Ethiopia gave the world Coffea arabica, the species that produces most of the coffee we drink these days. Today, the country is the largest African producer of Arabica coffee. The crop is the backbone of the country’s economy – some 15 million Ethiopians depend on it for a living.
But the effects of climate change – higher temperatures and less rainfall – could take a toll on the country’s ability to farm this treasured crop. Climate data shows that rainfall in Ethiopia has declined by almost 40 inches since the 1950s. And the frequency of droughts has increased in recent years, affecting coffee growing regions as well.
Ethiopia could lose from 39 to 59 percent of its current coffee-growing areas to climate change by the end of the century, according to a new study published in Nature Plants.
Ethiopian coffee farmers are “on the front lines of climate change,” says Aaron Davis, a scientist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London, and one of the study’s authors. He says many coffee farmers have told him that they are experiencing less frequent harvests.
Photo: Courtesy of Alan Schaller
Boosting drilling and mining on America’s protected federal lands can help the United States become not just independent, but “dominant” as a global energy force, according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose agency manages about one-fifth of U.S. territory.
In an interview with Reuters, Zinke outlined his approach to development and conservation in America’s wildest spaces, and discussed how that philosophy was guiding his review of which national monuments created by past presidents should be rescinded or resized to make way for more business.
“There is a social cost of not having jobs,” the former Montana Congressman and Navy Seal said in the interview on Friday. “Energy dominance gives us the ability to supply our allies with energy, as well as to leverage our aggressors, or in some cases our enemies, like Iran,” he said.
Seagrasses in world heritage site not recovered years after heat wave
Massive seagrass beds in Western Australia’s Shark Bay — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — haven’t recovered much from the devastating heat wave of 2011, according to a new study demonstrating how certain vital ecosystems may change drastically in a warming climate.
The peer-reviewed study, published recently in Marine Ecology Progress Series, was led by Dr. Rob Nowicki, a Mote Marine Laboratory Postdoctoral Research Fellow who conducted the fieldwork while earning his doctorate from Florida International University (FIU). Dr. Michael Heithaus, Dean of FIU’s College of Arts & Sciences, and colleagues from multiple institutions have studied Shark Bay’s ecosystem for more than 20 years. The current study included partners from FIU, Deakin University in Australia and Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Shark Bay earned its World Heritage status, in part, because of its 1,853 square miles (4,800 square kilometers) of seagrass beds, which UNESCO’s website calls the “richest in the world.” This vast, subtropical ecosystem hosts thousands of large sharks, other fish, sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins and a critical population of dugongs, plant-eating mammals related to manatees.
“We were studying a relatively pristine ecosystem, but in summer 2011 we had the hottest water temperatures on record at the time, and we saw 70-90 percent losses of seagrasses at our study sites; no one expected it to be that bad,” Nowicki said. “After our colleagues documented the losses, we wanted to know how much the ecosystem might recover over a few years. If you take a punch and get up quickly, you’re ready for the next punch. But our study has suggested this system took a punch, and in the short term, it has not gotten back up.”
The researchers surveyed 63 sites in Shark Bay four times between 2012 and 2014 to assess seagrass recovery and changes. Before the heat wave, many sites were dominated by the temperate seagrass known as “wireweed” (Amphibolis antarctica), whose dense and tall thickets provide ample food and shelter for numerous species. The heat wave drastically thinned many wireweed beds, and in many places their rhizomes (underground stems) blackened and died, leaving bare sand.
Read more here.
Shark Bay Ecosystem Research Project
Now, climate change is forcing a different kind of evolution on the southern, most vulnerable, edge of the boreal forest. The giant, long-living pines are disappearing, replaced by more southern species like red maple as tree species across the country move in response to rapid changes in temperature and moisture brought on by 100 years worth of rising carbon levels in the atmosphere.
A study of 86 eastern tree species published last week by Purdue University scientists found that many have already migrated west in response to increased rainfall in the central part of the country, and north in response to increased average temperatures.
Climate scientists predict that, even if global carbon emissions are held to the rates agreed upon in the Paris Climate Accord, then average temperatures will rise by two to four degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That means the pines of northern Minnesota would give way to a hardwood and grass ecosystem, said Lee Frelich, a University of Minnesota professor who studies climate change and forests.
This is strange, but if we consider the purpose of a UN Biosphere Reserve, and then consider the agenda of the trump administration to degrade environmental protection and enhance use of land by extractive industries (oil, gas, coal, mining), ranchers and farmers, and to some extent, hunters, then the delisting makes logical sense. Logical, not right.
First, what is a “Biosphere Reserve?” The program is administered by UNESCO, through the UN. A biosphere reserve is an internationally designated protected area that is intended to demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature, and encourage sustainable development. This might be a better description, extracted from the EcoWatch article:
As detailed by the conservation nonprofit George Wright Society, the biosphere program was launched in the 1970s to establish internationally designated protected areas, help minimize the loss of biological diversity, raise awareness on how cultural diversity and biological diversity affect each other, and promote environmental sustainability.
