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Shepherd K.D.,International Center for Research in Agroforestry | Shepherd G.,United Nations Environment Programme | Walsh M.G.,The University of Arusha
Agricultural Systems | Year: 2015

Degradation of land health - the capacity of land, relative to its potential, to sustain delivery of ecosystem services - is recognized as a major global problem in general terms, but remains poorly quantified, resulting in a lack of specific evidence to focus action. Land health surveillance and response is designed to overcome limitations of current assessment approaches. It is modelled on science principles and approaches used in surveillance in the public health sector, which has a long history of evidence-informed policy and practice.Key elements of the science framework are: (i) repeated measurement of land health and associated risk factors using probability based sampling of well defined populations of sample units; (ii) standardized protocols for data collection to enable statistical analysis of patterns, trends, and associations; (iii) case definitions based on specific diagnostic criteria; (iv) rapid low cost screening tests to permit detection of cases and non-cases in large numbers of samples; (v) cost-effectiveness evaluation of interventions based on projected reduction in risks and problem incidence; (vi) design of statistically analysable studies to evaluate interventions in the real-world; (vii) meta-analysis of these data to guide design of public policy and intervention programmes; and (viii) integrating surveillance and the communication and use of results into operational systems as part of regular policy and practice.The scientific rigour of land health surveillance has potential to provide a sound basis for directing and assessing action to combat land degradation. Specialized national surveillance units should be established to harness and realign existing resources to provide integrated national land health systems. An international unit is needed to provide science and technology support to governments and develop standards, whereas an international agency should coordinate land health surveillance globally. Application of the surveillance framework could result in a shift away from a focus on rehabilitation of severely degraded land towards a preventive approach that focuses more on reducing distal risks at national and regional levels. © 2014 The Authors.

Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: CSA-SA | Phase: ENV.2009. | Award Amount: 987.39K | Year: 2010

KNOSSOS seeks to address the gap between science and society in the field of environmental research with a focus on policy makers and civil society, who are the main recipients of the project. We propose to take stock of available research results that are useful for policy-making. KNOSSOS will then add a knowledge management system, with innovative tools to guarantee fast and easy access to relevant information. This initial phase will also yield collaborative workshops on evidence-based policy making and training for policy makers in the field of environmental research. KNOSSOS puts an emphasis on disseminating research findings beyond Europe: through a number of Knowledge Fairs as side events of international conferences, but also by including DG Research findings in one of the worlds largest collections of Environmental Science Research, the Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE). In order to ensure swift uptake of European environmental research into policy making, KNOSSOS, with its partner IEEP, the Institute for European Environmental Policy, will issue monthly policy briefs for European, national and international policy makers. Aiming for enhanced visibility of European mission to raise public awareness about emerging environmental issues. KNOSSOS strength lies in the composition of its consortium: UNEP, the worlds leading environmental authority, joins forces with the Institute for European Environmental Policy, a renowned independent not-for-profit institute with a strong reputation in giving policy advice; and with GLOBE EU/Europe, an excellent partner in training policy-makers and disseminating deliverables. KNOSSOS will have an impact on both policy makers and civil society in and beyond Europe. Our goal is to make European environmental science not only understandable, but also actionable and a preferred reference for all who seek information to pressing ecological questions of our time.

News Article
Site: www.nature.com

Over the past decade, scientists and policymakers have joined efforts to create a science-based framework under the auspices of the United Nations to protect our remaining tropical forests. These carbon-rich ecosystems help to moderate the climate and serve as a treasure trove of biodiversity and a resource for local and indigenous peoples. Governments across the tropics have begun to incorporate forest conservation into their climate and development plans. Now it is time to do the same with coastal wetlands. Some 2.4–4.6% of the world’s carbon emissions are captured and sequestered by living organisms in the oceans, and the UN estimates that at least half of that sequestration takes place in ‘blue-carbon’ wetlands. Often occupied by seagrass and mangroves, these saltwater ecosystems promote healthy fisheries and sequester carbon in their soils. Mangroves also stave off erosion and serve as the first line of defence against powerful storms as well as saltwater intrusion into local groundwater resources. The world has lost more than one-third of its mangroves over the past several decades, and more succumb each year to shrimp farms, rice paddies and palm plantations, as well as to tourism and real-estate development. There’s money to be made, but it’s the environment that pays. Nascent efforts are under way to halt this degradation, and a few pioneering projects have already shown success. Senegal is home to the world’s largest mangrove restoration project, which began in 2008. Villagers have planted around 79 million mangrove trees across more than 7,900 hectares. The project has been registered and certified under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and is benefiting from the sale of carbon credits. In 2010, the United Nations Environment Programme launched the Blue Carbon Initiative, which seeks to reverse current trends and increase the area of coastal wetlands under effective management by 2025. The global climate agreement signed in Paris last December opens the door to advance such efforts, for example by enabling carbon trading and a programme similar to the CDM that allows countries and companies to pay to reduce emissions or build carbon stocks in projects such as the one in Senegal. It will be up to governments to incorporate coastal management into their climate plans, and to begin creating what some have called the ‘blue-green economy’. The available evidence justifies the pursuit of these efforts. Mangrove ecosystems alone could store as much as 20 billion tonnes of carbon — equivalent to more than 2 years of global carbon emissions — in their soils, much of which would be released into the atmosphere if the trees were destroyed. A 2012 study suggested that mangrove conservation could be effective at a cost of just US$4–10 per tonne of carbon dioxide, which is within the current range of prices on the European carbon trading system (J. Siikamäki et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 14369–14374; 2012). In some cases, mangrove protection and restoration could even benefit from the existing forest-carbon-trading framework, which enables developed countries to invest in efforts to reduce deforestation in the developing world. But more science is needed, both to document the extent and causes of the problem and to provide the data that will be needed if countries are to incorporate coastal wetlands into their carbon inventories and climate planning. We know too little about what happens to the carbon locked up in plants and soils when they are converted for other uses. Just as occurred with remedying tropical deforestation, science and policy can move forward in parallel. As countries establish coastal management policies, they will help to drive the development of both science and policies. One opportunity is in the Dominican Republic, which has devised a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions by conserving and restoring mangrove forests. That project is registered with the UN, and it incorporates scientific objectives, including quantification of the carbon sequestration and storage capacity of these ecosystems. This will inform the policy framework and provide the scientific basis for any economic returns that the initiative may reap years and decades into the future. Meeting the objectives of the Paris agreement — to contain global warming over the course of the twenty-first century — will require urgent action on all fronts. Countries must work to reduce industrial carbon emissions, but ensuring that natural ecosystems continue to function is equally vital — and relatively simple. The planet that humanity calls home already knows how to sequester carbon. Let’s make our forests and coastal wetlands work for us.

