Damian Carrington, THE GUARDIAN
“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”
The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanisation and climate change are also significant factors.
The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.
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The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.
Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature
Hannah Beausang, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE
Conservation advocates have long touted the need to preserve Sonoma County’s bucolic landscape, but a report released last week for first time assigned a dollar value to those open spaces and their natural resources.
The value of services provided by undeveloped and working lands, both public and private, in Sonoma County ranges from $2.2 to $6.6 billion annually, according to the report from the Healthy Lands and Healthy Economies Initiative. The study stems from a years-long collaboration between open space and conservation districts in Sonoma, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.
“It’s clear that our community values open space and working lands, but the main point of the report is that not only do we value them, but these lands have an immense value that’s not commonly understood in the typical market framework,” said Karen Gaffney, conservation planning manager for the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District.
The report assigns value to a variety of ecosystems. It accounts for green spaces that absorb runoff to curb flooding while filtering out pollutants. It highlights the benefit of soil, which captures and stores atmospheric carbon and sustains ground cover to prevent damaging erosion. It quantifies the public health benefit provided by trees and plants, which boost air quality, and of open spaces that harbor insect- and wildlife that can limit pests.
It’s the first clear picture of the total estimated value of Sonoma County’s “natural capital,” or its stock of natural assets, and the way they can provide cost-effective alternatives to man-made infrastructure.
Read more at https://www.sonomanews.com/news/8981145-181/report-sonoma-countys-natural-resources
Laurie Goodstein & Justin Gillis, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Pope Francis has written the first papal encyclical focused solely on the environment, attempting to reframe care of the earth as a moral and spiritual concern, and not just a matter of politics, science and economics. In the document, “Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home,” he argues that the environment is in crisis – cities to oceans, forests to farmland. He emphasizes that the poor are most affected by damage from what he describes as economic systems that favor the wealthy, and political systems that lack the courage to look beyond short-term rewards. But the encyclical is addressed to everyone on the planet. Its 184 pages are an urgent, accessible call to action, making a case that all is interconnected, including the solutions to the grave environmental crisis.
Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si” View the Full Document
Read more at: On Planet in Distress, a Papal Call to Action – The New York Times
David Jolly, NYTIMES.COM
A growing body of evidence shows that the widespread use of the pesticides “has severe effects on a range of organisms that provide ecosystem services like pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity,” the report’s authors said.
An influential European scientific body said on Wednesday that a group of pesticides believed to contribute to mass deaths of honeybees is probably more damaging to ecosystems than previously thought and questioned whether the substances had a place in sustainable agriculture.
The finding could have repercussions on both sides of the Atlantic for the companies that produce the chemicals, which are known as neonicotinoids because of their chemical similarity to nicotine. Global sales of the chemicals reach into the billions of dollars.
The European Commission in 2013 banned the use of three neonicotinoids — clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam — on flowering plants after a separate body, the European Food Safety Authority, found that exposure to the chemicals created “high acute risks” to bees.
But the chemicals continue to be employed on an industrial scale in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing their use after President Obama last year established a national Pollinator Health Task Force to help address concerns about so-called colony collapse disorder, a not fully understood phenomenon that has devastated commercial apiaries.
Pesticides are thought to be only one part of the widespread deaths of bees, however. Other factors are believed to include varroa destructor mites, viruses, fungi and poor nutrition.
Read more via Pesticides Linked to Honeybee Deaths Pose More Risks, European Group Says – NYTimes.com.