Ensuring environmental sustainability

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Beyond the MDGs: Combating Desertification, Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss Post-2015

Of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one focuses on ensuring environmental sustainability. There is some consensus that in the post-2015 development agenda environmental sustainability deserves greater prominence and higher visibility.

Jasmin Metzler, UNCCD Secretariat

Jasmin Metzler, Programme Officer for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), stressed this point in her comments. A discussion followed on the ways in which local civil society groups and organizations could be more actively engaged in shaping the post-2015 development agenda.

David Ainsworth, CBD Secretariat

David Ainsworth, Information Officer for the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), gave an overview of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS), while Suhel Al-Janabi, ABS Capacity Development Initiative, discussed Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) and Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT), suggesting these are two indicators of collaborative relationships between governments and external investors.

Eva Gurria, Programme Consultant of the Equator Initiative, provided an overview of “The World We Want” platform that linked local, national and regional communities with the goal of scaling up local action in order to strengthen the post-2015 development strategy (download presentation).

Fatima Ahmed, Zenab for Women in Development, Sudan

Fatima Ahmed, President of Zenab for Women in Development, an Equator Prize 2012 winner, concluded the session by giving an overview of CSO involvement in the Leadership Meeting on Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica during 2012 that discussed the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and also reflected on her role moderating the online discussion on environmental sustainability.

Photos courtesy of IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Mobilizing action around climate change and desertification through artworks

Photo credit: Artists Paris Climate 2015

UN Climate and Desertification Chiefs Back Paris 2015 Art Initiative

In the lead up to the Paris 2015 Climate Change Conference, major contemporary artists from around the world are mobilizing action around climate change and desertification through artworks to be displayed in the public spaces of Greater Paris, stretching from the Paris city center to the Conference site, in Le Bourget.

During the event, dubbed “Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015″, a charity auction of the artworks will be conducted by the premier International Auction House, Christie’s, together with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, in support of actions against climate change and desertification.Sustainability driven corporations are supporting the event.

Recognized for their commitment as well as their ability to mobilize the widest audience, visual artists from around the world, both North and South, have agreed to participate in the initiative. They will either create a completely new work inspired by the crucial issues of the Conference or one from a previous project, echoing the global event.

Read the full article: UNFCCC Newsroom

Negative impacts of changing weather patterns in Pakistan

Photo credit: Google

UNDP’s  Sustainable Land Management Project (SLMP) Phase-I in Pakistan aims to combat land degradation and desertification with the involvement of key stakeholders

Global warming to exacerbate land degradation, warns Mushahid



Islamabad – Federal Minister for Climate Change Mushahid Ullah Khan on Saturday said that weather patterns in Pakistan are changing rapidly due to climate change, causing negative impacts on glaciers, river flows, underground water recharge systems, agriculture and overall biodiversity.

“Depleting river flows, falling underground water level, shifting rainfall patterns, frequenting heat waves, droughts, sea intrusion, sea-level rise, shrinking winter months, expanding summer months and melting glaciers are all terrible indicators of how fast the climate of the country is changing.”

Pakistan needs to readjust investment priorities and realign strategies to optimise water productivity. The irrigated agriculture contributes a major share to the GDP and the industry like textile, mining and coal exploitation also depends on water. - http://www.agricorner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/water-crisis.jpg
Pakistan needs to readjust investment priorities and realign strategies to optimise water productivity. The irrigated agriculture contributes a major share to the GDP and the industry like textile, mining and coal exploitation also depends on water. – http://www.agricorner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/water-crisis.jpg

“We need to take corrective measures and work hard in collaboration with relevant government and non-governmental organisations on fast track basis for hammering out mitigation and adaptation plans to tackle the negative impacts of the climate change on different sectors of economy, particularly irrigated and rain-fed agriculture, which is mainstay of national economy,” he stressed.

The minister warned that global warming will exacerbate land degradation and desertification in the countries like Pakistan, where over 80 percent of the land mass is arid. The climate change is also likely to increasing water logging and salinity, increase incidence of insects, pests and diseases, he highlighted.

Read the full article: The Nation

See also: Agriculture Corner

We need a paradigm shift in agriculture

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Agriculture workers collect carrots on a farm in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Photo: World Bank/Maria Fleischmann

Agriculture must change, UN agency chief tells Paris summit, urging ‘paradigm shift’

The model of agricultural production that predominates today is not suitable for the new food security challenges of the 21st century and the need to be more sustainable, inclusive and resilient, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

“Since food production is not a sufficient condition for food security, it means that the way we are producing is no longer acceptable,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told ministers, scientists, farmers, and members of civil society at the France-hosted International Forum on Agriculture and Climate Change held in Paris.

