Solutions for a Cultivated Planet

Data (PDF Available) · October 2011with 898 Reads
Cite this publication
A preview of the PDF is not available
  • Article
    No-till (NT) farming is popular globally, however, the effects on crop yields remain debatable. A metaanalysis was conducted on crop yield responses to NT in China based on 1006 comparisons from 164 studies. Results showed that a decrease of 2.1 ± 1.8% on crop yield was observed under NT with residue removed (NT0) compared with that under plow tillage with residue removed (PT0), but the decreases can be diminished to 1.9 ± 1.0% when residue retention was combined with both the two tillage practices. On the contrary, NT with residue retention (NTR) may significantly increase crop yields by 4.6 ± 1.3% compared with that under PT0 (P < 0.05).Along with improvements in crop yields, increases in soil organic carbon (SOC) by 10.2 ± 7.2%, available nitrogen (N) by 9.4 ± 5.4%, available potassium by 10.5 ± 8.8%, and water storage by ∼9.3 ± 2.4% was observed under NTR compared with PT0, indicating that improvements in soil quality could benefit crop productivity under NTR. Categorically, results on meta-analysis and regression indicated large variations in crop yields under NTR because of differences in crop species, temperature and precipitation, antecedent SOC level, N fertilizer input, duration of adoption, and with or without residue retention. For example, crop yields significantly increased with increase in duration (P < 0.0001) under NTR, by 21.3% after 10 years of continuous NTR compared with PT0. Adoption of NTR under appropriate site-specific conditions can advance China’s food security, improve yield stability and alleviate soil-related constraints.
  • Article
    Saline soils are highly heterogeneous in time and space, and this is a critical factor influencing plant physiology and productivity. Temporal changes in soil salinity can alter plant responses to salinity, and pre-treating plants with low NaCl concentrations has been found to substantially increase salt tolerance in different species in a process called acclimation. However, it still remains unclear whether this process is common to all plants or is only expressed in certain genotypes. We addressed this question by assessing the physiological changes to 100 mM NaCl in two contrasting olive cultivars (the salt-sensitive Leccino and the salt-tolerant Frantoio), following a 1-month acclimation period with 5 or 25 mM NaCl. The acclimation improved salt tolerance in both cultivars, but activated substantially different physiological adjustments in the tolerant and the sensitive cultivars. In the tolerant Frantoio the acclimation with 5 mM NaCl was more effective in increasing plant salt tolerance, with a 47% increase in total plant dry mass compared with non-acclimated saline plants. This enhanced biomass accumulation was associated with a 50% increase in K + retention ability in roots. On the other hand, in the sensitive Leccino, although the acclimation process did not improve performance in terms of plant growth, pre-treatment with 5 and 25 mM NaCl substantially decreased salt-induced leaf cell ultrastruc-tural changes, with leaf cell relatively similar to those of control plants. Taken together these results suggest that in the tolerant cultivar the acclimation took place primarily in the root tissues, while in the sensitive they occurred mainly at the shoot level.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Novel ecosystems result from a combination of altered historical abiotic regimes and new species assemblages. In freshwater systems, novel environmental conditions often result from large-scale changes to hydrological connectivity as well as species invasions. Novel environmental conditions may affect the survival of aquatic fauna by altering dispersal patterns and resource fluctuations, and/or may impose physiological constraints on native species evolutionarily adapted to particular environments. Further, novel systems can provide insight into processes driving community structure because re-sorting or filtering of regional biota is a likely consequence of decoupling from historical conditions. Although several studies document the presence of novel conditions, few examine variation or gradients in novelty. The Florida Everglades is a highly invaded and hydrologically altered system characterized by a large network of canals that compartmentalize the ecosystem and act to both increase and decrease connectivity. Little is known about how canals in this region function as habitat for native and nonnative fishes, the extent to which these canals may function as novel habitats, and how these habitat characteristics may influence distribution, abundance, and assembly patterns. In this study, we examined native and nonnative fish assemblages along a gradient of novelty, defined as the loss of wetland connectivity, influence of the natural hydrological regime, and habitat complexity (well connected to leveed canals). As novelty increased, native species richness and abundance strongly declined and the contribution of nonnatives increased to nearly 50%. Vast differences in community structure across the novelty gradient were strongly influenced by spatial factors and secondarily by hydrological factors, while habitat and abiotic factors were of very low relevance. Natives and nonnatives had opposing responses to key hydrological and habitat characteristics. Abundance of native fishes declined with decreased connectivity to adjacent marshes and canal littoral zone width, while nonnative fishes increased significantly in the most novel canals. Our results suggest that the inherent loss of natural environmental conditions and subsequent replacement by novel ones can lead to extensive changes in fish community structure. Success or failure at maintaining native assemblages will rely heavily on natural resource manager's ability to incorporate natural environmental characteristics with ecosystem restoration.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    A detailed understanding of multiple human and environmental factors influencing land allocations among agricultural uses can facilitate more efficient and targeted land policy. To show this, we used a comprehensive dataset of socioeconomic, physiographic, and climatic indicators to investigate potential determinants of land-use in Australia's intensive agricultural region during the period 1992–2010. We applied a seemingly unrelated regressions land-use shares spatial error model with random effects coupled with variance decomposition analysis to identify the statistical significance, direction and magnitude of observed associations between land-use and its drivers. Population density, rainfall, equity ratio, and access to markets were the most influential policy-relevant land-use factors. Land allocations to cereals and livestock production were significantly influenced by spatiotemporal rainfall and temperature variability. Improved pastures, cereals, annual and perennial crops plantations were larger in regions with better access to markets. Increases in equity ratio (i.e., better financial position) were associated with larger land allocations to improved pastures and annual crops and smaller extensive grazing area. Marginal associations were detected between land-use and output prices, and higher population density was associated with lower shares for all high value agricultural land-uses. The results suggest that improved transportation infrastructure, zoning regulations, and mechanisms to reduce farm debt exposure and risks from climate variability could have significant impact on the configuration of the Australian agricultural landscape. Crown
