and analyse likely changes under different scenarios of future development. Methods will include field surveys, statistical modelling, and GIS applications.

PhD 2: The future of plants and butterflies
Primary focus: ecology. The study area is exceptionally rich in plants and butterflies. This component will gather original field data, will map the distribution of the groups, quantify habitat relationships, and analyse likely changes under different development scenarios. Methods will include field surveys, statistical modelling, and GIS applications.

PhD 3: Cultural ecosystem services and historical changes
Primary focus: social sciences, humanities. This component will analyse land use changes since the middle ages, and will quantify the cultural benefits that people derive from nature. The possible impacts of different future trajectories on the provision of cultural ecosystem services will be assessed. Methodology will be broad and flexible, potentially including literature reviews, analysis of historical sources (e.g. old maps), interviews and workshops with local people, and GIS analysis. Experience with some of these methods, and ability to speak Romanian, will be advantages.

PhD 4: Changes in institutional arrangements
Primary focus: social sciences. This component will analyse informal and formal institutions, and their dynamic changes in the past – with a particular emphasis on recent changes since Romania joined the European Union. How can institutional arrangements foster the sustainable development of the region? Methods are flexible, including participatory methods with local people, and analysis of official policy documents (e.g. regarding EU agri-environment schemes).
This well-funded project includes collaborative links with St. Andrews University, Cambridge University, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and the Mihai Eminescu Trust (Romania). All components will be theoretically grounded in a shared conceptual framework of ecosystem services, resilience theory, and social-ecological systems analysis. The research team will also involve more senior scientists who will focus on other, complementary aspects.

Persepctives on Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya

Eight perspectives on the recent Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya.

1. Environmental economist Charles Perrings interviewed by Earth and Sky on his recent Science article 20 Biodiversity targets for 2020:

Charles Perrings: The rate of species decline is increasing, not reducing. And it’s across the board. It’s not just the charismatic megafauna [large animals] that attract the most attention – but a range of species extending across the board.

The new targets follow the acronym ‘SMART’ – meaning, specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic, and time-bound.

Charles Perrings: We’re arguing that it’s important that they not only be SMART but they also be relevant. The targets need to speak to the real interests people have got in ecosystem services and the biodiversity that’s needed to support these services. The targets need to recognize trade-offs between interests.

For example, Perrings said, one of the targets states, “Areas under agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.” He pointed out that the primary interests of food production and forestry are to feed and shelter people. Those basic human needs will likely overshadow the intent of conserving biodiversity.

Charles Perrings: It’s important to acknowledge that no matter how efficient we make agriculture, it’s almost certain that an expanding human population is going to involve further loss of habitat for other species. We claim that the trade-off should be addressed directly.

He said that in contrast to the 2010 target, it’s important that 2020’s targets are achievable, and that they go along with a set of indicators that can measure the progress towards success. But due to the trade offs, Perrings writes in the paper, “It may not be possible to meet all of the 2020 targets.”

2. Outcomes of the Nagoya meeting  (non-final version from CBD)

The documents provided below are advanced unedited texts reflecting the decisions as adopted on the basis of the documents presented to Plenary (the “L.” document available as in-session documents) and any amendments made during the closing Plenary session. They have not been formally edited. The final official versions of the decisions will be issued as part of the report of the meeting in due course. Statements made by Parties at the time of the adoption of the decision will also be included in the report.

3. Science Insider quotes our colleague Thomas Elmqvist and reports:

…the strategic plan sets 20 specific targets to achieve by 2020. Key targets include conserving in protected zones at least 17% of the world’s terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas, halving the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, and preventing the extinction of known threatened species.

Other targets call for eliminating subsidies harmful to biodiversity, managing fisheries sustainably, and minimizing anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs.

… Negotiators also agreed to increase funding to support the efforts of the strategic plan, though specific targets for percentages or amounts are to be worked out by the time of the COP 11 meeting, scheduled for 2012 in New Delhi, India.The third key agreement is a new protocol to ensure that benefits flow back to countries and indigenous peoples who supply genetic resources that are commercialized. Developing countries had wanted the provisions of the access and benefit-sharing protocol to apply retroactively. They had also hoped for the agreement to specifically assign responsibility for tracking the use of genetic materials to patent offices, research universities, scientific journals, and other “checkpoints.” Retroactivity was stripped from the final text, though the agreement now calls for the investigation of a “global multilateral benefit-sharing mechanism” to address cases where plant or animal resources were commercialized prior to the new agreement. And how to enforce compliance will be left up to each country. “It is not the text we would write ourselves, but it is a good compromise,” says Paulino Franco de Carvalho, head of the Brazilian delegation.

