Tag Archives: tradeoff

Ecosystem service questions: Whose pollen? Whose pollinators?

As the world becomes more human dominated and people enclose an increasing number of ecological commons we can probably expect conflicts over ecosystem services to become more common. In California there is currently a new conflict over pollination.  From Associated Press: Tangerine growers tell beekeepers to buzz off.

Is it trespassing when bees do what bees do in California’s tangerine groves?

Mega-grower Paramount Citrus has already sent letters to beekeepers near the company’s Kern County clementine groves threatening legal action and promising to seek “compensation for any and all damages caused to its crops, as well as punitive damages” if seeds develop. Company officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The new regulations would affect Kern, Tulare, Fresno and Madera counties in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where many orange growers converted to easy-to-peel tangerines. The fruit’s California acreage was expanded from 24,000 in 2005 to 31,392 in 2008 to compete with imports from Spain and the Middle East.

Tangerines and other normally seedless mandarins do not need bees to move pollen from the male to female parts of the flower in the process known as pollination. But if bees cross-pollinate the crop with the pollen of other fruit, mandarins develop undesireable seeds.

Almond trees on the west side of the valley, on the other hand, need lots of bees to pollinate. For the February pollination season, almond growers hire beekeepers from around the country to bring tens of thousands of hives to California, home to 70 percent of the world’s supply.

As almond blossoms drop in late March, citrus growers say, beekeepers relocate hives to make orange blossom honey before heading to the Midwest for spring clover season.

Some growers, who by law must ban spraying for citrus mites and other pests when bees are present, say the bees are an increasing burden.

“We’ve coexisted with them, but we don’t need them,” said Joel Nelson, executive director of California Citrus Mutual, a trade association. “Now we’re trying to adapt to changing consumer demands, and we’re hamstrung.”

I wonder if this means that allergy sufferers will be able to sue people who plant pollen producing plants?

via Agricultural biodiversity weblog

Mapping Coastal Eutrophication

Current industrial agricultural practices produce a tradeoff between agricultural production and the quality of coastal ecosystems, because agricultural fertilizers that increase crop yields lead to the creation of low oxygen hypoxic areas in areas which receive a lot of nutrient rich runoff.

The World Resources Institute and Virginia Institute of Marine Science, has updated Diaz et al’s recent map of coastal eutrophication. They identify 169 hypoxic areas, 233 areas of concern, and 13 systems in recovery.

Coastal Eutrophication WRI 2008

The WRI Earthtrends weblog writes about the project:

The map shows three types of eutrophic zones:

(1) Documented hypoxic areas – Areas with scientific evidence that hypoxia was caused, at least in part, by an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus. Hypoxic areas have oxygen levels low enough to inhibit the existence of marine life.

(2) Areas of concern – Systems that exhibit effects of eutrophication, including elevated nitrogen and phosphorus levels, elevated chlorophyll levels, harmful algal blooms, changes in the benthic community, damage to coral reefs, and fish kills. These systems are impaired by nutrients and are possibly at risk of developing hypoxia. Some of the systems may already be experiencing hypoxia, but lack conclusive scientific evidence of the condition.

(3) Systems in recovery – Areas that once exhibited low dissolved oxygen levels and hypoxia, but are now improving. For example, the Black Sea recovery is largely due to the economic collapse of Eastern Europe in the 1990s, which greatly reduced fertilizer use. Others, like Boston Harbor in the United States and the Mersey Estuary in the United Kingdom also have improved water quality resulting from better industrial and wastewater controls.

Given the state of global data, the actual number of eutrophic and hypoxic areas around the world is likely to be greater than the 415 listed here. The most under-represented region is Asia. Asia has relatively few documented eutrophic and hypoxic areas despite large increases in intensive farming methods, industrial development, and population growth over the past 20 years. Africa, South America, and the Caribbean also have few reliable sources of coastal water quality data.

A more detailed analysis of this data set will be available in February 2008 in a policy note entitled Eutrophication and Hypoxia in Coastal Areas: A Global Assessment of the State of Knowledge (a list of related publications can be found here.