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Today’s Mass Extinction: The Call of Life

WASHINGTON: Chances of humans benefiting from nature are receding, as natural habitats are becoming less productive due to the gradual extinction of plant species.

Many scientists now argue that the Earth is in the middle of the sixth mass extinction in the history of life. Some estimates suggest that as much as 50 per cent of all known species could be extinct by the end of this century.

According to an international team of scientists, new analysis shows plant communities as being composed of both stars and supporting players.

Some plants are so productive that they dominate the productivity of natural habitats. Supporting species complement key players and enhance the productivity of plant communities even further.

Lead authors of the study – Michel Loreau of McGill University in Montreal and Andy Hector, an assistant professor at the University of Zurich – further go on to say that species extinction is one of the most pronounced environmental changes of our time.

“Our analysis provide the most comprehensive evidence yet that natural habitats with a greater variety of plant species are more productive. Our analysis show that diverse communities are more productive because plants are ‘complementary’ in how they use biological resources. In other words, different plant species play unique roles in the environment,” said Loreau.

Assistant Professor Hector said: “The results of our analyses suggest that plant communities operate much like a soccer team. Teams are composed of both star players and supporting players. You probably can’t win many games if you lose your top striker because she or he is the most productive player and can dominate a game. But strikers cannot win games by themselves. They need great passes from supporting players and solid goal-tending if the team is going to be successful as a whole.”

“The process by which plants grow and produce more plant biomass is one of the most fundamental biological processes on the planet,” added Bradley Cardinale, assistant professor of biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Plant productivity regulates the ability of nature to take greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, as well as the ability of habitats to produce oxygen, food, fibre, and bio-fuels, according to the authors of the study.

“Therefore, species extinctions could compromise the benefits that nature provides to society,” said Cardinale.

The study summarized the results of 44 experiments from around the world that simulated plant species extinction and showed that ecosystems with fewer species produce up to 50 percent less plant biomass than those with more “natural” levels of diversity.

From:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/HealthScience/Earth_in_middle_of_6th_mass_extinction/articleshow/2521810.cms

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Filed under: Climate Change, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tropical Wetlands Sequester 80% More Carbon than Temperate Wetlands

Tropical wetlands store 80 percent more carbon than temperate wetlands, reports a new study that compared ecosystems in Costa Rica and Ohio.

William Mitsch of Ohio State University and colleagues found that the tropical wetland in Costa Rica accumulated around 1 ton of carbon per acre [2.63 t/ha] per year, while the temperate wetland in Ohio accumulated 0.6 tons of carbon per acre [1.4 t/ha] per year.

“Finding out how much carbon has accumulated over a specific time period gives us an indication of the average rate of carbon sequestration, telling us how valuable each wetland is as a carbon sink,” said Mitsch. “We already know wetlands are outstanding coastal protection systems, and yet wetlands continue to be destroyed around the planet. Showing that wetlands are gigantic carbon sequestration machines might end up being the most convincing reason yet to preserve them.”

Mitsch says that while wetlands are a natural source of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – from decomposition, CO2 sequestration appears to balance net carbon emissions.

“A big issue in wetland science is how carbon sequestration balances against the release of greenhouse gases,” Mitsch said. “Methane is a more effective greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide in terms of how much radiation it absorbs, but it also oxidizes in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide does not degrade – it is an end product. If you take that into account, I think wetlands are very effective systems for sequestering carbon.”

Mitsch conducted the study with graduate student Blanca Bernal, who presented the findings Wednesday at the Geological Society of America meeting in Houston.

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, , , , , , , , ,

Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Goals for Fighting Climate Change.

Climate Change Global Warming Solutions Carbon Offsets

By Kevin Peterson, CEO
Eco Preservation Society

At Eco Preservation Society we advocate two common sense long-term goals:

Common Sense Goal #1: Within thirty years we must replace fossil fuels as an energy source.

Common Sense Goal #2: Over the next one hundred years we must sequestered the excess carbon that has been added to the atmosphere over the last one hundred years.

As important as it is to reduce our CO2 emissions, it is also important to remove the excess CO2 that we have already put into the atmosphere. Certainly over the next 30 years we will be producing much more CO2 before we begin to produce less. To suggest that we should choose emissions over sequestation is a false choice. We must focus on both.

Further, when talking about Carbon Neutral or Carbon Offsets, reforestation is not only a “viable option”; it is our “only option”. Investing in future technologies to reduce emissions does NOTHING to remove the CO2 that we have already dumped into the atmosphere. There is only ONE viable and proven way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and that is through the growth of trees and vegetation.

Common sense must prevail. The notion that planting trees is detrimental to the cause of protecting our environment does not pass the common sense test. Critics correctly note that as carbon sinks a forests ability to sequester carbon may follow a saw tooth pattern. However it is a fallacy to suggest that because carbon retention in our forests does not follow a linear pattern that it is somehow diminished in importance. This is non-sense! Simply because our understanding of these processes may be more complex than once thought, that does not mean that these processes are any less important to our future.

Those that argue that reforestation efforts are only “feel good” solutions because an individual tree may not permanently sequestered the carbon in its biomass are presenting an overly simplistic argument. An analogous argument could be made that one should not open a bank account because not ALL of the money that you deposit into that account remains there permanently. The concept of effectively managing a bank account does not require that every dollar you put into the account remain there forever. The concept is that money flows in and out and over time successful money manager will grow that account. This is how we need to look at our forests, as a renewable resource that plays an unparalleled and unique role in sequestering carbon from our atmosphere.

There is a danger that when we grasp at headlines like “Reforestation Contributes to Global Warming” that we promote an overly simplistic view of the problem. The headlines garnered by the Livermore Study were so seductive for so many, particularly those that have an interest in the emission reduction side of the Carbon Offset debate. However carbon cycle is only one factor in the equation of protecting our environment. Along with reducing CO2 emissions and removing the excess CO2 that has already been emitted, we should not loose sight of the role that trees play in the water cycle and in the production of the oxygen that we breath. The notion that environmentalist can make blanket statements like: “planting trees north of the Canadian bordered contributes to Global Warming” and to have so many accept these findings without serious scrutiny should be cause for great concern within the environmental community. It is no wonder that those in the business community look at us environmentalist as a bunch of flakes.

Climate Change Global Warming Solutions Carbon Offsets

We must do better

At Eco Preservation Society we believe that we need to re-examine all of our options in sequestering carbon. Today there are many web sites that feature Carbon Calculators that tell us about our individual Carbon Footprint. Yet in all of the Carbon Footprint Calculators, none take into account the amount of carbon that an affluent family has sequestered in their 4000 square foot wood structured home. We must do better!

Looking at the wood products industry as a possible solution to Global Warming problem is a politically incorrect discussion within the environmental movement. We must to take a fresh look at reforestation and forestry as a sustainable resource.

In the past the forestry industry has given us mono-habitats and clear cutting. These are obvious negative impacts and we must do better. How much more engineering and planning would it really require to manage these resources in a more diverse manner?

In the future we can do better and we need to take a fresh look at how we approach these issues.

Clearly the Lawrence Livermore study is not the final word. It only serves to awaken us to the fact that the complexities of the problems that we face are much greater than we once imagined. It is fair to conclude from the Livermore Study that overly simplistic monolithic solutions such as “Universal Tree Planting” are not viable. At the same time, overly simplistic conclusions drawn from the Livermore Study are equally inappropriate.

As leaders in the environmental movement it is important that we are responsible with the information that we feed to the public. We loose credibility with the public when we grasp at sensational headlines and do not deliver on thoughtful and meaningful examination of these critical issues.

Climate Change Global Warming Solutions Carbon Offsets

Solutions Moving Forward:

Perhaps it is time for us to reexamine the concept of deforestation, both in terms of methods and importance. Deforestation occurs in nature, it serves a purpose in nature’s cycles. Without question our last remaining old growth forest and primary rain forests must absolutely be protected. However when it comes to the management of lands that have already been deforested there are other options that have not been considered. For those interested in this topic see our article on the Resource Revolution.

Over the last century there have been vast amounts of lands that have been deforested and converted to pasturelands and croplands that should be converted back to forestlands and wildlife habitat. The key to realizing this goal is to provide economic incentives for landowners to covert these lands back to forests.

We see 3 sources of revenue incentives for conservation minded landowners.

First, financial incentives can come in the form of selective harvesting of trees in a diverse forest environment. Instead of planting a “mono crop” of trees that would be harvested all at once, a diverse environment could be created with a variety of trees that grow at different rates. Trees could be harvested in a selective manner at different times based on a variety of factors. Instead of wiping an entire habitat, trees can be harvested in a manner that preserves the habitat.

Second, this staggered harvest approach means that the forests will retain their value not only as a habitat, but as recreational areas as well. Recreational activities would be an additional source of revenue for the land owner: hiking trails, cross-country skiing, canopy tours, horseback riding, GPS tracking games, trail biking, ATV tours, ect, ect.

Finally, with the ability to sell carbon credits, there is a third possible source of revenue for the landowner.

Conclusions

It took us a century to create our problems with the environment; we need to take a long-term view at solving them. Realistically it is going to take us 30 years to phase out fossil fuels; there will be more damage to correct during that time. We need to start now and reforestation is the answer. We are conditioned to seek immediate gratification and we are not satisfied unless we achieve instant results. Instant results are not a realistic expectation for solving our environmental problems. From our view a longer-term approach is required. The key is for our generation to initiate the process and to raise our children with understanding that this will be the biggest challenge facing their generation. We need to provide our children with the values and the education so that they will have the tools and the imagination to solve these problems within their lifetime. The future belongs to our children and it is up to us to provide them the means to make their future a bright one. This is a living legacy that is our responsibility to deliver upon for future generations. This is the goal of the Eco Preservation Society.

Kevin Peterson, CEO
Eco Preservation Society
EcoPreservationSociety.org

Part 1 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming?
Part 2 – Reforestation, Aldedo and Lawrence Livermore Study
Part 3 – Rain Forests: The World’s Air Conditioner
Part 4 – Planting Trees in Cities
Part 5 – Does Reforestation Contribute to Global Warming? – A second look at the Livermore Study
Part 6 – Getting Our Priorities Straight – Common Sense Solutions to Climate Change

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Reforestation, Sustainable Living, Wildlife Conservation, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Carbon Sequestration and Storage in Soils Could Solve Global Warming

Soils contain more than twice as much carbon as the atmosphere according to estimates (Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations, FAO). Increasing the amount of carbon naturally stored in soils could provide the short-term bridge to reduce the impacts of increasing carbon emissions until low-carbon and sustainable technologies can be implemented. A group called Soil Carbon, based in Australia, makes the case for soil carbon storage in a presentation available in English, German, Spanish, Italian, Mexican and Portuguese. The Soil Carbon report includes impressive photographs, such as those above, demonstrating the difference between well-managed and poorly managed soils.

The Soil Carbon report makes a good read in a powerpoint format rich in pictures, and is an easy introduction to a complex topic for the interested layman. The more scientifically oriented, and truly committed, will want to review the FAO report, Carbon Sequestration in Dryland Soils which goes much more in depth in the science and facts behind soil carbon.

The FAO report sheds some doubt on the optimism in the figures presented by Soil Carbon. For example, Soil Carbon calculates the potential for CO2 sequestration in soil by starting from the assumption that soil organic matter can be increased 1% of the total weight of the soils to a depth of 1 meter. By this calculation, Soil Carbon claims a potential increase of 47 tons of carbon per hectare. As reasonable as a simple “1 % increase” may sound, it appears not to be scientifically valid.

Carbon Sequestration

According to the FAO (FAO report, page 28): the carbon content of dryland soils is estimated to be 4 tons/hectare. Carbon content ranges between 7 tons and 24 tons in normal (non-depleted) soils, depending on the climate zone and vegetation. Studies show that non-degraded savannahs can have up to 18 tons C/hectare (top 20 cm). Based on this, one can conclude that an increased carbon sequestration of 18 – 4 = 14 tons/hectare is the most optimistic potential achievement, well under the 47 tons/hectare that Soil Carbon suggests is achievable. Nonetheless, the FAO report point out that increasing the carbon content by only 1.5 tons/hectare on 2 billion hectares of degraded lands could balance out predicted increases in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere due to annual emissions increases. (FAO report, page 6) This would buy time while fossil-fuel free technologies are developed.

Soil Carbon also targets exclusively the use of ruminant grazing as a soil restoration method. This is only one of many methods, which must be used in combinations depending on the local conditions. As much as the beef lovers amongst us may cheer the finding that cattle are an essential part of a healthy farming eco-system, the FAO points out that there is a large amount of disagreement about the value of ruminants in soil carbon cycling. That manure is the most efficient manner to incorporate carbon into soils is undebated. But some studies point out that feed must be grown on adjoining land, thereby depleting it, so the carbon added to one piece of land is in effect merely displaced from other land, rather than a net positive addition. The question of methane production, a 23-times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, must also be considered. Somehow humorous in the multi-faceted evaluations required to make good decisions is the statement in the FAO report that when conducting carbon audits: “it is essential to remember that the purpose of agriculture is to feed people.”

The most interesting facet of the FAO report for the non-scientist may be the discussions of using funding available from carbon offsetting to implement soil restoration projects and help farmers apply methods which benefit soil carbon levels. The additional income from carbon offsetting would help alleviate poverty, and the more productive farming possible after restoration of soils could break farmers out of the cycle of land depletion for mere survival. Although the development of accurate models to measure carbon offsets and the implementation of measures to reduce the risk of reversal of the gains present obstacles, the prospect of carbon sequestration in soils is a win-win for developed and developing nations.

Filed under: Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Sustainable Living, , , , , , , , ,

National Geographic Human Footprint – Cars and Automobiles

Cars Automobiles Consumption Lifetime National Geographic

Have you considered the impact of the cars that you will own over your entire lifetime? National Geographic Human Footprint took at look and the numbers are staggering.

The Human Footprint – Trash
The Human Footprint – Cars
Part One – Introduction
Part Two – Milk & Daily Industry

Part Three – Meat Consumption

Part Four – Eggs for a Lifetime

Filed under: Bio Fuels, Carbon Offsets, Climate Change, Sustainable Living, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

National Geographic Human Footprint – How much Soda will you consume?

Naitonal Geogrpahic Human FootrintNational Geographic demonstrates the amount of Soda an average person will consume in a lifetime.

Part Five – Bread
Part Six- Fruit Consumption
Part Seven – Soda Consumption

Part Eight – Showers
Part Nine – Hygiene and Cosmetics
Part Ten- Clothing

Filed under: Sustainable Living, , , , , , ,

National Geographic Human Footprint – Fruit Consumption

National Geographic Human FootprintNational Geographic Human Footprint takes a look at the amount of fruit the average person will consume in a lifetime.

Part Three – Meat Consumption
Part Four – Eggs for a Lifetime
Part Five – Bread
Part Six- Fruit Consumption
Part Seven – Soda Consumption

Part Eight – Showers
Part Nine – Hygiene and Cosmetics

Filed under: Sustainable Development, , , , , , , , ,

National Geographic Human Footprint – The Eggs We Consume

National Geographic Human FootprintNational Geographic demonstrates a lifetime of egg consumption by an average individual.

Part One – Introduction
Part Two – Milk & Daily Industry
Part Three – Meat Consumption

Part Four – Eggs for a Lifetime
Part Five – Bread
Part Six- Fruit Consumption

Filed under: Sustainable Living, , , , , , , , , ,

National Geographic’s Human Foot Print – Bread Consumption

Human Footprint BreadHow much bread will you consume in your lifetime?

Part Three – Meat Consumption
Part Four – Eggs for a Lifetime
Part Five – Bread
Part Six- Fruit Consumption
Part Seven – Soda Consumption

Part Eight – Showers
Part Nine – Hygiene and Cosmetics

Filed under: Sustainable Living, , , , , , , , ,

The Human Footprint from National Geographic.

The Human FootprintNational Geographic produced an enlightening series which illustrates the consumption of the Average American. Human Footprint reveals the lifetime consumption of an average American including the resources needed to produce, package and transport everything consumed. The numbers staggering when you visually see exactly what we consume.

The Human Footprint – Trash
The Human Footprint – Cars
Part One – Introduction
Part Two – Milk & Daily Industry
Part Three – Meat Consumption

Part Four – Eggs for a Lifetime
Part Five – Bread
Part Six- Fruit Consumption

Filed under: Sustainable Development, Sustainable Living, , , , , , ,

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