Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.


Painting ‘Zebra Stripes’ on Cows Wards Off Biting Flies

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Ranchers might want to consider painting “zebra stripes” on their livestock. According to a new study published in PLoS ONE, the measure reduces the number of biting flies on cows by more than half.

Biting flies are one of the great banes of cows worldwide. The irritating insects cause cows to graze less, eat less, sleep less, and also to bunch together into tightly clumped groups, which stresses the animals and leads to more injuries. The damage done by biting flies equates to roughly $2.2 billion in yearly economic losses for the U.S. cattle industry.

Seeking a potential solution to this situation, a team of Japanese researchers cleverly applied lessons from research on zebras. Animal scientists have long pondered the function of zebras’ dsitinct stripes, and a growing consensus now suggests that they deter insects, possibly by confusing bugs’ motion detection systems that control approach and landing.

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Source:  Kojima T, Oishi K, Matsubara Y, Uchiyama Y, Fukushima Y, Aoki N, et al. (2019) Cows painted with zebra-like striping can avoid biting fly attack. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0223447. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223447

 


Tree Potential: Overview

Restoration of the Earth’s forests is the world’s most effective solution to climate change available today and has the potential to capture two thirds of man-made carbon emissions, finds landmark research by the Crowther Lab, published today in the journal Science.

The study is the first to quantify how many trees the Earth can support, where they could exist and how much carbon they could store. It finds that there is potential to increase the world’s forest land by a third without affecting existing cities or agriculture, regrowing trees over an area the size of the United States or larger than Brazil.

Once mature, these new forests could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon, about two thirds of the 300 billion tonnes of extra carbon that exists in atmosphere as a result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution.

The study, led by Dr. Jean-Francois Bastin, also suggests that there is further potential to regrow trees in croplands and urban areas, highlighting the scope for agroforestry and city trees to play a major role in tackling climate change.

But the research paper, The global tree restoration potential, warns that the need for action is urgent: the climate is already changing and every year reduces the area of land that can support new forests. Even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C, the area available for forest restoration could be reduced by a fifth by 2050.

Professor Tom Crowther, senior author of the study said: “We all knew restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we had no scientific understanding of what impact this could make. Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today and it provides hard evidence to justify investment. If we act now, this could cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by up to 25%, to levels last seen almost a century ago.

“However, it will take decades for new forests to mature and achieve this potential. It is vitally important that we protect the forests that exist today, pursue other climate solutions, and continue to phase out fossil fuels from our economies in order to avoid dangerous climate change.”

The Crowther Lab is a group of multi-disciplinary scientists studying the ecological processes that influence climate change, based at ETH Zürich, the world’s leading University in Earth and Environmental Sciences. Its study provides the first quantitative assessment of the feasibility of global forest restoration targets.

Research provides benchmark for a global action plan

Forests have always been considered an option for capturing atmospheric carbon, but it has never been clear what impact this could have at a global scale. This is because, until now, there has been no quantitative assessment of how much tree cover might be possible under current or future climate conditions.

The future scenarios proposed by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change propose that limiting climate change to 1.5°C will require up to an extra billion hectares of forest by 2050, even while radically reducing emissions from energy, transport and so on. The new study allows this claim to be evaluated for the first time, showing where these trees could be restored and how much carbon they can capture. It confirms that this scenario projection is “undoubtedly achievable under the current climate”.

Currently there are 5.5 billion hectares of forest (defined by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation as land with at least 10% tree cover and without human activity), with a total 2.8 billion hectares of tree canopy cover.

The Crowther Lab finds that forests could be regrown on 1.7-1.8 billion hectares of land in areas with low human activity that are not currently used as urban or agricultural land, adding 0.9 billion hectares of tree canopy. Importantly, these are not areas that would naturally be grasslands or wetlands, but degraded ecosystems that would naturally support some level of tree cover.

If cropland and urban areas were included the study finds that forests could be regrown on a further 1.4 billion hectares of land, adding 0.7 billion hectares of tree canopy.