“What we are still mostly seeing is a model of production that cannot prevent the degradation of soils and the loss of biodiversity – both of which are essential goods, especially for future generations. This model must be reviewed. We need a paradigm shift,” he added.

According to the FAO, the numbers of the chronically hungry have been reduced by 100 million over the past decade, but there are still 805 million people without enough to eat on a regular basis. Increasing production is no longer enough to end hunger. It is evident today that even though the world produces enough food to feed everyone, hunger remains a problem.

Agriculture has a large role to play in food security, building resilience to the effects of climate change and reducing humankind’s emissions of global warming gases.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

How to feed the world’s growing population in the coming decades?

Photo credit: Phys.Org.

A peasant looks for good corn during harvest of a drought-affected crop in La Tuna community in Madriz, 200 km from Managua, on November 17, 2014

Climate change hampering world food production, scientists say

The acceleration climate change and its impact on agricultural production means that profound societal changes will be needed in coming decades to feed the world’s growing population, researchers at an annual science conference said.

According to scientists, food production will have to be doubled over the next 35 years to feed a of nine billion people in 2050, compared with seven billion today.

Feeding the world “is going to take some changes in terms of minimizing climate disruption,” said Jerry Hatfield, director at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment.

Rainfall volatility, increased drought and rising temperatures affect crop yields, which means action must be taken, he said during a talk Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“If you look at production from 2000 to 2050, we basically have to produce the same amount of food as we produced in the last 500 years” he said.

But globally, land usage levels and productivity will continue to degrade the soil, he added.

Read the full article: Phys.Org.

Significant variation in population response to drought stress

Photo credit: Pixabay

Banksiain Australia

Evidence of population variation in drought tolerance during seed germination in four Banksia (Proteaceae) species from Western Australia

by J. Anne Cochrane , Gemma L. Hoyle, Colin J. Yates, Jeff Wood and Adrienne B. Nicotra

in Australian Journal of Botany 62(6) 481-489 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/BT14132


Given the predicted changes in rainfall patterns for many Mediterranean climate regions, identifying seed tolerance to moisture stress in the earliest phase of plant development is an important consideration for species conservation, management and restoration.Here, we used polyethylene glycol (PEG 8000) to induce plant water deficit similar to drought stress in a field situation.

Seeds of four Western Australia Banksia R.Br. (Proteaceae) species were incubated at seven levels of moisture potential (0 to -1.5 MPa) and three constant temperatures (10°C, 15°C and 20°C).

In the absence of moisture stress, germination was uniformly high, but increasing drought stress led to reduced and delayed germination in all species. Overall, the threshold moisture potential value for a significant decline, and delay, in germination was –0.25 MPa.

Results suggested that one species (B. coccinea) is likely to be most vulnerable to germination failure under predicted changes in rainfall patterns, whereas another (B. media) is likely to be less vulnerable.

There was significant variation in population response to drought stress. However, this variation could not be explained by rainfall across species distributions. We discuss the PEG approach for assessing seed sensitivity to moisture stress, particularly in the context of shifting rainfall under climate change.

How desert ecosystems will respond to future fluctuations in precipitation

Photo credit: Global Times

The desert of Shapotou scenery spot in Zhongwei, Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region

Productivity responses of desert vegetation to precipitation patterns across a rainfall gradient

by Fang Li, Wenzhi Zhao and Hu Liu


The influences of previous-year precipitation and episodic rainfall events on dryland plants and communities are poorly quantified in the temperate desert region of Northwest China.

To evaluate the thresholds and lags in the response of aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) to variability in rainfall pulses and seasonal precipitation along the precipitation-productivity gradient in three desert ecosystems with different precipitation regimes, we collected precipitation data from 2000 to 2012 in Shandan (SD), Linze (LZ) and Jiuquan (JQ) in northwestern China.

Further, we extracted the corresponding MODIS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI, a proxy for ANPP) datasets at 250 m spatial resolution. We then evaluated different desert ecosystems responses using statistical analysis, and a threshold-delay model (TDM). TDM is an integrative framework for analysis of plant growth, precipitation thresholds, and plant functional type strategies that capture the nonlinear nature of plant responses to rainfall pulses.

Our results showed that:

(1) the growing season NDVIINT (INT stands for time-integrated) was largely correlated with the warm season (spring/summer) at our mildly-arid desert ecosystem (SD). The arid ecosystem (LZ) exhibited a different response, and the growing season NDVIINT depended highly on the previous year’s fall/winter precipitation and ANPP. At the extremely arid site (JQ), the variability of growing season NDVIINT was equally correlated with the cool- and warm-season precipitation;

(2) some parameters of threshold-delay differed among the three sites: while the response of NDVI to rainfall pulses began at about 5 mm for all the sites, the maximum thresholds in SD, LZ, and JQ were about 55, 35 and 30 mm respectively, increasing with an increase in mean annual precipitation. By and large, more previous year’s fall/winter precipitation, and large rainfall events, significantly enhanced the growth of desert vegetation, and desert ecosystems should be much more adaptive under likely future scenarios of increasing fall/winter precipitation and large rainfall events.