Among other business, delegates agreed to call for a moratorium on geoengineering schemes and to endorse a request to the United Nations General Assembly to create an Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that would produce scientific assessments on biodiversity issues much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change works on the science of climate change. “We’re quite excited about this, it’s really needed,” says Thomas Elmqvist, an ecologist at Stockholm University and a member of the Swedish delegation.

4. Reflection on Nagoya from CGIAR in  Biodiversity International welcomes Nagoya Protocol

Emile Frison, Director General of Biodiversity International, which has represented the Consortium of international agricultural research centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in all the negotiations leading up to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol, was jubilant.

“The Protocol addresses issues that have pitted countries of the North and South against one other for decades. Its adoption should act as a balm on old wounds. It will help to create transparency and trust between countries, and trust is absolutely essential for countries to cooperate in using genetic resources in ways that promote food security and economic development.”

The adoption of the Nagoya Protocol  has ended six years of hard-scrabble negotiating. At issue were the conditions under which countries will provide access to genetic resources within their boundaries, the kinds of benefits that should be shared when those resources are used, and how far countries will cooperate with one another when there are allegations of illegal uses.

5. From IUCN:

“We’ve seen history in the making here in Nagoya with a landmark agreement now in place that defines the future for life on earth,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “Here in Japan the international community have moved closer to the realisation that it’s time we stopped considering nature as expendable, and any related expenditure a write-off – it’s time we valued and conserved nature.”

The stakes have been high at the Nagoya conference. The latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, released two days ago, showed that nature’s very backbone is at risk – with a third of species assessed seriously threatened and many among them facing the risk of extinction. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study, known as TEEB, warns us that many of the benefits of nature that we have been taking for granted and enjoyed for free up until now are at risk of running out. The Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 showed that we are on the verge of catastrophic and irreversible tipping points.

“What we’ve decided at this meeting will change the future of life on Earth – and many solutions are available to us,” says Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “We know that targeted conservation action works. Results from the latest Red List show us that the status of biodiversity would have declined by an additional 20 percent at least, if conservation action had not been taken.”

6. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) welcomes:

the adoption of an international agreement that aims to halve the dramatic loss of ecosystems and species by 2020, and to establish ground rules for sharing and accessing the world’s genetic resources.

… Sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services is essential to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to combating poverty.

UNDP is committed to scale up its biodiversity work to help meet the Aichi Targets and to assist countries with improving management of their ecosystems.

Billions of people depend on natural ecosystems for their water supply as well as for food, medicines and other essentials.

7. The World Bank Launches Scheme To Green Government Accounts promotes ‘green’ national accounts:

The five-year pilot project backed by India, Mexico and other nations aims to embed nature into national accounts to draw in the full benefits of services such as coastal protection from mangroves or watersheds for rivers that feed cities and crops.

…”For economic ministries in particular, it’s important to have an accounting measure that they can use to evaluate not only the economic value but the natural wealth of nations,” Zoellick told Reuters in an interview.

8. And to conclude IISD’s Linkages which reports on global environmental negotiations, provides a summary of the conclusion of the Nagoya meeting:

The adoption of the package, in particular the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, was rightfully celebrated as a major success in the history of the CBD. And in this light, fears of “another Copenhagen,” popularized by the media, seem both overblown and inadequate. Aside from the package, COP 10 adopted more than 40 other decisions, including unprecedented developments on new complex issues such as geo-engineering and synthetic biology. Not all other decisions lived up to expectations, but taken together, they represent a significant step forward in multilateral cooperation on biodiversity. The CBD’s approach to implementation based on the ecosystem approach, and its mechanism for addressing new and emerging issues would have allowed work on implementation of the Convention to continue whether or not the package had been adopted. In contrast to the climate change regime, where key activities on implementation, such as the carbon market, depend on adopting a global deal on mitigation, the CBD’s agenda is being advanced through a multi-facetted system of work programmes, collaborations and partnerships across the environmental-policy board. So, even if COP 10 had failed to adopt “the package,” the remaining decisions would have allowed work on implementation of the Convention to continue.