News Article | February 27, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

Numerous species of bees, butterflies and other pollinators are fast hurtling towards extinction – and hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of food crops will be affected if nothing is done about it, a new report from the United Nations has warned. The more than 20,000 species of pollinators play a critical role in the annual food supply. But two of five species of bees, butterflies and pollinating critters are on the way to becoming extinct, with their vertebrate counterparts, such as bats and hummingbirds, only slightly better off with one out of six facing extinction. "Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives," says Simon Potts, biodiversity and ecosystems professor at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. Potts is also the co-chair of the two-year assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). More than 75 percent of food crops worldwide greatly depend on pollination by insects and other animals. Global crops directly affected by these pollinators amount to $235 billion to $577 billion, with a 300 percent increase in volume of agricultural production that depends on pollination in the last half century. The problem is one cannot pinpoint a single culprit. "Their (wild pollinators) decline is primarily due to changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change,” says IPBES vice-chair and renowned British ecological scientist Robert Watson. Among the more controversial ones are neonicotinoid insectides, which threaten pollinators around the globe but whose long-term impacts remain unknown. A groundbreaking study showed they negatively affect wild bees, but the consequences for honeybees was less conclusive. The assessment report, released on Feb. 26 and which analyzed many existing scientific studies, gained approval from a congress of 124 member nations in the fourth plenary meeting of the IPBES in Kuala Lumpur. The matter with dwindling pollinator populations is deemed fixable, and actions can be done on the local level. "There are relatively simple, relatively inexpensive mechanisms for turning the trend around for native pollinators," argues co-author David Inouye from the University of Maryland, who added that England already had two wild bumblebee species become extinct while the United States lost one. Among the challenges, particularly in the United States, is that massive portions of farmland are devoted to a single crop, or the practice of monoculture. Wildflowers, the food for these pollinators, are fast disappearing. Grasslands are also gracious hosts to wild pollinators, yet in Europe 97 percent already disappeared since the Second World War. The report made several recommendations to protect pollinators, including creating diversity in agricultural and urban landscapes, supporting traditional crop rotation and related indigenous practices, knowledge exchange between farmers and experts and enhancing pathogen control in bee husbandry. “As we work towards food security, it is important to approach the challenge with a consideration of the environmental impacts that drive the issue,” says Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Agency: Cordis | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: SC5-16-2014 | Award Amount: 15.99M | Year: 2015

Terrestrial and marine ecosystems provide essential services to human societies. Anthropogenic pressures, however, cause serious threat to ecosystems, leading to habitat degradation, increased risk of collapse and loss of ecosystem services. Knowledge-based conservation, management and restoration policies are needed to improve ecosystem benefits in face of increasing pressures. ECOPOTENTIAL makes significant progress beyond the state-of-the-art and creates a unified framework for ecosystem studies and management of protected areas (PA). ECOPOTENTIAL focuses on internationally recognized PAs in Europe and beyond in a wide range of biogeographic regions, and it includes UNESCO, Natura2000 and LTER sites and Large Marine Ecosystems. Best use of Earth Observation (EO) and monitoring data is enabled by new EO open-access ecosystem data services (ECOPERNICUS). Modelling approaches including information from EO data are devised, ecosystem services in current and future conditions are assessed and the requirements of future protected areas are defined. Conceptual approaches based on Essential Variables, Macrosystem Ecology and cross-scale interactions allow for a deeper understanding of the Earths Critical Zone. Open and interoperable access to data and knowledge is assured by a GEO Ecosystem Virtual Laboratory Platform, fully integrated in GEOSS. Support to transparent and knowledge-based conservation and management policies, able to include information from EO data, is developed. Knowledge gained in the PAs is upscaled to pan-European conditions and used for planning and management of future PAs. A permanent stakeholder consultancy group (GEO Ecosystem Community of Practice) will be created. Capacity building is pursued at all levels. SMEs are involved to create expertise leading to new job opportunities, ensuring long-term continuation of services. In summary, ECOPOTENTIAL uses the most advanced technologies to improve future ecosystem benefits for humankind.

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