Drough threatens forests



Forests worldwide threatened by drought

February 21, 2017
University of Stirling
Forests around the world are at risk of death due to widespread drought, researchers have found. An analysis suggests that forests are at risk globally from the increased frequency and severity of droughts.

An analysis, published in the journal Ecology Letters, suggests that forests are at risk globally from the increased frequency and severity of droughts.

The study found a similar response in trees across the world, where death increases consistently with increases in drought severity.

Dr Sarah Greenwood, Postdoctoral Researcher in Stirling’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, said: “We can see that the death of trees caused by drought is consistent across different environments around the world. So, a thirsty tree growing in a tropical forest and one in a temperate forest, such as those we find throughout Europe, will have largely the same response to drought and will inevitably suffer as a result of rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns on Earth.”

The biological and environmental scientists did find specific, varying features in different tree types can alter their resistance to drought. Species with denser wood and smaller, thicker leaves tend to fare better during prolonged, unusually-dry periods.

Read the full article: Science Daily

Genetic variability and crops with superior genetic yield potential and stress adaptation


Photo credit: CIMMYT

Farmer Bida Sen prepares rice seedlings for transplanting in Pipari, Dang. Photo: P. Lowe/CIMMYT

New Publications: How to maintain food security under climate change

Wheat, rice, maize, pearl millet, and sorghum provide over half of the world’s food calories. To maintain global food security under climate change, there is an increasing need to exploit existing genetic variability and develop crops with superior genetic yield potential and stress adaptation.

Climate change impacts food production by increasing heat and water stress among other environmental challenges, including the spread of pests, according to a recent study published by researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). If nothing is done to currently improve the crops we grow, wheat, maize and rice are predicted to decrease in both tropical and temperate regions. Wheat yields are already slowing in most areas, with models predicting a six percent decline in yield for every 1 degree Celsius increase in global temperature.

Read the full article: CIMMYT

Reversing desertification


Photo credit: GGW Gambia

How do we reverse desertification?

Desertification is yet another consequence of climate change that takes a great toll on biodiversity, natural resources and, ultimately, the lives of people who inhabit drylands. Along with measures to curb and compensate it, there are several solutions for bringing life back to arid lands. It is called “reversing desertification”, and it has a great deal to do with permaculture.

In 1989, in “La Chanson d’Azima”, French singer France Gall sang: “When the desert advances / Life flees / It is our decline / An impossible fight.” The song ended with these alarming words of caution: “The night is falling / Upon this dreadful emergency / And it is towards our tombstones / That the desert advances.” In the Seventies and Eighties, desertification and aridification became important concerns, as people became increasingly aware about human-induced climate change. 25 years later, desertification remains a major ecological and environmental problem. But thankfully, it is not an irreversible phenomenon. In an attempt to counter France Gall’s pessimism, here are some positive actions we can take to reverse deforestation.


But first, let’s briefly define the concept of desertification, and the main challenges it poses. According to the Princeton University Dictionary, desertification is “the process of fertile land transforming into desert typically as a result of deforestation, drought or improper/inappropriate agriculture.” There are thus various causes, but the bulk of them are human-induced. For example, tillage for agriculture, overgrazing, and deforestation for fuel or construction materials. However, vegetation loss is the primary cause of desertification, as plants play a major part in retaining water and enriching the soil.

Read the full story: Great Green Wall Gambia

UNCCD Regional Coordinating Units



Turkey, Morocco to Host UNCCD Regional Coordinating Units


Wangu Mwangi – Thematic Expert for Land, Soil, and Desertification (Kenya)

January 2017: Morocco and Turkey are the new hosts of regional offices for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Africa (Annex I) and the Northern Mediterranean (Annex IV), respectively. The UNCCD Northern Mediterranean regional office was officially opened on 11 January 2017 at the Forestry Campus in Istanbul, Turkey.

Morocco announced its intention to host the African Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU) during the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 22) in Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2015.

The UNCCD’s network of Regional Coordination Mechanisms, comprising RCUs, Regional Committees and Thematic Programme Networks, was officially established in 2009, through decision 3/COP.9. Both regional implementation annexes have previously been hosted at the UNCCD headquarters in Bonn, Germany.

With regional mechanisms having experienced funding difficulties, with limited resources for staffing and implementation of sub-regional and regional coordination and collaboration activities, the new hosting arrangements are expected to boost UNCCD implementation.

