Drought and wildfires are connected

 

Photo credit: Science Daily

Numerous fires create a smoky pall over the skies of western Africa. The image above was acquired on Dec. 10, 2015.
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using VIIRS data from Suomi NPP

 

NASA study finds a connection between wildfires, drought

Date:
January 10, 2017
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
For centuries drought has come and gone across northern sub-Saharan Africa. In recent years, water shortages have been most severe in the Sahel — a band of semi-arid land situated just south of the Sahara Desert and stretching coast-to-coast across the continent, from Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Sudan and Eritrea in the east.

 

Various factors influence these African droughts, both natural and human-caused. A periodic temperature shift in the Atlantic Ocean, known as the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, plays a role, as does overgrazing, which reduces vegetative cover, and therefore the ability of the soil to retain moisture. By replacing vegetative cover’s moist soil, which contributes water vapor to the atmosphere to help generate rainfall, with bare, shiny desert soil that merely reflects sunlight directly back into space, the capacity for rainfall is diminished.

Another human-caused culprit is biomass burning, as herders burn land to stimulate grass growth, and farmers burn the landscape to convert terrain into farming land and to get rid of unwanted biomass after the harvest season. As with overgrazing, fires dry out the soil and stymie the convection that brings rainfall. Small particles called aerosols that are released into the air by smoke may also reduce the likelihood of rainfall. This can happen because water vapor in the atmosphere condenses on certain types and sizes of aerosols called cloud condensation nuclei to form clouds; when enough water vapor accumulates, rain droplets are formed. But have too many aerosols and the water vapor is spread out more diffusely to the point where rain droplets don’t materialize.

Read the full article: Science Daily

 

Trees worldwide develop thicker bark when they live in fire-prone areas

Tree-bark thickness indicates fire-resistance in a hotter future

Date:
January 11, 2017
Source:
Princeton University
Summary:
A new study has found that trees worldwide develop thicker bark when they live in fire-prone areas. The findings suggest that bark thickness could help predict which forests and savannas will survive a warmer climate in which wildfires are expected to increase in frequency.

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A Princeton University-led study has found that trees in fire-prone areas around the world develop thicker bark. For instance, the tree Connarus suberosus grows in the Brazilian Cerrado — which can burn every three to seven years and contains some of the thickest barked species in the world — has a stem diameter that is 30 percent bark. The findings suggest that bark thickness could help predict which forests and savannas will survive a warmer climate in which wildfires are expected to increase in frequency. Credit: Adam Pellegrini, Stanford UniversityClose – https://images.sciencedaily.com/2017/01/170111091429_1_900x600.jpg

Trees in regions where fire is common, such as savannas and the forests of western North America, tend to have thicker bark, while trees in tropical rainforests have thinner bark, researchers at Princeton University and collaborating institutions reported Jan. 9 in the journal Ecology Letters. Bark protects the inside of the trunk from overheating and is one of a handful of adaptations that trees use to survive fire.

“We found large-scale evidence that bark thickness is a fire-tolerance trait, and we showed this is the case not just in a particular biome such as a savanna, but across different types of forests, across regions and across continents,” said first author Adam Pellegrini, a NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University who led the study while a graduate student in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Read the full article: Science Daily

Why we need to listen to farmers

 

Photo credit: CIAT

An ecosystems approach to the SDGs in Africa: why we need to listen to farmers

To address all the SDG’s, we’re going to need to think like farmers. That means taking a systems approach that includes all kinds of agro-ecological farm systems. This mantra echoed through all the sessions at the Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference: Ecosystem Services for SDGs in Africa. Goals, 2, 5, 6, and 15 were in the spotlight, and to meet them, we have to think broadly and holistically.

That might not be what you expected to read, but CIAT research shows that farmers are the ultimate, great systems thinkers, and we need to tap into and build upon their vast network of knowledge to tackle the problems that face the ecosystems we are trying to protect and livelihoods we are aiming to support.

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.

Read the full story: CIAT

A colour-coded mapping system that shows where new road-building projects should go and not go.

 

Photo credit: Science Daily

A recently built highway snakes into the mountains of the upper Mekong.
Credit: Jianchu Xu & Biaoyun Huai

Road planning ‘trade off’ could boost food production while helping protect tropical forests

Date:
December 15, 2016
Source:
University of Cambridge
Summary:
Scientists hope a new approach to planning road infrastructure that could increase crop yield in the Greater Mekong region while limiting environmental destruction will open dialogues between developers and the conservation community.

Conservation scientists have used layers of data on biodiversity, climate, transport and crop yields to construct a colour-coded mapping system that shows where new road-building projects should go to be most beneficial for food production at the same time as being least destructive to the environment.

(CNN)Sudan’s ecosystems and natural resources are deteriorating.

 

Photo credit: CNN

It is estimated 1.9 million people will be affected by reduced agricultural and livestock production — due to smaller farming areas, poor pastures and limited water availability.

