The latest IPCC report was released last week, with very similar findings to the IPBES report released earlier this year. Both reports analyse published research and provide evidence-based recommendations to guide policy-making. They corroborate what ecologists and environmental scientists have been showing for the last few decades via hundreds of thousands of studies across multiple disciplines.
In a nutshell, we need to change how we, as a species, interact with our environment. Most importantly, we need to change the way we manage and use land and natural resources. And there are many ways we can do this. Continue reading →
My latest paper is out. It’s a leftover from my last postdoc at Charles Sturt Uni where I was working on ecosystem services in SE Australian apple orchards with Gary Luck and PhD student Rebecca Peisley – see her blog posts on her work here.
Our main research question for the project was to calculate the net outcome, in terms of yield, of all the positive and negative effects of animal interactions across a growing season. You can read our previous paper on those results here.
In this new paper we looked at another interaction, the influence of landscape vegetation and orchard ground cover on different invertebrate groups. I really enjoyed this project as it was an opportunity to explore an idea I had been thinking about for a while. I first got interested in orchard ground cover during my PhD, comparing wild pollinators in almond orchards with and without living ground cover. Continue reading →
All good things come to an end. 2016 was a year just like any other; some dreadful things happened and some wonderful things happened, depending on who you talk to.
For people interested in sustainable agriculture, it was a pretty exciting year. But in keeping with the annual theme of misinformation, there were also plenty of fails. Here are some of the highlights for me: Continue reading →
If you believe your Twitter feed, every Jack and his beanstalk has the quick-fix solution we need to beat the sustainable food challenge. ‘If you want to eat meat, switch to pigs, birds & fish to generate fewer emissions’. That’s convenient, because ‘lettuce is three times worse than bacon for the environment’.
These solutions all sound pretty sexy. But reducing the environmental impact of food production is not as simple as choosing one crop or livestock type over another.
Food production is a social-ecological system. That means it’s a system based on a mutual relationship between nature and humans. The ecosystem (i.e. the farm) influences human lives and actions, via ecosystem services. And humans influence the ecosystem’s structure and function, through direct management and indirect drivers like regulations, subsidies, financial markets and consumer demand. Continue reading →
It’s hard to keep wild animals out of farms. Birds, mammals and insects all affect crop yields, in positive ways (such as flies pollinating flowers) and negative ones (such as when birds damage fruit).
Agricultural research and management programs often deal with these interactions by focusing on simplistic “good” and “bad” labels: aphids are annoying pests, for example, whereas bees are little angels.
Read the rest of our piece at The Conversation.
And see the papers behind the article here:
Saunders ME, Peisley RK, Rader R, Luck GW (2016) Pollinators, pests, and predators: Recognizing ecological trade-offs in agroecosystems. AMBIO 45:4-14.
Peisley RK, Saunders ME, Luck GW (2015) A systematic review of the benefits and costs of bird and insect activity in agroecosystems. Springer Science Reviews 3:113-125.
Rolling plains of wheat, endless fields of flowering canola, row upon row of fruit trees: these agricultural landscapes are the stuff of stunning photographs.
Filling these paddocks with just one crop, known as monoculture, is a relatively easy, common and efficient way to produce food and fibre.
But international research shows that these monocultures can be bad for the environment and production through effects on soil quality, erosion, plants and animals, and ultimately declining crop yields. Research I have published this week in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability shows a possible link between monoculture landscapes and fewer wild pollinators.
Is there a better way to grow our food?
Published today at The Conversation. Read the rest of the story here….
A lot of great research on wild pollinators and agroecosystems has been published this year. In particular, the pollinator conservation literature seems to be moving on from simple abundance/richness comparisons to other ecological contexts that are potentially more relevant to policy and management decisions, such as nutritional and commercial qualities of insect-pollinated fruits.
Below is nice round list of four articles published this year that got me excited. All four are ‘firsts’ for their particular topics and use great study design and insight to lead current knowledge on the subject matter gently in a new direction. They are also pertinent reading as we balance on the cusp of the UN’s international years of Family Farming and Soils.
Continue reading →
Kudos to the European Union for voting to restrict these insecticides. Although the moratorium is only temporary, and isn’t a total ban, it’s an enormous step in the right direction.
I hope Australia and other countries are galvanised by this news to provide greater support for low-impact agriculture.
Read my whole article on this at The Conversation news analysis site.
© Manu Saunders 2013
I’ve just had this published at online news site The Conversation. Viva les pollinators!
Modern agriculture is stressing honeybees: let’s go native
Honeybees are in trouble – a stressful lifestyle and an unhealthy diet are being compounded by mite attacks – but we needn’t panic about pollination. Australia has many native bee (and other pollinator) species that could be taking care of business, if we only took better care of them.
What do we mean when we talk about “bees”?
For many, “bee” means the honeybee – any species in the genus Apis, the most well-known of which is Apis mellifera, the European honeybee. It is a generalist pollinator, which means it shows little preference when it chooses flowers to forage on. It could visit (and potentially pollinate) almost any open flower in its foraging range. It is also adaptable to a wide range of environments and is capable of being “domesticated”.
Read the rest of the article…
© Manu Saunders 2013