Under all circumstances, ownership, management, governance of the biosphere reserve site remains with the country in which each site is located. There is no international governance, but there are guidelines associated with the biosphere reserve status.
Prior to this delisting, there were 47 biosphere reserve sites in the US. Here are maps telling us where they are, including the delisted ones:
The ones removed are located all over. Some appear to be in or close to areas where the oil and gas industry is interested in developing.
- Aleutian Islands National Wildlife Refuge – US Fish & Wildlife Service
- Beaver Creek Experimental Watershed – US Forest Service
- California Coast Ranges – University of California Natural Reserve System
- Carolinian South-Atlantic – Non-Game and Heritage Trust (South Carolina)
- Central Plains Experimental Range – USDA Agricultural Research Service
- Coram Experimental Forest – US Forest Service
- Desert Experimental Range – US Forest Service
- Fraser Experimental Forest – US Forest Service
- H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest – US Forest Service / Oregon State University
- Hubbard Brook – US Forest Service
- Konza Prairie Research Natural Area – Kansas State University
- Land Between the Lakes – US Forest Service
- Niwot Ridge Mountain Research Station – University of Colorado
- Noatak National Preserve – National Park Service
- Stanislas-Tuolumne Experimental Forest – US Forest Service
- Three Sisters Wilderness – US Forest Service
- Virgin Islands – National Park Service
The issue might be related to the alt-right, extreme right wing segments of our society. National Geographic (here’s the link to the article) suggests the following analysis:
Vernon Gilbert, a former UNESCO official and the head of the non-profit U.S. Biosphere Reserves Association, says that beginning in the late 1990s, some U.S. advocacy groups and politicians decried the program as a threat to U.S. property rights and sovereignty.
The blowback hamstrung the country’s participation in UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme, which designates the reserves. A 2005 Congressional investigation into the affiliated U.S. program, spearheaded by Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA), didn’t help matters.
In recent years, Gilbert says that the U.S. has renewed participation in the program. However, after more than a decade of relative inaction, some of the U.S. reserves were behind on meeting UNESCO guidelines and review schedules, leading some to decide for now against maintaining the designation.
Then there’s this, from the infamous Alex Jones:
“Neither Congress, nor any state legislature, has ever voted to approve any of the 47 UN Biosphere Reserves in the United States. The management policy for millions of acres covered by these reserves is crafted by international committees of bureaucrats, none of whom is elected. To comply with ‘international obligations,’ the United States conforms its management policy and, in some cases. its law to accommodate the wishes of bureaucrats that are completely unknown to the people who are governed by the policies,” Lamb insists.
“This reality is but a hint of what is in store for those governed by the rule of international law. Massive documents, such as the 1140-page ‘Global Biodiversity Assessment,’ the 300-page ‘Agenda 21,’ and the 410-page ‘Our Global Neighborhood,’ all paint a picture of the international law that is being devised to govern the world in the 21st century.” (For more information visit www.eco.freedom.org .)
It began a week earlier, when CNN aired a story about Tangier, Va., which sits on Tangier Island, about 12 miles from both the Virginia and Maryland coasts in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. The small island, now only 1.3 square miles, shrinks by 15 feet each year, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, which points to coastal erosion and rising sea levels as the cause.
The island’s 450 residents, many of whom are descendants of its first settlers in the 17th century, are desperate. Scientists predict they will have to abandon the island in 50 years if nothing is done.
Trump thanked the mayor and the entire island of Tangier, where he received 87 percent of the votes, for their support. Then the conversation turned to the island’s plight.
“He said we shouldn’t worry about rising sea levels,” Eskridge said. “He said that ‘your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.’”
The Energy Department is closing an office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technology, another sign of the Trump administration’s retreat on climate-related activities after its withdrawal from the Paris agreement this month.
The 11 staff members of the Office of International Climate and Technology were told this month that their positions were being eliminated, according to current and former agency employees. The office was formed in 2010 to help the United States provide technical advice to other nations seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The small office also played a lead role preparing for the annual Clean Energy Ministerial, a forum in which the United States, China, India and other countries shared insights on how best to promote energy efficiency, electric vehicles and other solutions to climate change.
Remember the last plastic straw you used? It may have simply ended up in a landfill. But there’s also a good chance that straw just began a very long journey. Maybe it tumbled out of a garbage truck, for example. The wind might have blown it to a site where rainwater washed it into some stream. Eventually, it might have floated down to the ocean. If that straw hitched a ride on an ocean current, it might have kept traveling. A new study finds that ocean currents send a surprising amount of plastic trash from the North Atlantic up into the Arctic.