News & Happenings

Adapting to Climate Change will Bring New Environmental Problems

Adapting to climate change could have profound environmental repercussions, according to a new study from the University of East Anglia.

Research in Nature Climate Change reveals that adaptation measures have the potential to generate further pressures and threats for both local and global ecosystems.

Lead researcher Dr Carlo Fezzi, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “Climate change is just a little bit more complicated than we previously thought. We need to take into account not only the direct impact of climate change, but also how people will respond to such change -- the impact of adaptation.

“This is a whole new dimension to the climate change adaptation debate.”

The research team looked at the interaction between agricultural land use and river water quality -- both of which will be heavily impacted by climate change.

They studied land use and river quality from more than half a million records covering the whole of the UK and dating back to the early 1970s. They used computer models to predict not only how climate change would lead to agricultural changes, but how these agricultural changes would impact water quality.

“We found that a moderately warmer climate in the range of between 1oC and 3oC will be mainly beneficial for agriculture in Great Britain. Particularly in the eastern uplands and midlands, warmer temperatures will boots crop yield and allow for more livestock. But some localised losses can be expected -- particularly in the east of England, where lower rainfall may increase the risk of drought.

Flower-Enriched Farms Boost Bee Populations

Flower strips sown into farmers’ fields not only attract bees but increase their numbers, new University of Sussex research has shown.

A two-year study of farms in West Sussex and Hampshire in the UK found that England’s most common bumblebee species saw significant population growth where targeted, bee-friendly planting schemes were in place.

A number of ‘agri-environment’ schemes have been introduced to try to halt and reverse the decline of bumblebees, whose numbers have been falling because of changes in agricultural practices that have largely removed flowers from the landscape, leaving the bees with little to feed upon.

Across the European Union, such schemes are now funded as part of the Common Agricultural Policy. In England, two tiers of environmental stewardship were in place between 2005 and 2014; Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) was open to all farmers, whereas Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) provided greater financial rewards for more substantial and rigorous schemes involving planting bee-friendly plots or strips along the sides of fields.

UN Urged to Ensure Open Access to Plant Genomes

A plant scientist from The Australian National University (ANU) has called for the United Nations to guarantee free and open access to plant DNA sequences to enable scientists to continue work to sustainably intensify world food production.

Dr Norman Warthmann, a plant geneticist at the ANU Research School of Biology, has lodged a submission with the UN, which is currently considering issues to include in its 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report.

Food security depends on an acceleration in plant breeding, which could be threatened by private companies restricting access to genomic information, Dr Warthmann said. “This information is a public good, it would be a tragedy and a big setback if commercial interests over-ride the freedom of the data,” Dr Warthmann said. “We must ensure this data is available without restrictions.”