Climate change could render Sudan ‘uninhabitable’

By Bianca Britton, CNN

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/07/africa/sudan-climate-change/index.html

Temperatures are rising, water supplies are scarce, soil fertility is low and severe droughts are common. After years of desertification, its rich biodiversity is under threat and drought has hindered the fight against hunger.
This burden is affecting not only the country’s food security and sustainable development, but also the homes of many Sudanese families.
Dust storms — known locally as “Haboob” — have also increased in this region. Moving like a gigantic thick wall, it carries sand and dust — burying homes, increasing evaporation to a region that’s struggling to preserve water supplies, as well as eroding valuable fertile soil.
Experts say that without quick intervention, parts of the African country — one of the most vulnerable in the world — could become uninhabitable as a result of climate change.

Increasing temperature

“North Africa is already hot and is strongly increasing in temperature. At some point in this century, part of the region will become uninhabitable,” Jos Lelieveld, a climate scientist from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, told CNN.
“That will string from Morocco all the way through to Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Ecosysytems and reforestation

Photo credit: Bioversity International

Dr Moussa Ouédraogo, Director of the National Tree Seed Centre, Burkina Faso,

Why seeds for trees matter in ecosystem restoration efforts in Burkina Faso

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets agreed in Nagoya in 2012 included restoring 15% of the world’s degraded ecosystems by 2020 (Target 15). Subsequent assessments have led to estimates that for terrestrial ecosystems, this 15% means restoring a staggering 350 million hectares – and requires billions of tons of tree seed and trillions of seedlings.

In this second blog in the CBD COP13 Forest and Landscape Restoration Blog Series, Bioversity International partner, Dr Moussa Ouédraogo, Director of the National Tree Seed Centre, Burkina Faso, outlines longstanding efforts to supply quality seeds for restoration initiatives and the challenges they are facing.

When assessing ecosystem restoration opportunities in a country, it is important to analyze what institutional, policy, and legal frameworks, as well as financial and technical resources exist or are lacking that can either support or hinder ecosystem restoration plans. This need is also highlighted in the Short-term Action Plan on Ecosystem Restoration that the Conference of Parties to the CBD which is expected to be adopted in Cancun as a guidance to countries and other actors interested in restoration.

Regarding institutional capacities, one aspect often overlooked in restoration planning is the ability of existing tree seed supply systems to provide the quantity and quality of seed required for meeting restoration goals. We spoke to Dr Moussa Ouédraogo, newly appointed Director of the Centre National de Semences Forestières (CNSF – National Tree Seed Centre) in Burkina Faso about his research centre’s longstanding efforts to supply quality seeds for restoration initiatives in the country and the challenges they are facing. More than 30 years after its establishment, the centre remains a reference for the Sahelian region with its pivotal role in supporting tree planting efforts in the region.

Q: Why is restoration important for Burkina Faso?

Dr Moussa Ouédraogo: Burkina Faso is a land-locked country. We experienced major droughts in the 1970s, which caused large-scale tree mortality, land degradation and pushed desertification processes. Nature could not recuperate alone after these dramatic events and human intervention was needed to revert land degradation. The need to restore became evident.

At the technical level, many approaches were attempted in order to restore the resource base needed for agriculture and agroforestry. Soil restoration techniques, to improve fertility and soil quality, were adopted due to support and maintain agriculture production. These were coupled with water management techniques and with assisted natural regeneration. Re-establishing a tree cover could mean planting within an existing forest area, in order to increase diversity, or direct/sowing and planting on a totally bare land.

Read the full article: Bioversity International

To bring degraded lands back to life

 

traor_
http://www.bioversityinternational.org/fileadmin/user_upload/about_us/news/People/Traor_.jpg

Restoring lands and livelihoods in Burkina Faso: The business of one association

Effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities and women in ecosystem restoration is one of the three main principles of the Action Plan on Ecosystem Restoration that the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity are expected to adopt at their next Conference in Cancun in December. Effective participation is both the ends and means of ecosystem restoration, but is not easily achieved.

A Burkinabè association tiipaalga (meaning ‘new tree’) has worked with the country’s farmers for over a decade to help them bring their degraded lands back to life. The organization’s aim is to help improve ecosystems for the purpose of improving the well-being of local households. The organization considers – and calls – farmers its partners. Mr Alain Traoré, Director of tiipaalga, shares insights from his long-term efforts in fostering farmer-led restoration initiatives in Burkina Faso.

This is the fifth blog in the CBD COP13 Forest and Landscape Restoration Blog Serieshighlighting why mainstreaming agricultural and tree biodiversity in sustainable food and production systems is critical to achieve the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, with a particular focus on forest and landscape restoration.

Q: What is tiipaalga’s approach in supporting farmers?

A: Our main approach is assisted natural regeneration, which is a low-cost forest restoration method aimed at accelerating growth of existing natural regeneration by removing competition from weeds and other disturbances and creating a more favorable micro-environment for growth. In some cases, if natural regeneration is not sufficient, planting of valuable species to supplement the existing tree populations (enrichment planting) can be carried out.

