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Shock decline in flying insects

Since 1989, numbers of flying insects have dropped by more than 75% in parts of Germany, with serious implications for the rest of Europe.

LONDON, October 20, 2017 – The mass of flying insects in parts of Germany has fallen by three-quarters in the last 27 years. Since the territories sampled were all nature reserves in some way protected from pesticides and other disturbance, the implications are alarming: winged insects may be flying to oblivion across much of Europe.

The cost to natural ecosystems and to human economies could be devastating. Insects pollinate 80% of wild plants, feed on species that could otherwise become pests, recycle plant and animal waste, and are themselves food for 60% of birds. One calculation places the value of wild insect pollination at $57bn a year in the United States.

Vanishing insects

Researchers have already expressed concern about the vanishing numbers of butterflies in parts of Europe, possibly as a consequence of climate change. But the latest study does not distinguish individual species or even groups. It concentrates just on the sheer mass of flying insects in a German growing season.

The research – published in the Public Library of Science journal, PLOS ONE – assembles 1,503 records of winged insects, all caught in a standard field trap, in 63 unique locations in protected areas in lowland Germany during spring, summer and early autumn from 1989 to 2016. The data told a disconcerting story: the average seasonal mass of flying insects declined by 76% in under three decades. At the height of summer, the decline reached 82%.

We need to do less of the things that we know
have a negative impact, such as the use of
pesticides, and prevent the disappearance
of farmland borders full of flowers”

The decline was consistent regardless of the type of habitat – dunes, heathland, rich and poor grasslands, wastelands, shrub cover and so on – and changes of land use or weather, or shifts in the habitat itself offered no obvious explanation. Researchers have identified reasons that one species, or a group of insects, might be at risk from climate change, perhaps because earlier flowering disrupts the feeding cycle or because the mix of species in an ecosystem changes with rising temperatures.

But there has always been an unspoken assumption that other species or groups of species may be likely to benefit from the change, by extending their range. The study is based on observations made only in one country. However, the finding implies that ecosystems across the whole of Europe could be affected, on a huge scale and at every level.

Downward trend

As entire ecosystems are dependent on insects for food and as pollinators, it places the decline of insect-eating birds and mammals in a new context. We can barely imagine what would happen if this downward trend continues unabated,” says Hans de Kroon, an ecologist at Radboud University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, one of the authors.

The only thing we can do right now is to maintain the utmost caution. We need to do less of the things that we know have a negative impact, such as the use of pesticides, and prevent the disappearance of farmland borders full of flowers. But we also have to work hard at extending our nature reserves and decreasing the ratio of reserves that border agricultural areas.” – Climate News Network

The post Shock decline in flying insects appeared first on Climate News Network.

Source: Climate News Network – Shock decline in flying insects

Nashville, TN unveils massive $5.2B transit plan

The city's largest ever transportation plan includes light rail, electric buses and transit hubs.

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective – Nashville, TN unveils massive .2B transit plan

Oh, rats: Chicago tops list of rodent-infested US cities

The rodents are more prevalent in homes and businesses during the cooler months.

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective – Oh, rats: Chicago tops list of rodent-infested US cities

Warming soils bad for atmosphere

Rising temperatures could cause soils to release carbon on a scale that has the potential to accelerate climate change, reports 26-year study.

LONDON, 18 October, 2017 – As the world’s soils warm, they may surrender potentially dangerous amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. Rising temperatures could mean rising levels of carbon dioxide respired by the microbes underfoot.

The world’s longest-running soil-warming experiments deliver no easy assurances that forests will continue to absorb atmospheric carbon that pours from vehicle exhausts, power stations and factory chimneys as humans burn fossil fuels, raise greenhouse gas levels and send the planetary thermometer ever higher.

The conclusion is based on a set of experiments described in the journal, Science.

Carbon budget

Since 1991, researchers have been measuring the soil carbon traffic in Harvard Forest, Massachusetts, in the US. In this forest are sets of plots six metres square. Some are left wild. Some have electric cables dug into the soil to deliver 5°C warmth of the kind that might be expected later this century. Some have soil disturbed but not warmed. Researchers tried every combination and compared the soil carbon loss over time.

They measured phases of substantial carbon loss from the warmed soils, alternating with phases of no detectable loss. That is: they measured soil carbon loss to the atmosphere, and stasis, but never observed evidence that warmed soils might store carbon more efficiently. Altogether, the warmed soils lost 17% more of the carbon stored in the top 60cm than unheated soils.

We know that microbial soil respiration is a major, and natural, source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Using the long-term warming experiment as a window into future climate change, we see that warming has a profound but discontinuous effect on greenhouse gas emissions,” says Kristen DeAngelis, assistant professor of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, one of the authors.

If a significant amount of soil carbon is added to
the atmosphere, it will accelerate the global warming
process. And once this self-reinforcing feedback
begins, there is no easy way to turn it off”

The carbon budget – the flow of carbon into and from the atmosphere – is at the heart of all climate change forecasting. Higher ratios of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will raise the planetary temperatures, potentially to catastrophic levels. If humans don’t abandon fossil fuels and switch to solar and wind power at a fast enough rate, then they must hope for help from Nature: that forests will soak up more carbon, that wetlands will continue to store plant tissue as peat, and so on.

But there is already evidence that warming soils may be less effective at storing carbon dioxide, so the race is on to understand the subterranean economy a little better and identify the agencies that control carbon traffic in the topsoils.

The latest study delivers some more reliable estimates of warming impacts, at least in the soils in one hardwood forest in one part of the temperate world. There is already evidence that tropical forests, above ground, may be releasing more carbon than they store, if only because of continued clearance for cattle ranching and plantations. Now it seems clear that the carbon stored in the forest soils may too find its way into the atmosphere.