 Read the full article:  IISD

Dam development should only take place if it serves a greater purpose for the local population



Photo credit: Huffington Post

The Salween basin is shared by several Southeast Asian countries.
International Rivers, CC BY-SA

The plan to dam Asia’s last free-flowing, international river


Thousands of protesters gathered in Myanmar’s North Kachin state on October 4, as fresh violence and clashes between ethnic groups continue to mar the ongoing peace process.

But hopes for economic development in the region remain high, particularly related to potential foreign investment in the country’s growing hydropower infrastructure, as State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi signalled to US investors at an international conference in Washington in September.

Environmental and human rights concerns

One planned project would directly impact the Salween River, which supports a biodiversity comparable to the Mekong.

Read the full story: Huffington Post

Dire food shortages in Horn of Africa


Photo credit: UN NEWS CENTRE

Farmers in the Horn of Africa need urgent support to recover from consecutive lost harvests and to keep their livestock healthy and productive. Photo: FAO/Simon Maina

Warning of dire food shortages in Horn of Africa, UN agriculture agency calls for urgent action

With only one-quarter of expected rainfall received in the Horn of Africa in the October-December period, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for an immediate response to prevent widespread drought conditions from becoming a catastrophe.

“The magnitude of the situation calls for scaled up action and coordination at national and regional levels,” FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources, Maria Helena Semedo told a high-level panel on humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa chaired by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, which was held yesterday on the side lines of the 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia.

“This is, above all, a livelihoods and humanitarian emergency – and the time to act is now. We cannot wait for a disaster like the famine in 2011,” she added.

FAO estimates that over 17 million people are currently in crisis and emergency food insecurity levels in member-countries of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), namely Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, which are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

Currently, close to 12 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are in need of food assistance. Much of Somalia, north-east and coastal Kenya, south-east of Ethiopia as well as the Afar region are still to recover from El Niño-induced drought of 2015/16 while South Sudan and Darfur region of Sudan are facing the protracted insecurity.

Acute food shortage and malnutrition also remains to be a major concern in many parts of South Sudan, Sudan (west Darfur) and Uganda’s Karamoja region.

FAO warns that if response is not immediate and sufficient, the risks are massive and the costs high.

Read the full article: UN NEWS CENTRE

Cashmere is Causing Rapid Desertification


Photo credit: ONE GREEN PLANET

Daesung Lee

How Cashmere is Causing Rapid Desertification and Destruction in Mongolia


Mongolia is currently a country undergoing extreme change. It’s home to one of the last nomadic cultures on Earth, livestock herders who spend their lives wandering the vast Mongolian Steppes, a broad swath of grassland that partially borders the Gobi Desert. About 40 percent of Mongolia’s citizens are herders, living in elaborate tents called gers (yurts) and moving to fresh pastures with the changing seasons. But in recent years, more and more nomadic herders are abandoning their way of life, leaving behind the wild steppes, and pitching their tents on the edges of the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, refugees of climate change, a shifting economy, and, oddly enough, a growth in the production of cashmere.

Mongolia’s Climate

Since the 1940s, Mongolia’s average yearly temperatures have risen by 2.14 degrees Celcius. That’s more than twice as much as Earth’s total temperature has risen during that time, and 21 times faster than the natural rate at which Earth has warmed over the past 5,000 years (based on NASA statistics). This change in temperature has compounded a weather anomaly in the region called the dzud, which causes dry summers and exceptionally cold winters. These weather patterns have a negative impact on the amount of grass that can grow in the Mongolian Steppes, which means there’s less food for livestock. But rainfall and temperature aren’t the only environmental pressures on the native grasses. In 1990, emboldened by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia underwent a peaceful revolution that demolished its Communist government in favor of a democracy. The Communist regime had previously maintained strict control of the number of livestock that could be raised, but with those restrictions lifted after the revolution, nomadic herders quickly began to increase their livestock holding. The total number of livestock, which was capped at 20 million under Communist Mongolia, has since more than tripled to 70 million today. That’s more than three times as much livestock now feeding on a dwindling reserve of grass.

So How Does Cashmere Fit Into the Story?

It turns out that not only has the number of livestock changed, but the composition of herds has also undergone a radical makeover.

Read the full story: ONE GREEN PLANET