  • Chapter
    Full-text available
    The scale, spread and rate of change of global drivers are without precedent. Burgeoning populations and growing economies are pushing environmental systems to destabilizing limits. The idea that the perturbation of a complex ecological system can trigger sudden feedbacks is not new: significant scientific research has explored thresholds and tipping points that the planetary system may face if humanity does not control carbon emissions. Understanding feedbacks from the perspective of drivers reveals that many of them interact in unpredictable ways. Generally, the rates of change in these drivers are not monitored or managed, and so it is not possible to predict or even perceive dangerous thresholds as they approach. Critically, the bulk of research has been on understanding the effects of drivers on ecosystems, not on the effects of changed ecosystems on the drivers – the feedback loop.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    For years we have been observing the exponential trend of the economic growth, energy consumption, mineral resources use and greenhouse gas emissions. The human population is exerting an increasing pressure on the environment, which in the highly industrialised regions has lost its natural ability for bio-capacity. The measurement of the member states’ progress in achieving the sustainable development is an integral part of the European Union strategy. The article deals with methods of measuring the level of sustainable development and presents diversification of the EU member states according to the synthetic indicators, such as: domestic material consumption, import dependency, risky external energy supply, diversity index, ecological footprint and total carbon intensity. These determinants affecting potential of the EU states to maintain the achieved level of development in future.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Organic agriculture is often proposed as a more sustainable alternative to current conventional agriculture. We assess the current understanding of the costs and benefits of organic agriculture across multiple production, environmental, producer, and consumer dimensions. Organic agriculture shows many potential benefits (including higher biodiversity and improved soil and water quality per unit area, enhanced profitability, and higher nutritional value) as well as many potential costs including lower yields and higher consumer prices. However, numerous important dimensions have high uncertainty, particularly the environmental performance when controlling for lower organic yields, but also yield stability, soil erosion, water use, and labor conditions. We identify conditions that influence the relative performance of organic systems, highlighting areas for increased research and policy support.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Losses at every stage in the food system influence the extent to which nutritional requirements of a growing global population can be sustainably met. Inefficiencies and losses in agricultural production and consumer behaviour all play a role. This paper aims to understand better the magnitude of different losses and to provide insights into how these influence overall food system efficiency. We take a systems view from primary production of agricultural biomass through to human food requirements and consumption. Quantities and losses over ten stages are calculated and compared in terms of dry mass, wet mass, protein and energy. The comparison reveals significant differences between these measurements, and the potential for wet mass figures used in previous studies to be misleading. The results suggest that due to cumulative losses, the proportion of global agricultural dry biomass consumed as food is just 6% (9.0% for energy and 7.6% for protein), and 24.8% of harvest biomass (31.9% for energy and 27.8% for protein). The highest rates of loss are associated with livestock production, although the largest absolute losses of biomass occur prior to harvest. Losses of harvested crops were also found to be substantial, with 44.0% of crop dry matter (36.9% of energy and 50.1% of protein) lost prior to human consumption. If human over-consumption, defined as food consumption in excess of nutritional requirements, is included as an additional inefficiency, 48.4% of harvested crops were found to be lost (53.2% of energy and 42.3% of protein). Over-eating was found to be at least as large a contributor to food system losses as consumer food waste. The findings suggest that influencing consumer behaviour, e.g. to eat less animal products, or to reduce per capita consumption closer to nutrient requirements, offer substantial potential to improve food security for the rising global population in a sustainable manner.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The transition from fossil fuel-based energy systems to renewable energy systems is a cornerstone of the green transformation to decarbonize our economic systems and mitigate climate change. Given the urgency of effective climate change mitigation, renewable energy diffusion needs to accelerate drastically. Among the many constraints to renewable energy diffusion, the important role of the supply chain is often overlooked. Therefore, this article addresses the role of the supply chain in the renewable energy diffusion process. Using the offshore wind energy sector as a case, this article presents an analysis of supply chain readiness to ascertain the role of the supply chain in the green transformation. Examining Europe and China mainly within offshore wind logistics, the research findings show that this segment of the supply chain constitutes a key bottleneck for accelerated deployment. For Europe, the key findings indicate that legislation for offshore wind beyond 2020 is necessary to ensure the implementation of the required investments in logistics assets, transport equipment, and personnel. In China, the key findings indicate that the Chinese supply chain of wind energy is mainly organized around onshore wind. Key bottlenecks exist, predominantly in logistics, and this article identifies specific areas of the supply chain where international collaboration and knowledge transfer may speed up deployment.