These results highlight the inherent complexity in predicting how desert ecosystems will respond to future fluctuations in precipitation.


Drought in Zimbabwe

Photo credit: Google

A woman stands outside of her temporary home and dried up maize crop in Epworth, in Harare, Zimbabwe. Credit: IRIN/Kate Holt


Zimbabwe: Crops Wilt As Dry Spell Persists

The Herald (Harare)


THE continued dry spell in most parts of the country has seriously affected crops, especially maize, threatening hopes of good yields. The outbreak of armyworm and quelea birds has worsened the situation for maize and sorghum farmers.

The Meteorological Services Department had forecast heavy rains in some parts of the country from Friday last week to tomorrow (Tuesday).

Farmers in the southern parts of the country have lost hope of a harvest and said even if the rains come, the crops would not recover.

Zimbabwe is expected to receive normal to above normal rains during this season but these are not good for Agriculture.

Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made, has said there was need to invest in irrigation to aid agriculture.

He said due to climate change, farmers could no longer rely on rain-fed agriculture as the patterns were no longer predictable.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union president, Mr Abdul Nyathi, said most farmers in Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South have been severely affected, especially those who planted maize.

“The maize is a write-off and it will never recover even if it rains as we have gone for too long without rains. There is still hope for some small grains if it rains.

A dwindling of overall fish stocks

Photo credit: Gulf News

Seas face ‘desertification’ threat

Global warming and overfishing could shrink, or even kill off, fish populations

  • By Damian Carrington

Global warming is likely to shrink the size of fish by as much as a quarter in coming decades, according to a groundbreaking new study of the world’s oceans.

The reduction in individual fish size will be matched by a dwindling of overall fish stocks, scientists warned, at a time when the world’s growing human population is putting ever greater pressure on fisheries.

“We were surprised as we did not think the effects would be so strong and so widespread,” said Professor William Cheung from the University of British Columbia in Canada, who led the research. His team examined the effect of rising ocean temperatures on the growth and distribution of more than 600 species of fish around the world and found that they are expected to shrink in size by 14 to 24 per cent by 2050, with the biggest effects in tropical regions.

“It could be worse than that,” said Professor Callum Roberts, at the University of York, who described the research as the most comprehensive to date. Roberts, who was not one of the study’s authors, said additional impacts of climate change such as the acidification of the ocean and reduction of nutrients in surface waters could decrease fish stocks even further, as would continued overfishing.

Read the full article: Gulf News

Water harvesting, storage and conservation techniques

Photo credit: Rainwater Harvesting

Rooftop rainwater harvesting system rehabilitated at a Govt. school Vijaypura, India

Water harvesting, Conservation and Utilization Techniques in hot Arid Ecosystem of India

by Pratap Narain


Out of 31.7 Million ha hot arid Ecosystem in India, 82 per cent is spread in western Rajasthan and adjoining Gujarat states including about 7.5 Million ha Thar Desert extending across the border into north-eastern Pakistan. Striking features of arid ecosystem are hot climate, less than 350 mm erratic annual rainfall (cv. 60-80 %), high evaporation, negative water balance and low biomass production setting especially on sandy soil with low water holding and poor fertility. Wind erosion is the main cause of land degradation affecting nearly 45% of arid Rajasthan.

Infiltration well - http://aphs.worldnomads.com/mandl/33365/IMG_3371.jpg
Infiltration well – http://aphs.worldnomads.com/mandl/33365/IMG_3371.jpg

Desertification is manifested in drifting of sand/ sand dunes, paralyzing road and rail traffic and depositing sand on fertile cropland and in water reservoirs. Recurring and prolonged droughts once in 2-3 years are the root cause of desertification, crop failures and exacerbate scarcity of water, food and fodder requiring their imports for drought relief. Seasonal migration in search of employment and greener pastures, a traditional way of life of pastoralist and nomads, is declining due to social conflicts. Thar Desert is the most densely populated desert in the world (population density of 127persons per km ² in 2011) with a very high animal population (animal: human ratio is 1: 4-5 against 1: 0.5 in rest of the country). It is also intensively studied region as 82 per cent area of arid zone has been surveyed by CAZRI by conventional and remote sensing.

