Forests crucial to green growth

The value of forests and tree-based ecosystems extends far beyond carbon sequestration; they are the foundation of sustainable societies.A new report, launched in Jakarta, Indonesia on 21 March — the International Day of Forests — promotes REDD+ and the Green Economy as together providing a new pathway to sustainable development that can benefit all nations. It claims this approach can conserve and even boost the economic and social benefits forests provide to human society.Building Natural Capital — How REDD+ Can Support a Green Economy was developed by the International Resources Panel. It outlines how REDD+ can be integrated into a Green Economy to support pro-poor development while maintaining or increasing forest cover.According to the report, REDD+ needs to be placed in a landscape-scale planning framework that goes beyond forests to consider all sectors of a modern economy and the needs of agriculture, energy, water resources, finance, transport, industry, trade and cities.In this way, REDD+ would add value to other initiatives, such as agroforestry projects that are being implemented within these sectors, and be a critical element in a green economy.The report provides recommendations on how to integrate REDD+ and Green Economy approaches, such as through better coordination, stronger private sector engagement, changes in fiscal incentive frameworks, greater focus on assisting policymakers to understand the role forests play in propping up economies, and equitable benefit sharing.While it is recognized that what lies ahead is a long process of societies adapting to new conditions, REDD+ could be integral to increasing agricultural and forestry outputs to meet future needs, while at the same time enhancing the conservation of forests and ecosystem services.Each year, the International Day of Forests highlights the unique role of forests in the environment and in sustaining livelihoods. The theme this year is Celebrating Forests for Sustainable Development.”It is important day to remind us to save our planet as it is the only one we know which has trees says Tony Simons the Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). “Trees are what made Earth habitable for mammals, and destruction of forests will lead to the ultimate destruction of mammals — including humans. Trees are one of the few things which live longer than humans — a true intergenerational gift. He added.Forests and trees are key to sustainable development. Not only do they store carbon, they support biodiversity, regulate water flows and, reduce soil erosion. Nearly 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests as a source of food, medicines, timber and fuel.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Read more

The fish and the egg: Towards a new strategy for fattening up red drum in Texas

Sep. 23, 2013 — It’s not the chicken or the egg, but marine scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have answered a basic question about red drum fish and their eggs that may eventually help save the state of Texas a lot of money in hatcheries management and make fish farming more environmentally friendly.Every year the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department spends millions of dollars breeding red drum, a popular game fish, releasing between 20 and 30 million hatchery-raised fingerlings into eight different bays and estuaries along the coast. In order to maximize the numbers that survive to adulthood, the practice has been to provide adult fish a diet rich in fatty acids for nine months before breeding season. During breeding season, in order to save money and resources, the diet is less rich.”The assumption was that over those nine months the fish would accumulate stores of fatty acids in their bodies and would then transfer them to the eggs, which would produce more vigorous spawn,” said Lee Fuiman, Perry R. Bass Chair in Fisheries and Mariculture in the College of Natural Sciences. “Then you can cut back during breeding season because it doesn’t matter at that point. The problem was that we didn’t have solid experimental evidence to show that that was true.”Fuiman, who consults with Parks & Wildlife on their aquaculture programs, said that fish tend to fall into two categories in how they transfer resources to their eggs. “Capital” breeders accumulate and store most of the nutrients they’ll transfer to their eggs over a long period. For “income” breeders it’s food they’re eating just before and during the time they’re spawning that is responsible for most of the eggs’ nutrient content.In order to assess where the red drum falls on this spectrum, Fuiman and Cynthia Faulk, his colleague at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, ran experiments in which they varied the content of one particular fatty acid in the diets of red drum while they were in the midst of spawning. Then they tested the levels of that fatty acid in the eggs that were spawned during the next few weeks.”We know from past research that this is one of the essential fatty acids which is important to the eventual ability of the young to escape predators,” said Fuiman. …

Read more

Pest-eating birds mean money for coffee growers

Sep. 5, 2013 — This is the first time scientists have assigned a monetary value to the pest-control benefits rainforest birds can provide to agriculture. Their study could provide the framework for pest management that helps both farmers and biodiversity.In recent years, Stanford biologists have found that coffee growers in Costa Rica bolster bird biodiversity by leaving patches of their plantations as untouched rainforest.The latest finding from these researchers suggests that the birds are returning the favor to farmers by eating an aggressive coffee bean pest, the borer beetle, thereby improving coffee bean yields by hundreds of dollars per hectare.The study is the first to put a monetary value on the pest-control benefits rainforest can provide to agriculture, which the researchers hope can inform both farmers and conservationists.”The benefits that we might get are huge,” said Daniel Karp, a graduate student in biology and lead author of the study. “There’s lots of unrealized value in these small patches of rainforest. This looks like a sustainable, win-win opportunity for pest management.”The researchers hope that the work will improve conservation efforts in heavily farmed areas by illustrating to farmers the financial benefits of leaving some land in its natural state, while also guiding governments toward the best conservation methods.Worldwide scourgeBy some accounts, coffee is the world’s most economically profitable crop, and its harvest supports the livelihoods of some 100 million people globally. Coffee beans around the world, however, are threatened by the pervasive beetle.The insect burrows into the beans and eats its way out, ruining the beans. It originated in Africa and has made its way into nearly every major coffee-producing country. It arrived in Hawaii two years ago, and coffee plantations there are already experiencing 50 to 75 percent less yield.”It’s the only insect that competes with us for coffee beans,” Karp said. “It’s the most damaging insect pest by far, causing some $500 million in damage per year.”Stanford biologists have been studying the intersection of nature and agriculture in Costa Rica since the 1990s, in part because of the vast amounts of land in that country dedicated to coffee production. The borer beetle arrived in the past few years, and Karp’s group began to investigate whether farms with protected forests, and thus a greater biodiversity of insect-eating birds, fared better under attack from the insects.A ‘not-so-glamorous’ experimentTo quantify the benefit birds provide to plantations, the researchers first calculated coffee bean yield — the amount of healthy, beetle-free beans that could be harvested — of infected plants that were housed in bird-proof cages versus yield from infected plants in the open, where birds were eating the beetles.Next, they needed to confirm which species of birds were eating the beetles, and whether the birds required forest to survive. …

