Food webs essential for nature conservation efforts

lake

Lake ecosystems make annual environmental changes more predictable. Nature conservation should not focus on individual species but on whole food webs, because the protection of their functioning is important for the predictability of species, especially when global warming is increasing environmental variability.

The environment varies drastically from year to year. Yet the variation of species in natural populations is positively correlated so that consecutive years tend to be fairly similar. Traditional population models cannot explain this phenomenon. Researchers have for long been wondering what the explanation could be, but they have now discovered a mechanism that translates various environmental variations into positive correlations in natural populations. 

A new, more predictable food web model

A team of Finnish and US researchers used a food web model to simulate daily biomass development of plankton and fish species in Lake Constance. The model accounted for the prey-predator interactions and the age structure of fishes. The food web was subjected to environmental variation in terms of algal growth, that is, in the lake’s primary production. Such variation can be caused by annual changes in temperature, for example. 

“This model differed from earlier ones, as it depicted a whole food web dynamics with 30 different species or age categories and altogether 133 prey-predator interaction links,” says Associate Professor Anna Kuparinen from the Department of Biological and Environmental Science in the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

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Credit: EurekAlert!

Full article: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-11/uoj–fwe112818.php

Eat organic meat to tackle antibiotic crisis

organic meat

Shoppers should choose organic or high-welfare meat to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bugs, England’s chief medical officer has urged.

Dame Sally Davies has warned that if antibiotics stop working, society faces an “apocalyptic” scenario in which treatments including chemotherapy and hip replacements become impossible and common infections kill.

She has called on consumers to use their buying power to pressure the food industry into reducing antibiotic use. That includes choosing organic meat and poultry or produce labelled with the “Red Tractor” and Scottish or Scandinavian fish that have been vaccinated, rather than reared using antibiotics.

“Like many people I am eating less meat,” she said. “And yes, I do look to try to make sure it is at least Red Tractor. 

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Credit: The Times

Full article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/eat-organic-meat-to-tackle-antibiotic-crisis-nh03wkxs8

Pesticides harming bees and could affect food production

Bee on yellow flower

Bees are pollinators but they risk global extinction due to pesticides and other factors, which would have serious implications for food production and ecosystem health.

In Summary

  • In recent years, bees have been mysteriously dying off from “colony collapse disorder.”
  • It has been blamed partly on pesticides as well as mites, viruses, and fungi.
  • The United Nations has warned that 40 percent of the planet’s insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction.
  • This would have serious implications for food production and ecosystem health.

A new study that allowed humans to spy on bumblebees inside their nests showed that pesticides can impair social behaviour, making it hard for bees to eat and rear their young, researchers said Thursday.

Previous research has shown that the common class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids can harm bees’ ability to forage outside the nest.

The latest findings add to long-standing concerns about these important pollinators’ health, which could affect food production.

Researchers tracked the changes in bees’ behaviour by placing cameras inside 12 specially made boxes that contained one chamber for a nest and another chamber for foraging.

Some bees were exposed to concentrations of the neonicotinoid imidacloprid similar to that expected in the environment. Others were not.

They found the pesticide-exposed bees were less social in a variety of ways than control bees placed in similar boxes but not fed nectar that contained neonicotinoids.

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Credit: Daily Nation

Full article: https://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/health/Pesticides-harming-bees/1954202-4843802-92336t/index.html

Organic GMOs – ask yourself, can this ever be a ‘thing’?

Wheat crop

There is no question that our food system is broken. The way we farm, the way we process, sell, buy and eat food has become an exercise in a polluted environment and polluted, undernourished bodies.

Against this backdrop the word ‘organic’ is sometimes waived like a flag – or worn like a magic cloak – that protects us from harm.

The image of organic, of an agricultural system that promotes healthy plants, animals, soil and humans; that emulates and sustains natural systems; that promotes fairness and justice for all living things; and that cares for future generations, is still strong and is still substantially true.

Organic is the most widely-used system that comes closest in practice to genuinely sustainable farming. But it’s under attack on many fronts. In part this is because there can be a large space between image and the business-as-usual reality of food production. Even with the best will in the world, unsatisfactory practices can creep in and, increasingly, corporate and industrial farming and food interests seek to benefit financially from the cache of organic while at the same time belittling, and in some cases ignoring, its core values.

As in many things the US leads the way in this. Hydroponics and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have both been allowed in organic foods certified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in the face of considerable opposition, recently formalised under the banner of the Real Organic Project.

The US has also been blighted by the rise what some call ‘Big Organic’ – an upscaling of organic production that mimics industrial agriculture in its reliance on monocultures, intensive animal rearing and industrial processes. One component of Big Organic is some of the well-established organic brands that have been bought up by large food conglomerates; another is the proliferation of ‘organic’ supermarkets that operate in the same unfair and unsustainable way as their conventional counterparts.

It might be argued that this is simply the consequence of continued and healthy growth in the organic market. Even if that is the case, it is also part of a subtle trend that chips away at the essential nature of organic using mumbo jumbo about the inevitability of market forces and opaque certification.

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Credit: Hospitality and Catering News

Full article:  https://www.hospitalityandcateringnews.com/2018/11/organic-gmos-ask-can-ever-thing/?fbclid=IwAR27xuDnAPacEch7BECWOcNgzfzpqusD7DU41SfhnMBK44JMCfIlL5k16ag

First signs of glyphosate weed resistance detected in the UK

The first cases of weed resistance to glyphosate are being detected in the UK, prompting researchers to call for strict stewardship of the world’s best-selling herbicide.

Scientists from Rothamsted Research and crop consultant Adas said some UK populations of the troublesome grassweed sterile brome have reduced glyphosate sensitivity and are in the process of evolving resistance.

They added that this is the first reported case of reduced glyphosate sensitivity in sterile brome worldwide, as well as the first signs of glyphosate resistance being seen in any UK weed species.

The team of researchers – Laura Davies from Adas and Richard Hull, Stephen Moss and Paul Neve from Rothamsted – looked at sterile brome in areas including Rutland, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire and published their results in the Weed Science Society of America, 2018 journal.

“We believe these results are a timely reminder of the risks associated with increased glyphosate use, providing an early indication of the need for stewardship of glyphosate use,” said the authors.

Worldwide picture

Glyphosate resistance has been reported in 41 species in 29 countries, mostly with genetically modified crops with tolerance to glyphosate or when used in orchards and vineyards where the selection pressure is high.

The UK was thought to be at lower risk from glyphosate resistance as its use is often in tandem with other herbicides, but the use of glyphosate – first introduced in 1974 – has increased and in 2016 some 2.7m hectares of arable land were treated.

Sterile brome, also known as poverty brome or barren brome, has become a problematic weed in the UK due to the popularity of minimum tillage, the rise in winter cereal cropping and lack of effective herbicides.

Conclusion

The researchers concluded that two sterile brome populations in Rutland and Oxfordshire showed a significant reduction in glyphosate sensitivity, and it was highly likely one further population had reduced glyphosate selection pressure in a UK field situation.

The three all showed incomplete control of the grassweed species at the recommended field rate of glyphosate (540g/ha). The herbicide is sold under the brand name Roundup and other generic versions.

The responses to glyphosate of these three populations are comparable to the first reported cases of glyphosate resistance in rigid ryegrass in continental European arable cropping and similar to the first reported cases of glyphosate resistance in Australia, said the authors.

The report is entitled “The first cases of evolving glyphosate resistance in UK poverty brome (Bromus sterilis) populations” and is published in the Weed Science Society of America, 2018.

Credit: Farmers Weekly

Full article: https://www.fwi.co.uk/arable/weeds/first-signs-of-glyphosate-weed-resistance-detected-in-the-uk