A number of developments indicate that the CBD is in the middle of an important transformation process, towards an approach that integrates biodiversity concerns into all areas of human activity. The Strategic Plan and activities such as the TEEB study can give an important impulse to accelerate this transition. With the adoption of the ABS Protocol, it can be expected that future COPs will devote more attention to repositioning the CBD as the key international instrument to further efforts towards “life in harmony with biodiversity.” COP 10 has been a necessary and important step in that direction, not least because it showed that “Copenhagen” was a phenomenon specific to the politics of global climate change cooperation, rather than a crisis of the UN System and of global environmental multilateralism as a whole.

the

Prof and Phd Environmental Political Science jobs at Lund in Sweden

Lund University invites applicants to

1) a tenure track position (Associate Senior Research Lecturer) on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in a Changing Climate, and

2) a PhD position on international climate policy focusing on REDD and carbon accounting (4 year).

Both positions are placed at the Department of Political Science (http://www.svet.lu.se) and are part of the strategic research program Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in a Changing Climate (BECC) at the Center for Environment and Climate (http://www.cec.lu.se) at the Faculty of Science.

More information (in English and Swedish) on the Associate Senior Research Lecturer can be found here:
http://www3.lu.se/info/lediga/admin/document/PA2010-2073engny.pdf (English)
http://www.sam.lu.se/lediga-tjaenster (Swedish)

More information (in English and Swedish) on the PhD position can be found here:
http://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/o.o.i.s?id=24914&Dnr=363076&Type=EU (English)
http://www.lu.se/o.o.i.s?id=22598&Dnr=363076&Type=S (Swedish)

Come and join a thriving research group in environmental politics!

http://tinyurl.com/EPRG-LUND

Phosphorus dynamics – mining vs. recycling

Global P consumption in Millions of Tonnes. Data from FAO.

Phosphorus is essential for sustaining humanity, because it is essential nutrient for producing food, and it is often a limiting nutrient for plant growth. Unlike nitrogen, it cannot be fixed from the air, and must be either recycled or mined.

Modern industrial agriculture relies on continual inputs of mined phosphor. How long phosphorus mining can last is quite uncertain. A new assessment of phosphor supplies suggests these are supplies are much bigger than previously thought.

A recent editorial in Nature Not Quite Assured (Oct 27, 2010)writes:

Reserves of the phosphate rock used to make such fertilizers are finite, and concerns have been raised that they are in danger of exhaustion. It has been argued, for example, that data from the US Geological Survey point to the available supplies peaking in as little as 25 years time (see Nature 461, 716–718; 2009). Because there is no substitute for phosphate in agriculture, this might present an urgent and substantial problem. But initial findings from the World Phosphate Rock Reserves and Resources study conducted this year by the IFDC, an international non-profit organization based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and formerly known as the International Fertilizer Development Center, suggest that phosphate rock deposits should last for between 300 and 400 years.

Accurate information about phosphate reserves is hard to come by, and the IFDC concedes that more work is needed to hone its estimates. The mining industry, governments and interested researchers should accept the organization’s invitation to collaborate in this process.

The phosphate issue runs beyond gaining assurances that total global supply will meet demand. There remain important concerns that phosphate and other fertilizers are being squandered in some parts of the world, whereas farmers in other regions cannot obtain them at a reasonable cost.

… current fertilizer-production methods fail to maximize the efficient conversion of phosphate rock into fertilizer. The supply of the rock is heavily concentrated in two nations, China and Morocco, on whose good faith the rest of the world relies for its phosphate supplies. That faith has been shaken by extreme price fluctuations in recent years.

Yet the heavy dependence of food production on fertilizers, inequalities of supply and the need for sustainable use of fertilizers — including recycling — are largely missing from discussions on approaches to sustainable development. They were only mentioned in passing, for example, at the United Nations’ world summit on food security in Rome last November.

Hydrologists, soil researchers and food scientists have begun to raise awareness of some of the issues surrounding phosphates. A discussion will be devoted to the topic at the Crop World 2010 meeting in London next week, in which researchers will be joined by industry and government representatives, including John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, who has worked hard to raise political awareness of food-security issues.

These efforts would be strengthened if an international body, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, started to seriously champion the issue of sustainable fertilizer use. The organization already tracks fertilizer demand and supply, and has produced reports on phosphate fertilizer use. It doesn’t have a specific programme for sustainable fertilizers, but its departments of agriculture and natural resources do some work in this area, giving it a base on which to build. It now needs to push this issue out from the sidelines and into the policy-making process that will shape the future of agriculture and sustainable development.