Read more

Microbial team turns corn stalks and leaves into better biofuel

Aug. 19, 2013 — A fungus and E. coli bacteria have joined forces to turn tough, waste plant material into isobutanol, a biofuel that matches gasoline’s properties better than ethanol.University of Michigan research team members said the principle also could be used to produce other valuable chemicals such as plastics.”We’re hoping that biofuels made in such an efficient way can eventually replace current petroleum-based fuels,” said Xiaoxia “Nina” Lin, assistant professor of chemical engineering and leader of the research.Gallon for gallon, isobutanol gives off 82 percent of the heat energy gasoline provides when burned, compared to ethanol’s 67 percent. Ethanol also has a tendency to absorb water, corroding pipelines and damaging engines, but isobutanol doesn’t mix easily with water. While ethanol serves as a mixer in the gasoline infrastructure today, many researchers argue that isobutanol could be a replacement.Equally important, this system makes isobutanol from inedible plant materials, so fuel production won’t drive up food costs. Lin’s team used corn stalks and leaves, but their ecosystem should also be able to process other agricultural byproducts and forestry waste.While much previous research has focused on trying to create a “superbug” that could tackle the whole job of processing waste plant materials into biofuels, Lin and her colleagues argue that a team of microbial specialists can do better.The fungus Trichoderma reesei is already very good at breaking down tough plant material into sugars. Escherichia coli, meanwhile, is relatively easy for researchers to genetically modify. James Liao’s lab at the University of California-Los Angeles provided E. coli bacteria that had been engineered to convert sugars into isobutanol.The Lin group put both microbe species into a bioreactor and served up corn stalks and leaves. Colleagues at Michigan State University had pre-treated the roughage to make it easier to digest.”If you’ve ever had puffed rice cereal, it’s somewhat analogous,” said Jeremy Minty, first author of the paper to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a recent doctoral graduate in Lin’s lab.The fungi turned the roughage into sugars that fed both microbe species with enough left over to produce isobutanol. …

Read more

Companies pay almost $6,000 extra per year for each employee who smokes

June 3, 2013 — A new study suggests that U.S. businesses pay almost $6,000 per year extra for each employee who smokes compared to the cost to employ a person who has never smoked cigarettes.Researchers say the study is the first to take a comprehensive look at the financial burden for companies that employ smokers.By drawing on previous research on the costs of absenteeism, lost productivity, smoke breaks and health care costs, the researchers developed an estimate that each employee who smokes costs an employer an average of $5,816 annually above the cost of a person who never smoked. These annual costs can range from $2,885 to $10,125, according to the research.Smoke breaks accounted for the highest cost in lost productivity, followed by health-care expenses that exceed insurance costs for nonsmokers.The analysis used studies that measured costs for private-sector employers, but the findings would likely apply in the public sector as well, said lead author Micah Berman, who will become an assistant professor of health services management and policy in The Ohio State University College of Public Health on Aug. 21. Berman began this work while on the law faculty of Capital University in Columbus.”This research should help businesses make better informed decisions about their tobacco policies,” said Berman, who also will have an appointment in the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State. “We constructed our calculations such that individual employers can plug in their own expenses to get more accurate estimates of their own costs.”The study focuses solely on economics and does not address ethical and privacy issues related to the adoption of workplace policies covering employee smoking. Increasingly, businesses have been adopting tobacco-related policies that include requiring smokers to pay premium surcharges for their health-care benefits or simply refusing to hire people who identify themselves as smokers.The researchers acknowledge that providing smoking-cessation programs would be an added cost for employers.”Employers should be understanding about how difficult it is to quit smoking and how much support is needed,” Berman said. “It’s definitely not just a cost issue, but employers should be informed about what the costs are when they are considering these policies.”The research is published online in the journal Tobacco Control.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated a decade ago that productivity losses and medical costs amount to about $3,400 each year per smoker. However, the report looked at overall costs to the American economy from smoking-related deaths and did not try to identify those costs that would be borne by an employer, Berman noted.The CDC says smoking accounts for nearly one in every five deaths — or about 443,000 — in the United States each year and increases the risk for such illnesses as coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other deadly lung illnesses.The researchers used multiple studies that calculated a variety of specific costs to develop an estimate of the overall annual extra cost of each employee who smokes.According to their annual estimates per smoker, excess absenteeism costs an average of $517 per year; “presenteeism,” or reduced productivity related to the effects of nicotine addiction, $462; smoke breaks, $3,077; and extra health care costs (for self-insured employers), $2,056.The analysis also took into consideration a so-called death “benefit” in terms of economics. For employers who provide defined benefit plans, meaning they pay retirees a set amount in pension each year, a smoker’s early death could result in an annual cost reduction of an estimated $296. …

Read more

Utilizzando il sito, accetti l'utilizzo dei cookie da parte nostra. maggiori informazioni

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close