Knowledge for better food systems

Showing results for: Biodiversity and ecosystems

With large scale habitat loss, overharvesting, climate change and invasive species affecting most regions in the world, many thousands of animal and plant species are at risk of extinction due to human actions. The food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. At the same time, food production is closely interlinked with and dependent on the continued existence of specific natural areas, because it relies on ecosystem services such as pollination, fish stock renewal and rain water cycling and countless others.

10 March 2020

This paper reviews initiatives for conserving insects and argues that they must be expanded globally to protect insect populations. It also argues that the value of insects to society must be better communicated to people, e.g. through focusing on the benefits of iconic insect species or particular landscapes. 

3 March 2020

Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic formed as larger pieces break down in the environment, or else intentionally manufactured (e.g. as microbeads for cleaning products or pellets for industrial use). This paper reviews the current state of knowledge on their human health implications and effects on ecosystems. 

24 February 2020

This report from the global wildlife foundation WWF assesses the global economic impacts of nature loss. It finds that under a business-as-usual scenario, global GDP in 2050 could be 0.67% lower than if six ecosystems services (crop pollination, carbon storage, marine fisheries, protection of coasts from flooding/erosion, water supply and timber production) remain unchanged - a cumulative cost of US$10 trillion. A global conservation strategy could increase global GDP by 0.02% in 2050 relative to no change in these six ecosystems services.

24 February 2020

In this paper, FCRN member Erasmus zu Ermgassen finds that voluntary zero deforestation commitments (ZDCs) cover more than 90% of the soy exported from the Brazilian Amazon, but only 47% of soy exported from the Brazilian Cerrado biome (a type of wooded savannah). 

18 February 2020

This review paper examines how people are increasingly using the ocean - even previously inaccessible areas - for seafood, animal feed, nutraceuticals (such as omega-3 fatty acids), fuels and minerals, shipping, waste disposal and many other purposes. It argues that the view of the ocean as being too big to be affected by humans is now outdated, and that effective governance is required to manage the ocean’s ecological health while allowing sustainable use of its resources.

10 February 2020

This report from environmental campaign group Greenpeace UK examines how chicken consumption in the UK is linked to deforestation, through production of soy for animal feed. It sets out the “soya footprint” of supermarkets, fast food outlets and manufacturers, although figures are not available in all cases.

28 January 2020

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity has released a draft plan to protect biodiversity, ahead of a summit in China in October. The plan sets out 20 actions which could, by 2030, “put biodiversity on a path to recovery for the benefit of planet and people”.

13 January 2020

This book explores how people can work with natural landscapes and harvest resources sustainably. Examples in the book include cocoa farming in Ghana, orchards in Kent, palm oil production in Borneo and monocrop cultivation in the UK.

9 December 2019

In this film by research and communications project Agroecology Now! farmers from Lower Dzongu, Sikkim, India discuss the importance of traditional seeds for food, life and culture and their plans to establish a community seed bank to help maintain and revive traditional seeds. Farmers will be able to “borrow” seeds of local varieties from the seed bank, grow them and then return a greater number of seeds to the seed bank.

9 December 2019

This piece examines the data behind forest fires in Brazil, which attracted international attention during the summer of 2019. It concludes that the number of fires in August 2019 was nearly three times higher than in August 2018, and that the extent of deforestation was the highest since 2008, thus refuting the Brazilian government’s claim that August 2019 was “normal” for deforestation. Some contributors to the piece declined to be listed as authors so that they could stay anonymous.

2 December 2019

This paper finds that neonicotinoid use in rice paddies surrounding Lake Shinji in Japan was followed by a collapse in the fishery yields of smelt and eel, likely due to neonicotinoids reducing the abundance of zooplankton on which smelt and eels feed. The paper suggests that similar fishery yields decreases in lake across Japan could be linked to neonicotinoid use.

25 November 2019

In this report, the Nature Friendly Farming Network argues that, if given enough financial support, UK farmers can produce food in a way that both protects wildlife and reduces the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. The report also suggests that having a diet of “less meat and dairy but of better quality” could be environmentally beneficial.

25 November 2019

Some conservationists propose a “Half Earth” strategy, whereby half of the Earth’s land and half of its sea would be set aside for natural ecosystems. This paper assesses the number and geographical distribution of people who could be affected by the Half Earth conservation plan.

19 November 2019

This report, commissioned by the Wildlife Trusts (a group of UK charities), summarises existing evidence on declines in insects, many types of which have substantially decreased in abundance since 1970 (see for example Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers). It also explores the drivers of these declines and calls for an urgent halt to “all routine and unnecessary use of pesticides”.

11 November 2019

This report from environmental campaign group Greenpeace International finds that abandoned fishing gear (whether discarded intentionally or accidentally) can be a hazard to marine wildlife for many years, partially due to the durability of the plastic used to make ropes, nets and lines.

4 November 2019

This case study from UK sustainability consultancy 3Keel describes 3Keel’s work with seven European retailers to quantify the amount of soymeal used for animal feed in these supply chains, identify where the soy was produced and determine whether any of that soy was certified as being deforestation-free.

29 October 2019

This policy brief from the US non-profit think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics argues that the Amazon rainforest could reach a “tipping point” as soon as 2021, where deforestation means that the forest no longer generates enough rain to support itself and the forest begins to release large amounts of carbon instead of storing it.

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