  • Article
    Conversion of land to grow crops, raise animals, obtain timber, and build cities is one of the foundations of human civilization. While land use provides these essential ecosystem goods, it alters a range of other ecosystem functions, such as the provisioning of freshwater, regulation of climate and biogeochemical cycles, and maintenance of soil fertility. It also alters habitat for biological diversity. Balancing the inherent trade-offs between satisfying immediate human needs and maintaining other ecosystem functions requires quantitative knowledge about ecosystem responses to land use. These responses vary according to the type of land-use change and the ecological setting, and have local, short-term as well as global, long-term effects. Land-use decisions ultimately weigh the need to satisfy human demands and the unintended ecosystem responses based on societal values, but ecological knowledge can provide a basis for assessing the trade-offs.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    TheBrazilian Amazon is one of themost rapidly developing agricultural areas in the world and represents a potentially large future source of greenhouse gases from land clearing and subsequent agricultural management. In an integrated approach, we estimate the greenhouse gas dynamics of natural ecosystems and agricultural ecosystems after clearing in the context of a future climate. We examine scenarios of deforestation and postclearing land use to estimate the future (2006–2050) impacts on carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄), and nitrous oxide (N₂O) emissions from the agricultural frontier state of Mato Grosso, using a process-based biogeochemistry model, the Terrestrial Ecosystems Model (TEM). We estimate a net emission of greenhouse gases from Mato Grosso, ranging from 2.8 to 15.9 Pg CO₂-equivalents (CO₂-e) from 2006 to 2050. Deforestation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions over this period, but land uses following clearing account for a substantial portion (24–49%) of the net greenhouse gas budget. Due to land-cover and land-use change, there is a small foregone carbon sequestration of 0.2–0.4 Pg CO₂-e by natural forests and cerrado between 2006 and 2050. Both deforestation and future land-use management play important roles in the net greenhouse gas emissions of this frontier, suggesting that both should be considered in emissions policies. We find that avoided deforestation remains the best strategy for minimizing future greenhouse gas emissions from Mato Grosso.
  • Article
    Cet article explore la relation entre le gouvernement étatique et les paysans des fermes de Jola, dans la région de la Basse Casamance au Sénégal. Il évoque les cas de particuliers dont les vies par leurs trajectoires révèlent les changements dans les relations politiques et économiques entre l'état et les fermiers. L'article retrace les stratégies utilisées depuis l'indépendance par les fermiers vivant dans la communauté rurale de Jola pour faire échouer les efforts du gouvernement visant à contrôler la production des céréales et les importations de l'étranger. Il évalue en outre l'impact de la sécheresse et du conflit politique sur la production du riz. La conclusion en est que l'état sénégalais a joué un rôle prépondérant dans l'élaboration des politiques agricoles par l'intermédiaire des organisations paraétatiques, par l'élargissement dans la prestation des services et les marchés organisés en coopératives. Relatant les expériences des acteurs individuels et les moyens ingénieux qu'ils ont mis en oeuvre pour faire face à l'adversité, l'article met l'accent sur l'importance d'aller audelà de la somme des statistiques pour considérer les êtres humains et leurs expériences vécues.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Human alteration of Earth is substantial and growing. Between one-third and one-half of the land surface has been transformed by human action; the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased by nearly 30 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; more atmospheric nitrogen is fixed by humanity than by all natural terrestrial sources combined; more than half of all accessible surface fresh water is put to use by humanity; and about one-quarter of the bird species on Earth have been driven to extinction. By these and other standards, it is clear that we live on a human-dominated planet.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Reducing atmospheric carbon emissions from tropical deforestation is at present considered a cost-effective option for mitigating climate change. However, the forces associated with tropical forest loss are uncertain. Here we use satellite-based estimates of forest loss for 2000 to 2005 (ref. 2) to assess economic, agricultural and demographic correlates across 41 countries in the humid tropics. Two methods of analysis-linear regression and regression tree-show that forest loss is positively correlated with urban population growth and exports of agricultural products for this time period. Rural population growth is not associated with forest loss, indicating the importance of urban-based and international demands for agricultural products as drivers of deforestation. The strong trend in movement of people to cities in the tropics is, counter-intuitively, likely to be associated with greater pressures for clearing tropical forests. We therefore suggest that policies to reduce deforestation among local, rural populations will not address the main cause of deforestation in the future. Rather, efforts need to focus on reducing deforestation for industrial-scale, export-oriented agricultural production, concomitant with efforts to increase yields in non-forested lands to satisfy demands for agricultural products. Bibtex entry for this abstract Preferred format for this abstract (see Preferences) Find Similar Abstracts: Use: Authors Title Abstract Text Return: Query Results Return items starting with number Query Form Database: Astronomy Physics arXiv e-prints

Linked Research