Percolation tank - http://cdn0.wn.com/ph/img/17/56/3746bf4e2bf90c7d0630733ef923-grande.jpg
Percolation tank – http://cdn0.wn.com/ph/img/17/56/3746bf4e2bf90c7d0630733ef923-grande.jpg

Agriculture is the main stake of livelihood in the region. Livestock based farming and pastoralism is dependable way of survival in view of uncertainties in cropping particularly in drought years. In hyper arid region, animals are supported by grass lands dominating with Dichanthium, Cenchrus and Lasiurus grass covers. In slightly better rainfall regions and on desert margins, mixed cropping with pearl millet, arid legumes, cluster beans and green gram and agro-forestry with wide variety of multipurpose trees like Prosopis cineraria, Ziziphus mauritiana and Acacia senegal, Techomella undulata, Hardwickia binnata, C. mopane, Faidherbia albida and Ailanthus excelsa is practiced in livestock mixed farming system.

Scanty rainfall is the only source of available water in the hot arid ecosystem. Unique water harvesting, storage and conservation techniques have been evolved and practiced by the desert dwellers. Erstwhile rulers have also constructed magnificent community water structures for public usage. Traditionally, bawari, jhalra (step wells), khadin, nadi (ponds) and tanka (underground cisterns) and roof water harvesting have been utilized for rainwater harvesting for drinking, crops and ground water recharging. In Rajasthan 43 per cent of the rural drinking water supply is sourced from nadi, 35 per cent from tanka, 15 per cent from wells and tube wells and 8 per cent from other sources.

Some of these techniques have been improvised in design for efficient harvesting, storage and utilization of precious rainwater by CAZRI and popularized in the region. Ground water is limited, deep and brackish with high concentration of salts of chloride, fluorides and nitrates, which is being over-exploited for drinking and irrigation despite poor quality. The ground water development in the state of Rajasthan is reported to be 138 per cent, which is a very serious concern. Depleted freshwater aquifers have led to an acute shortage of drinking water. Artificial recharge structures comprising of ponds linked to infiltration wells (in hard rock areas), percolation tanks (in alluvial formations) and sub-surface barriers across ephemeral streams (in sandy beds) have been designed and constructed due to which availability of drinking water has improved considerably. The potential of water conservation and harvesting against drought in Rajasthan has been estimated.

The major outcomes of the study are:

For oral presentation at the Desert Land Conference on 16th-17th June, 2015 in Ghent, Belgium.

A new resource crisis in Pakistan: major water shortages

Photo credit: Desdemona Despair

Afghan refugees pumped water by hand in a slum of Islamabad, Pakistan. CreditMuhammed Muheisen/Associated Press

Starved for energy, Pakistan braces for a water crisis – ‘In the next six to seven years, Pakistan can be a water-starved country’


in Desdemona Despair


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (The New York Times) – Energy-starved Pakistanis, their economy battered by chronic fuel and electricity shortages, may soon have to contend with a new resource crisis: major water shortages, the Pakistani government warned this week.

Arshad Massi, a 34-year-old laborer, showered under an outdoor pipe in Islamabad. Credit Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press - http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/02/13/world/PAKISTAN-2/PAKISTAN-2-articleLarge.jpg
Arshad Massi, a 34-year-old laborer, showered under an outdoor pipe in Islamabad. Credit Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press – http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/02/13/world/PAKISTAN-2/PAKISTAN-2-articleLarge.jpg

A combination of global climate change and local waste and mismanagement have led to an alarmingly rapid depletion of Pakistan’s water supply, said the minister for water and energy, Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

The prospect of a major water crisis in Pakistan, even if several years distant, offers a stark reminder of a growing challenge in other poor and densely populated countries that are vulnerable to global climate change.


Read the full article: Desdemona Despair

Drought and desertification in the USA

Photo credit: Yareah Magazine

Soil moisture 30 cm below ground projected through 2100 for moderate emissions scenario RCP 4.5. The soil moisture data are standardized to the Palmer Drought Severity Index and are deviations from the 20th century average.
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Global Warming And US Desertification. New Study Of Future Drought Projections


Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years, according to a new NASA study.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science Advances, is based on projections from several climate models, including one sponsored by NASA. The research found continued increases in human-produced greenhouse gas emissions drives up the risk of severe droughts in these regions.

“Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less,” said Ben Cook, climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, and lead author of the study. “What these results are saying is we’re going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30 to 35 years.”

According to Cook, the current likelihood of a megadrought, a drought lasting more than three decades, is 12 percent. If greenhouse gas emissions stop increasing in the mid-21st century, Cook and his colleagues project the likelihood of megadrought to reach more than 60 percent.

Read the full article: YAREAH magazine

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