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.

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.

Image: NASA Earth Observatory, Fires along the Rio Xingu, Brazil, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic
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.

Image: Shimane Prefecture, Shimane Prefecture Lake Shinji, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
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.

Image: nil2hoff, Birds rainforest birds, Pixabay, Pixabay License
18 September 2019

This paper models the global land use change implications of three different dietary scenarios up to the year 2100: business as usual with a continued shift away from pulses and starchy roots and towards animal products; a 95% global reduction in consumption of ruminant products compared to business as usual, with ruminant products to be replaced by cereals, pulses, starchy roots and oilcrops but other meat types to be consumed as in business as usual; and a 95% reduction in consumption of both ruminant and monogastric products. 

16 July 2019

The second edition of Nature’s Matrix sets out the recent state of debate around conservation and agriculture. It argues in favour of small-scale agroecology and food sovereignty.

16 July 2019

This International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) report examines deforestation caused by small-scale shifting cultivation, logging, cash crops, mineral extraction and charcoal production, using the province of Mai-Ndombe in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a case study.

9 July 2019

This book, by Nicola Randall and Barbara Smith, provides a summary of agricultural ecosystems around the world and uses case studies to illustrate the biological issues and solutions associated with several types of farming system.

4 July 2019

This special issue of the newsletter Forest Cover, produced by the Global Forest Coalition, focuses on large-scale cattle farming and its interactions both with other food production systems and with forests.

Image: jacme31, Northern Gannet flying on Bonaventure Island in Gaspesie, Quebec, Canada, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
3 July 2019

Fisheries often discard large quantities of unwanted catches at sea, but policies are being brought in to limit such discards. According to this paper, Northern gannets (seabirds) rely more on fishery discards in years when there are shortages in their natural prey (mainly mackerel) - shortages that may be due to pressure from fisheries. The paper argues that fishery discards are not an adequate substitute for natural prey. 

17 June 2019

This report from environmental NGO Greenpeace International documents the efforts of over 50 companies to demonstrate their progress towards ending deforestation by disclosing their cattle, cocoa, dairy, palm oil, pulp and paper and soya suppliers. No company was able to demonstrate significant action on eliminating deforestation, while those companies that do publish their suppliers all source from producers involved in deforestation.

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