My colleague Arno Rosemarin believes that the assessment is wrong.  He has co-authored another assessment of phosphor supplies, and comments on the nature editorial:

The statement in the IFDC report that we have 300-400 years prior to depletion og phosphorus is based on a zero increase in extraction from now on. The rate of annual increase is presently in fact 3-4%. Extraction will hopefully decrease as we become more efficient, start significant reuse programmes, etc. But this will take decades and no UN governance or monitoring plan is in sight. The food security summits in 2008 and 2009 never mention the word phosphorus. The new data on increased reserves from IFDC are based almost entirely on a recalculation for Morocco giving them 10 times more phosphorus and 85% of the global capacity. But the estimates are based on a hypothetical calculation and economic viability does not figure in the calculation. There are no data on reserves from industry in the calculation since this is kept confidential.

Ecosystem ecologist Jim Elser followed with:

While this seems like welcome news, as Dr Rosemarin notes, the new estimate is entirely based on a revision of estimates for Morocco and seems to be derived from a 20-year old geological report and not on any new geological survey data. It is also important to note that the 300-400 year IFDC estimate for P depletion is a different event than the timing of “peak phosphorus”, which refers to the date when global P production will occur (previous estimates placed this timing for 2030-2040). It is likely that, even if this new reserve number for Morocco is correct and the P ore there is indeed of high quality and accessible, a production peak for P is likely only pushed back by a few decades. In any case, the key issue for any such commodity is PRICE and what remains to be analyzed is the likely future dynamics of P fertilizer prices in the face of the need to double food production by 2050 while simultaneously satisfying the burgeoning bioenergy industry. “Not quite assured”, indeed.
Is this any way to run a biogeochemical cycle?

Restoring the American Chestnut

Fromer range of American Chestnut. From American Chestnut Foundation

In an interesting story of restoration ecology, Juliet Eilperin writes about the citizen science movement that is trying to restore the American chestnut.

The American chestnut was a dominant tree in the forest of the Eastern US, making up about 25 percent of the hardwood canopy in some eastern forests. Chestnut blight was was accidentally introduced to North America from Asia, through imported chestnut wood or trees in the early 20th century, and by the middle of the century almost 4 billion chestnut trees had dwindled to a few hundred, transforming the USA’s eastern broadleaf forests.

Currently, by crossing surving American trees with blight resistant Chinese chestnuts, volunteers have created trees that are genetically mostly American chestnut, but are also resistant to blight.

Juliet Eilperin writes in the Washington Post about The mighty American chestnut tree, poised for a comeback:

The foundation has roughly 75,000 “mother” and “father” trees in 300 volunteer-run breeding orchards across the United States, including 15,000 in Maryland. Saplings and nuts from these orchards are distributed for plantings. The group is cultivating different trees in separate states and continues to cross-breed, volunteer John Bradfield said, “to bring in the diversity that geography brings to a species.”

Now that they’ve got trees with a shot at survival, volunteers have joined federal officials to begin reforestation. They’ve planted 20,000 to 25,000 chestnuts, and some of the most promising work is being done on land decimated by strip mining that must be restored under federal law.

“Surface mines may make the best springboard for the American chestnut back into the Eastern forest,” said Patrick Angel, a senior forester at the Office of Surface Mining who is helping to oversee the effort. “The natural range of the American chestnut and the Appalachian coal fields overlap perfectly.”

There are three-quarters to a million acres of abandoned mining land between Pennsylvania and Alabama that could be reforested with chestnuts and other hardwoods, Angel said. “That’s a huge amount of non-forested land in an area that used to be contiguous forest,” he said.

Below is a video from the US Forest Service about experimental American Chestnut replanting in the wild:

Satoyama – a Japanese cultural landscape

Many parents of small children will have seen Miyazaki’s classic animated film My Neighbour Totoro about Totoro, a forest spirit, who befriends two young girls.  Totoro inhabits a beautiful agricultural landscape known as Satyoyama.  Satoyama is a Japanese agricultural landscape that combines small scale agriculture and forest – if well managed it can be a multi-functional agriculture landscape that provides provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services.  Satoyama is an iconic Japanese cultural landscape that has been destroyed in Japan by development and rural out-migration, however is now being promoted in Japan and by the Japanese government for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Nagoya.

In honour of the CBD meeting in Japan, The Kyoto Journal (issue 75) has a special issue on Biodiversity that includes a large section on the ideals and reality of satoyama.  The table of contents for the section on the Worlds of Satoyama is:

UN university is conducting research on satoyama, and has a number of online resources (1, 2, and 3).

Via Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog