Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Habitats, Land Use, Sustainable Living, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , ,

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

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

Posted on Categories Forests, Habitats, Land Use, Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

Report: Sonoma County’s natural resources worth billions

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

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Garden Docs: Insecticides that are bad news for bees and butterflies

Joan T. of Santa Rosa asks: I was at a nursery the other day, and I had a rose fertilizer/systemic product in my cart. As I was walking through the nursery, a woman approached and asked me if I knew anything about the product, such as what it affects bees and other beneficial insects. I was puzzled and said I did not. After she told me about the concerns with this product, I was surprised, and put it back.

Can you please tell us what certain insecticides do to our bees and beneficial insects and what we should avoid buying?

Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that have been, and are being used by gardeners, farmers and professional landscapers. They are supposed to protect plants from sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects. Neonicotinoids are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant, and are spread throughout all parts of the plant, including the nectar and pollen.

Unfortunately, bees, butterflies, and other flower-visiting insects are harmed by them and have been identified as a factor in overall pollinator declines. These systemic insecticides cause entire plants, including pollen and fruit, to become toxic to pollinators. They also are slow to break down in the environment. A large and growing body of independent science links neonicotinoids to catastrophic bee declines.

What is extremely alarming is that these products are readily available at garden centers and nurseries and sold to the home gardener, although the state of California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation has imposed a freeze on any new applications for products containing neonicotinoids while the issue is under study. The moratorium comes just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration, began considering dramatically expanding use of the highly toxic neonicotinoid thiamethoxam on more than 165 million acres of farmland in the United States.

Before purchasing plants, ask your local nursery or garden center if they have been treated with neonicotinoids. You can also check the label for information about how the plant has been treated.

Read more for a list of products containing Neonicotinoids that you might see at nurseries and garden centers: http://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/7932506-181/garden-docs-insecticides-that-are

Posted on Categories Habitats, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

After Sonoma County fires, beekeepers prepare for difficult winter

Michele Anna Jordan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The bees that survived within fire zones face a loss of forage, not only the wild and cultivated plants that would normally be blooming now but also plants like Eucalyptus that bloom throughout the winter and early spring.

Among the questions we are still asking about the impact of the October fires is, “What about the bees?”
A comprehensive answer will unfold over time, as bees and their keepers have three aspects of impact to deal with, destruction of colonies by the fires, loss of fall and winter forage, and long-term exposure to smoke. For wild bees, there’s a fourth, potentially catastrophic, impact: Loss of habitat. A beekeeper can build a new box for his colonies but it takes years for a tree, for example, to develop the sort of nutritious hollow that wild bees need in order to thrive.
For now we know that many hobbyist beekeepers lost their hives, although some randomly survived, like lone houses in otherwise destroyed neighborhoods.
Read more at: After Sonoma County fires, beekeepers prepare for difficult winter

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Flying insects have been disappearing over the past few decades, study shows

Ben Guarino, THE WASHINGTON POST

Helping these tiny helpers can take only a small effort, he said. Habitat restoration can be as simple as a garden with plants that flower throughout the year. Unlike mammals, insects don’t require vast tracts of land to be satisfied — a back yard blooming with native flowers will do.

Not long ago, a lengthy drive on a hot day wouldn’t be complete without scraping bug guts off a windshield. But splattered insects have gone the way of the Chevy Nova — you just don’t see them on the road like you used to.
Biologists call this the windshield phenomenon. It’s a symptom, they say, of a vanishing population.
“For those of us who look, I think all of us are disturbed and all of us are seeing fewer insects,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Portland, Ore.-based Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental group that promotes insect conservation. “On warm summer nights you used to see them around streetlights.”
The windshield phenomenon is not just a trick of Trans Am nostalgia. A small but growing number of scientific studies suggest that insects are on the wane.
“The windscreen phenomenon is probably one of the best illustrative ways to realize we are dealing with a decline in flying insects,” said Caspar Hallmann, an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands. Hallmann is part of a research team that recently waded through 27 years’ worth of insects collected in German nature preserves.
Between 1989 and 2016, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, the biomass of flying insects captured in these regions decreased by a seasonal average of 76 percent.
Read more at: Flying insects have been disappearing over the past few decades, study shows – The Washington Post

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Santa Rosa may rethink use of chemical sprays such as Roundup in parks

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa is the latest Sonoma County city to take a harder look at how it uses synthetic herbicides like Roundup following the state’s action to list the key ingredient in the weed killer as a known cause of cancer.
The City Council agreed Tuesday to re-bid a large landscaping contract to see if there are maintenance options that don’t use glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup, or neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides suspected of contributing to the demise of bee populations.
The city will seek bids for landscaping methods using common chemical sprays, as well as bids using more organic methods outlined by the Russian River Watershed Association.
“I will be very interested to see the Russian River-friendly proposal,” said Councilman Chris Rogers, who urged the city rethink its approach.
The move was the latest by a local government amid rising regulatory and scientific scrutiny of glyphosate, listed this month by California as a cancer-causing agent over the objection of agrichemical giant and Roundup maker Monsanto, which contends it is safe when used appropriately.
Read more at: Santa Rosa may rethink use of chemical sprays such as Roundup in parks | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WildlifeTags , ,

Pesticides damage survival of bee colonies, landmark study shows

Damian Carrington, THE GUARDIAN

Prof David Goulson, a bee expert at the University of Sussex, UK, said: “In the light of these new studies, continuing to claim that use of neonicotinoids in farming does not harm bees is no longer a tenable position. In my view we should also consider the bigger picture; the current model of farming based on huge monocultures treated with dozens of pesticides is causing devastating environmental harm, undermining vital ecosystem services that keep us all alive.”

Widely used insecticides damage the survival of honeybee colonies, the world’s largest ever field trial has shown for the first time, as well as harming wild bees.
The farm-based research, along with a second new study, also suggests widespread contamination of entire landscapes and a toxic “cocktail effect” from multiple pesticides.
The landmark work provides the most important evidence yet for regulators around the world considering action against neonicotinoids, including in the EU where a total ban is poised to be implemented this autumn. The insecticides are currently banned on flowering crops in the EU.
The negative impacts found varied across different countries, leading the pesticide manufacturers to question whether the results of the research, which they funded, were real. The new research is published in the prestigious peer-review journal Science.
Read more at: Pesticides damage survival of bee colonies, landmark study shows | Environment | The Guardian

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , , , ,

How to keep honeybees

Rene Ebersole, MODERN FARMER

For information on bee-friendly gardening, visit thehoneybeeconservancy.org.

You can hardly say “honeybee” anymore without hearing the reverb “colony collapse disorder.” Back in 2006, American beekeepers began reporting staggering losses, ranging from 30 to 90 percent of their hives. Since then, the alarming phenomenon—in which adult bees disappear, leaving the brood behind to die—has afflicted Europe as well. And honey’s far from the only reason to care. In America alone, the pollinators enable the production of roughly 90 commercial crops, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Without honeybees, some of the foods we eat, like almonds, could become extinct; the cost of others, such as cherries and avocados, would likely skyrocket. A decade after the disorder first surfaced, scientists have yet to identify a definitive culprit.
Meanwhile, U.S. citizens have taken up the cause, establishing hives in backyards, atop roofs, at restaurants, even on the White House lawn. Bee Culture magazine, already a publication with a narrow focus, recently launched a spin-off targeted even more specifically at beginners. Williams-Sonoma, ostensibly a kitchenware retailer, started selling beekeeping equipment in 2012. Even Costco carries hives these days.
Longtime beekeeper Rob Keller of Napa, California, should not be counted among the recent converts. He does, however, have the current apiary craze to thank for his success. Since launching the Napa Valley Bee Company in 2008, the 52-year-old has helped more than 100 clients—individuals and businesses, including Alice Waters’ legendary Chez Panisse—start and maintain honeybee colonies. “I can’t just sell my bees and walk away. I know that queen’s mother and her mother’s mother. I’d rather guide someone through all four seasons,” Keller explains. “It’s weird, man. It’s like I’m turning into, not a crazy cat lady, but a crazy bee guy. I have the utmost respect for this six-legged insect.”
Read more at: How to Keep Honeybees – Modern Farmer