World’s soils

To put this in context, each year, mostly from fossil-fuel burning, we are releasing about 10 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere. That’s what’s causing the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and global warming,” says Jerry Melillo, director emeritus at the Ecosystems Centre of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, who led the study.

The world’s soils contain about 3,500 billion metric tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that soil carbon is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity in warmer soils, that will accelerate the global warming process. And once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip.”

Humans could act to reduce emissions, by closing coal-fired power stations, Professor Melillo says.

But if the microbes in all landscapes respond to warming in the same way as we’ve observed in mid-latitude forest soils, this self-reinforcing feedback phenomenon will go on for a while, and we are not going to be able to turn those microbes off. Of special concern is the big pool of easily decomposed carbon that is frozen in Arctic soils. As those soils thaw out, this feedback phenomenon would be an important component of the climate system, with climate change feeding itself in a warming world.”Climate News Network

The post Warming soils bad for atmosphere appeared first on Climate News Network.

Source: Climate News Network – Warming soils bad for atmosphere

Lyft zooms past Uber to become first ride-share in all 50 states

Officials in Sioux Falls, SD announced the ride-sharing service will soon begin citywide operation, giving the company a presence in its 50th state.

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective – Lyft zooms past Uber to become first ride-share in all 50 states

Courting the environment

A recent Supreme Court order, reinstating a ban on the sale of firecrackers before the festival of Diwali, is the latest in the long line of desperate judicial interventions to deal with environment issues.
Source: Eco Business – Courting the environment

Seattle business tax proposal would fund program to curb homelessness

The proposed tax could raise about $24 million annually to fund housing options for the homeless population.

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective – Seattle business tax proposal would fund program to curb homelessness

UN: ignore Trump on climate

Three senior UN officials urge the world to redouble efforts to tackle climate change in a powerful rebuff of the scientific illiteracy of President Trump.

LONDON, 16 October, 2017 – The hurricanes and wildfires that have severely damaged large areas of the United States in recent weeks have had no impact on US president Donald Trump’s determination to ignore the perils of climate change and support the coal industry.

In a deliberate denial of mainstream science, the Trump administration has issued a strategic four-year plan for the US Environment Protection Agency that does not once mention “greenhouse gas emissions”, “carbon dioxide” or “climate change” in its 48 pages.

Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager of the Union of Concerned Scientists, describes this as “stunning” in its ignorance. “This was not an oversight,” she says, “this is a deliberate strategy by this administration.”

Trump effect

However, President Trump’s repudiation in June of the 2015 Paris Agreement designed to combat global warming, and his refusal to acknowledge any connection between recent extreme weather events and climate change, seems to have made the world even more determined to tackle the issue.

The acid test will be the progress that is made in November at the annual meeting of the parties for the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, hosted by Fiji, one of the small island states expected to be most affected by sea-level rise and more frequent storms.

Ahead of the conference, three of the UN’s most senior climate change figures have issued a statement urging world leaders to see the recent spate of disasters as a “shocking sign of things to come”.

In a joint statement, Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention and Robert Glasser, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the events of the last few months were a reminder that climate change threatens more frequent and severe disasters such as those just witnessed.

“We will continue to live with the abnormal
and often unforeseen consequences of existing
levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,
for many, many years to come”

The three officials emphasise that there have been many more extreme weather events that have not received the publicity given to the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the United States.

They say: “The record floods across Bangladesh, India and Nepal have made life miserable for some 40 million people. More than 1,200 people have died and many people have lost their homes, crops have been destroyed, and many workplaces have been inundated. Meanwhile, in Africa, over the last 18 months 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with major displacement taking place across the Horn of Africa.

“For those countries that are least developed the impact of disasters can be severe, stripping away livelihoods and progress on health and education; for developed and middle-income countries the economic losses from infrastructure alone can be massive.”

They continue: “During the last two years over 40 million people, mainly in countries which contribute least to global warming, were forced either permanently or temporarily from their homes by disasters.”

The three officials do not mention the Trump administration’s refusal to accept basic science, but describe the rising sea levels of 85 millimetres (3.34 inches) in the last 25 years and the potential catastrophic storm damage that coastal areas face as a result.

Clear consensus

Then they say: “There is clear consensus: rising temperatures are increasing the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, leading to more intense rainfall and flooding in some places, and drought in others.”

They continue: “Rising and warming seas are contributing to the intensity of tropical storms worldwide. We will continue to live with the abnormal and often unforeseen consequences of existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for many, many years to come.”

They point out that the cost of adaptation to climate change will be far cheaper than the repair bill if no action is taken.

“It is critical to remember that the long-term reduction of emissions is THE most important risk reduction tactic we have, and we must deliver on that ambition,” they write.

The three officials conclude: “The November UN Climate Conference in Bonn provides an opportunity to not only accelerate emission reductions but to also boost the serious work of ensuring that the management of climate risk is integrated into disaster risk management. Poverty, rapid urbanisation, poor land use, ecosystems decline and other risk factors will amplify the impacts of climate change.” – Climate News Network

The post UN: ignore Trump on climate appeared first on Climate News Network.

Source: Climate News Network – UN: ignore Trump on climate

Bunch of old bananas or building materials of the future?

With the construction industry a big driver of climate change, can changes in materials make a difference?
Source: Eco Business – Bunch of old bananas or building materials of the future?

In Jakarta, solving problems with new tech tools and people power

The mega city of 10 million people is defying cliches and embracing innovations to solve some of its most pressing urban challenges.
Source: Eco Business – In Jakarta, solving problems with new tech tools and people power