[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The global food system makes a significant contribution to climate changing greenhouse gas emissions with all stages in the supply chain, from agricultural production through processing, distribution, retailing, home food preparation and waste, playing a part. It also gives rise to other major environmental impacts, including biodiversity loss and water extraction and pollution. Policy makers are increasingly aware of the need to address these concerns, but at the same time they are faced with a growing burden of food security and nutrition-related problems, and tasked with ensuring that there is enough food to meet the needs of a growing global population. In short, more people need to be fed better, with less environmental impact. How might this be achieved? Broadly, three main 'takes' or perspectives, on the issues and their interactions, appear to be emerging. Depending on one's view point, the problem can be conceptualised as a production challenge, in which case there is a need to change how food is produced by improving the unit efficiency of food production; a consumption challenge, which requires changes to the dietary drivers that determine food production; or a socio-economic challenge, which requires changes in how the food system is governed. This paper considers these perspectives in turn, their implications for nutrition and climate change, and their strengths and weaknesses. Finally, an argument is made for a reorientation of policy thinking which uses the insights provided by all three perspectives, rather than, as is the situation today, privileging one over the other.
Proceedings of The Nutrition Society 02/2013; 72(1):29-39.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Despite widespread recognition of the major threat to tropical forest biological diversity and local food security posed by unsustainable bushmeat hunting, virtually no long-term studies tracking the socioecological dynamics of hunting systems have been conducted. We interviewed local hunters and collected detailed hunting data to investigate changes in offtake and hunter characteristics over 10 years (2001-2010) in Dibouka and Kouagna villages, central Gabon, in the context of hunter recollections of longer term trends since the 1950s. To control for changes in hunter behavior, such as trap location and characteristics, we report hunting offtake data per trap. Our results suggest the hunting area was already highly depleted by 2001; local hunters reported that 16 large-bodied prey species had become rare or locally extirpated over the last 60 years. Overall, we observed no significant declines in hunting offtake or changes in species composition from 2001 to 2010, and offtakes per trap increased slightly between 2004 and 2010. However, trapping distance from the villages increased, and there was a switch in hunting techniques; a larger proportion of the catch was hunted with guns in 2010. The number of hunters declined by 20% from 2004 to 2010, and male livelihood activities shifted away from hunting. Hunters with the lowest hunting incomes in 2004 were more likely than successful hunters to have moved away from the village by 2010 (often in response to alternative employment opportunities). Therefore, changes in trap success (potentially related to biological factors) were interacting with system-level changes in hunter number and composition (related to external socioeconomic factors) to produce a relatively static overall offtake. Our results highlight the importance of understanding the small-scale context of hunting to correctly interpret changes or apparent stasis in hunting effort and offtake over time. Cambio Social y Ecológico a lo Largo de Una Década en un Sistema de Cacería Aldeana, Gabón Central.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The concept of water security implies concern about potentially harmful states of coupled human and natural water systems. Those harmful states may be associated with water scarcity (for humans and/or the environment), floods or harmful water quality. The theories and practices of risk analysis and risk management have been developed and elaborated to deal with the uncertain occurrence of harmful events. Yet despite their widespread application in public policy, theories and practices of risk management have well-known limitations, particularly in the context of severe uncertainties and contested values. Here, we seek to explore the boundaries of applicability of risk-based principles as a means of formalizing discussion of water security. Not only do risk concepts have normative appeal, but they also provide an explicit means of addressing the variability that is intrinsic to hydrological, ecological and socio-economic systems. We illustrate the nature of these interconnections with a simulation study, which demonstrates how water resources planning could take more explicit account of epistemic uncertainties, tolerability of risk and the trade-offs in risk among different actors.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society A Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences 01/2013; 371(2002):20120407.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The rainforests are the great green heart of Africa, and present a unique combination of ecological, climatic and human interactions. In this synthesis paper, we review the past and present state processes of change in African rainforests, and explore the challenges and opportunities for maintaining a viable future for these biomes. We draw in particular on the insights and new analyses emerging from the Theme Issue on 'African rainforests: past, present and future' of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. A combination of features characterize the African rainforest biome, including a history of climate variation; forest expansion and retreat; a long history of human interaction with the biome; a relatively low plant species diversity but large tree biomass; a historically exceptionally high animal biomass that is now being severely hunted down; the dominance of selective logging; small-scale farming and bushmeat hunting as the major forms of direct human pressure; and, in Central Africa, the particular context of mineral- and oil-driven economies that have resulted in unusually low rates of deforestation and agricultural activity. We conclude by discussing how this combination of factors influences the prospects for African forests in the twenty-first century.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2013; 368(1625):20120312.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Tropical rainforests in Africa are one of the most under-researched regions in the world, but research in the Amazonian rainforest suggests potential vulnerability to climate change. Using the large ensemble of Atmosphere-only general circulation model (AGCM) simulations within the weather@home project, statistics of precipitation in the dry season of the Congo Basin rainforest are analysed. By validating the model simulation against observations, we could identify a good model performance for the June, July, August (JJA) dry season, but this result does need to be taken with caution as observed data are of poor quality. Additional validation methods have been used to investigate the applicability of probabilistic event attribution analysis from large model ensembles to a tropical region, in this case the Congo Basin. These methods corroborate the confidence in the model, leading us to believe the attribution result to be robust. That is, that there are no significant changes in the risk of low precipitation extremes during this dry season (JJA) precipitation in the Congo Basin. Results for the December, January, February dry season are less clear. The study highlights that attribution analysis has the potential to provide valuable scientific evidence of recent or anticipated climatological changes, especially in regions with sparse observational data and unclear projections of future changes. However, the strong influence of sea surface temperature teleconnection patterns on tropical precipitation provides more challenges in the set up of attribution studies than midlatitude rainfall.
Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2013; 368(1625):20120299.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We report results from a large-scale nutrient fertilization experiment along a "megadiverse" (154 unique species were included in the study) 3,000-m elevation transect in the Peruvian Andes and adjacent lowland Amazonia. Our objectives were to test if nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) limitation shift along this elevation gradient, and to determine how an alleviation of nutrient limitation would manifest in ecosystem changes. Tree height decreased with increasing elevation, but leaf area index (LAI) and diameter at breast height (DBH) did not vary with elevation. Leaf N:P decreased with increasing elevation (from 24 at 200 m to 11 at 3,000 m), suggesting increased N limitation and decreased P limitation with increasing elevation. After 4 years of fertilization (N, P, N + P), plots at the lowland site (200 m) fertilized with N + P showed greater relative growth rates in DBH than did the control plots; no significant differences were evident at the 1,000 m site, and plots fertilized with N at the highest elevation sites (1,500, 3,000 m) showed greater relative growth rates in DBH than did the control plots, again suggesting increased N constraint with elevation. Across elevations in general N fertilization led to an increase in microbial respiration, while P and N + P addition led to an increase in root respiration and corresponding decrease in hyphal respiration. There was no significant canopy response (LAI, leaf nutrients) to fertilization, suggesting that photosynthetic capacity was not N or P limited in these ecosystems. In sum, our study significantly advances ecological understanding of nutrient cycling and ecosystem response in a region where our collective knowledge and data are sparse: we demonstrate N limitation in high elevation tropical montane forests, N and P co-limitation in lowland Amazonia, and a nutrient limitation response manifested not in canopy changes, but rather in stem and belowground changes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Wind and solar power are highly variable, so it is it unclear how large a role they can play in future power systems. This work introduces a new open-source electricity planning model--Switch--that identifies the least-cost strategy for using renewable and conventional generators and transmission in a large power system over a multidecade period. Switch includes an unprecedented amount of spatial and temporal detail, making it possible to address a new type of question about the optimal design and operation of power systems with large amounts of renewable power. A case study of California for 2012-2027 finds that there is no maximum possible penetration of wind and solar power--these resources could potentially be used to reduce emissions 90% or more below 1990 levels without reducing reliability or severely raising the cost of electricity. This work also finds that policies that encourage customers to shift electricity demand to times when renewable power is most abundant (e.g., well-timed charging of electric vehicles) could make it possible to achieve radical emission reductions at moderate costs.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Camelina sativa (L.) is a promising crop for biodiesel production that avoids many of the potential pitfalls of traditional biofuel crops, such as land use change (LUC) and food versus fuel. In this study the environmental viability of camelina biodiesel was assessed using life cycle analysis (LCA) methodology. The LCA was conducted using the spreadsheet model dubbed KABAM. KABAM found that camelina grown as a niche filling crop (in rotation with wheat or as a double crop) reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fossil fuel use by 40–60% when compared to petroleum diesel. Furthermore, by avoiding LUC emissions, camelina biodiesel emits fewer GHGs than traditional soybean and canola biodiesel. Finally, a sensitivity analysis concluded that in order to maintain and increase the environmental viability of camelina and other niche filling biofuel crops, researchers and policy makers should focus their efforts on achieving satisfactory yields (1000–2000kg/ha) while reducing nitrogen fertilizer inputs.
Applied Energy - APPL ENERG. 01/2012;
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