Tag Archives: agriculture

Towards diverse and sustainable governance ? Assessment of biocultural diversity (BCD) in European cities

Today more than half of the global population lives in urban regions and by 2030 the proportion is expected to have increased to 60 % (Elmqvist et al., 2013). To meet the needs of future generation, to support social cohesion within and among different socio-cultural groups, and to enable healthy living environments, cities are the main arena where sustainable solutions have to be developed. Especially urban green spaces (e.g. parks, forests, gardens, meadows, seashores) can support to meet these challenges. Urban green areas have been found to support citizen’s physical and mental wellbeing and social cohesion (Peters et al., 2010; Tzoulas and Green, 2011).

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Fertilizer addiction: implications for sustainable agriculture

To meet increased demand for food spurred by a larger and richer population, FAO projects that global agricultural production in 2050 will be 60 percent
higher than in 2005/07. Most of this increase in production over the next 40 years is expected to derive from improved yields (FAO 2012).

This brief presents a model-based examination of short and long-term trade-offs between two alternate agricultural paradigms: industrial agriculture
dependent on agrochemicals, fuel-based mechanization and irrigation operations, etc.; and sustainable, low external input agriculture centered on preservation of soil organic matter (Pedercini, Zullich and Dianati 2014a, 2014b). The associated policy implications for long-term sustainability in agricultural yields, and food security, are huge.

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Integrated simulation models for sustainable agriculture policy design

Despite significant gains over the past decade, rural poverty, food and nutrition insecurity and environmental degradation remain pervasive problems in the developing world. It is estimated that approximately 805 million people worldwide suffer from hunger and approximately 1.4 billion live in extreme poverty (IFAD, 2010).

Developing coherent plans to combat these problems is complicated by the multi-disciplinary, interconnected and complex nature of the systems that must be managed. Therefore, it is imperative that the strategies developed to tackle these issues are based on comprehensive and sound analyses addressing their key dimensions in an integrated manner (UN, 1992; UN, 2000; UN, 2014a; UN, 2014b). The Threshold 21 (T21) simulation model supports such an approach (UNEP, 2014). T21 is an integrated and dynamic planning tool that enables transparent cross-sectoral analyses of the impacts of policies and enables exploration of their long-term consequences on social, economic and environmental development (Pedercini et al, 2010). T21 takes into account interdependency across sectors and is based on the vast collective knowledge gathered in multistakeholder processes. This makes it an effective tool for achieving a collectively shared understanding of problems, structures and solutions thus contributing to policy dialogue (Pedercini, 2005).

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The ocean is losing its breath

Decreased oxygen concentrations in the ocean, as a result of climate change and other anthropogenic stressors, e.g. nutrient input due to inefficient fertilizer use, was discussed in the latest IPCC report (2014). However, so far this emerging threat for the ocean is not fully acknowledged by policymakers and stakeholders at the global level. Systematic deoxygenation of the ocean will have widespread consequences. O2 plays a direct role in the biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and many other biogeochemically important elements (P, Fe, Mn, etc.). O2 is also fundamental for all aerobic life, including organisms living in the dark ocean interior. Deoxygenation (reduced oxygen concentration) mostly affects the marine environment at the local level, nevertheless economic and socio-economic impacts will impair the human society at the regional and global level….

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Conserving traditional seed crops diversity

Over the last two decades, 75% of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost; 100 to 1000-fold decrease overtime. This phenomenon results in the decrease of ecosystem abilities to provide food for people and decrease the function of other ecosystem services. Crop varieties, as an integral part of genetic diversity, are the result of human selection and management as well as natural mechanisms of evolution. Evolution, based on mutation, natural hybridization, introgression and selection, adapts plant populations to the (agro-) environment. Plant breeding by farmers and specialists builds on these phenomena, makes them more efficient, and focuses them on farmers’ needs. Genetic diversity is the basis of all crop improvement.

Meanwhile the crop diversity has been decreasing, the World Bank estimates that about one billion of world’s population will still live in extreme poverty in 2015. 70% of world’s poor people are living in rural areas and they are relying on the agriculture sector, particularly on traditional agricultural systems. FAO suggests that efforts to eradicate hunger require an integrated approach especially to increase agricultural productivity and strengthen farmers’ resilience to environmental changes. In regard to FAO suggestion, it is important to restore crop diversity.

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Urban Agriculture

Urban Agriculture (UA) and peri-urban agriculture can be defined as the growing, processing, and distribution of food and other products through plant cultivation and seldom raising livestock in and around cities for feeding local populations. Over the last few years, UA has increased in popularity due to concerns about climate change and sustaining food security in urban areas. The effects of climate change has induced crop reductions and affected optimal environmental growing conditions through rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns. Although, agriculture contributes to 30% of anthropocentric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, presence of vegetation in urban areas can lower temperatures and GHG emissions. An environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Urban Food Growing in London found urban farms could potentially reduce foodrelated GHGs, such as CO2 by 34 tons per hectare.

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