While we support planting trees, we recommend farmers only plant in small numbers, to allow them to maintain the trees. There is no point in planting one million trees which we cannot tend. It’s better to plant 10 trees per year and in 50 years we will have all we want. We want our partners [farmers] to be sure to be able to care for their trees so they can bring life; as our slogan says: “a tree for life”.

Read the full article: Bioversity International

Land desertification is the most important ecological problem in China.

 

Photo credit: Sixth Tone

Cheng Zhe plays with a large pile of harvested cotton, Awat County, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region,Nov. 21, 2016. Li You/Sixth Tone

From Tufts to Dust, Cotton Accelerates Xinjiang Desertification

by Denise Hruby and Li You

In front of a steep, meter-high sand dune, Cheng Zhe stops his pickup. So far, the only obstacles he’s come across during the 50-kilometer drive from his home to the edges of the Taklamakan Desert have been potholes the size of his truck’s tires.

A fence made from reeds to each side was meant to protect the asphalt from the encroaching sands, but from here on, the road belongs to the desert.

“It’s our way of stopping the desert from expanding,” Cheng said, eyeing the fence. In the face of the growing desert, the little reed fence had a short life span: Sand has gobbled it up, then spread out onto the bumpy road that leads through the Taklamakan Desert.

After the Sahara, the Taklamakan Desert is the world’s largest moving-sand desert. It covers vast swaths of northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region and stretches all the way to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan in the east, making it roughly the size of Germany. In the winter, temperatures can drop below minus 20 degrees Celsius.

And like other deserts in China, the Taklamakan is growing. The Gobi Desert, for example, devours 3,600 square kilometers of grassland each year.

Climate change is one reason for desertification. Another is human activity, such as overgrazing and deforestation, and a third can be attributed to farmers like the Chengs, who came to Xinjiang in the early ’90s to grow a crop that is among the most water-intensive in the world: cotton.

Read the full article: Sixth Tone

Desertification in Central Asia

 

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The Socio-Economic Causes and Consequences of Desertification in Central Asia

This book contains a selection of papers presented at the Advanced Research Workshop on a The Socio-economic causes and consequences of desertification in Central Asiaa (TM) held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in June 2006. The meeting provided a forum for scientists from Central Asia and NATO countries to discuss the human dimensions of the desertification process. Papers presented to the meeting examined recent scientific evidence on the impact of desertification and contributed to the formulation of coherent national and regional policies for the management of watersheds, rangelands, and irrigated agriculture. These issues were examined from the perspective of environmental policy formulation, with respect to overgrazing by livestock, and in terms of a series of case studies of natural resource degradation and desertification control.

Protecting the environment, empowering people(IFAD)

 

 

https://www.ifad.org/documents/10180/e036916a-9d15-463f-8952-56d1566d7ac8

The Drylands Advantage

Protecting the environment, empowering people 

“Recognition of the true value of ecosystem services, and of the opportunities they offer, will enable better planning and realization of the full economic potential of dryland ecosystems, rebutting the common perception that drylands are ‘economic wastelands’” (IUCN, 2009).

Table of Contents

Acronyms 4

Introduction 5

China: Boosting biodiversity for benefits to people and the environment 9

Jordan: Sustainable land management 15

Nicaragua: Nutrition security in the Dry Corridor in the face of El Niño 21

Senegal: What a little freshwater can do 27

Swaziland: Grass-roots governance beats overgrazing and gully erosion 32

Conclusions and next steps 37

References and resources consulted 39

What shall we do with the wicked weeds ?

 

 

Pest control: Wicked weeds may be agricultural angels

Date:
November 11, 2016
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Farmers looking to reduce reliance on pesticides, herbicides and other pest management tools may want to heed the advice of Cornell agricultural scientists: Let nature be nature – to a degree.

Helping smallholders restore degraded forests

 

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Ochieng’ Ogodo

African initiative calls for focus on land restoration

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Ochieng’ Ogodo

Speed read

  • A meeting has called for a need to create evidence to restore Africa’s forests
  • Collaborations among universities could help generate more evidence
  • Governments should be committed to helping smallholders restore degraded forests

Generating sufficient scientific knowledge to restore degraded land is critical in Africa because the continent largely depends on land and other natural resources for socioeconomic development, experts say.

Most populations, it was noted at the 1st African Forest Landscape Restoration (AFR100) Regional Conference this month (11-12 October) in Ethiopia, depend on land for livelihoods, but there has been massive degradation and this calls for, among others, adequate knowledge for restoration, particularly by small-scale farmers.

“Rivers are drying, Lake Chad is gone, Lake Turkana in Kenya is receding and [thus] people have to take restoration very seriously.”

Alice Akinyi Kaudia, Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources.

“This requires inter-universities collaborations because not all African universities are well endowed with enough resources to generate needed knowledge and tools,” says Alice Akinyi Kaudia, environmentsecretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. “It will [also] be useful to develop centres of excellence within them to address this urgently.”

The AFR100 conference was organised by the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development, Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, and the World Resources Institute.

Read the full article: SciDevNet