Dr Jean-François Bastin, the lead author of the study, said: “Our study provides a benchmark for a global action plan, showing where new forests can be restored around the globe. Action is urgent and governments must now factor this into their national strategies to tackle climate change.”

The study finds that more than half the potential to restore trees can be found in just six countries: Russia (151 million hectares); USA (103 million); Canada (78 million); Australia (58 million); Brazil (50 million); and China (40 million).

It also highlights major inconsistencies in the targets of several global restoration initiatives and warns that better country-level forest accounting is critical for developing effective forest management and restoration strategies.

At the start of 2019, 48 countries had signed up to the Bonn Challenge, which aims to restore 350 million hectares of forest by 2030. However, the study finds that over 43% of these countries have committed to restore less than half the area that can support new forests while 10% have committed to restoring considerably more land than is suitable for forest growth.

Climate models wrong in forecasting more tree cover in warming world

The study also warns that some existing climate models are wrong in expecting climate change to increase global tree cover. It finds that there is likely to be an increase in the area of Northern “Boreal” forests in regions such as Siberia, where tree cover averages 30-40%. However, this would be outweighed by losses in dense tropical forests, which typically have 90-100% tree cover.

Prof, Crowther added: “Although government action is essential to make the most of this opportunity, this is a climate solution we can all get involved in and make a tangible impact. You can grow trees yourself, donate to forest restoration organizations or just invest your money responsibly in businesses which are taking action on climate change.”

René Castro, Assistant Director-General, FAO, commented on the paper: “Forests are one of our biggest allies in combatting climate change with measurable results. Deforestation not only contributes to an alarming loss of biodiversity, but limits our ability to store carbon in the trees, undergrowth and soil. We now have definitive evidence of the potential land area for re-growing forests, where they could exist and how much carbon they could store.”

Ms. Christiana Figueres, Founding Partner, Global Optimism and Former Executive Secretary, UN Climate Convention, also commented: “Finally an authoritative assessment of how much land we can and should cover with trees without impinging on food production or living areas. A hugely important blueprint for governments and private sector”.

Will Baldwin-Cantello, Global lead on Forests at WWF, said: “Our forests are the world’s biggest natural ally in the fight against climate change but without them, we will lose the fight to keep global warming below 1.5 C. That’s why it’s crucial that we act to restore forests whilst drastically cutting our global carbon emissions. This new research demonstrates how much natural capacity our planet has to grow and sustain additional forest; now, the challenge is to understand how and where we can accelerate this implementation, whilst still feeding our growing global population.

“Tackling the climate crisis and restoring our forests requires unprecedented levels of co-operation and support at both a local and global level, supported by initiatives such as Trillion Trees that are accelerating delivery on the ground. We have the solutions at our fingertips; we just need the global political will to fight for our world.”

A tool on the Crowther Lab website enables users to look at any point on the globe, and identify the areas for restoration and learn which native tree species exist there. It also offers lists of forest restoration organizations. Furthermore, Crowther Lab are supporting the creation of a global coalition that will bring targeted innovation to the opportunities and challenges identified by the Report.

Methodology

This is the first study to link direct tree measurements to environmental characteristics to provide quantitative, spatially explicit global estimates of potential tree cover. This was made possible because of a unique global dataset of forest observations and the free mapping software of Google Earth Engine.

Researchers analyzed tree cover in protected forest areas largely unaffected by human activity across the Earth’s ecosystems, from arctic tundra to equatorial rainforest, studying nearly 80,000 high resolution satellite photographs. They used this to approximate the natural level of tree cover in each ecosystem.

In Google Earth Engine, they then used machine learning to identify 10 soil and climate variables that determine tree cover in each ecosystem and generate a predictive model to map potential tree cover worldwide under current environmental conditions in areas with minimal human activity.

They used three well-known climate models to update changes to the variables in order to project tree cover capacity for 2050.

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For more information, graphics and interviews, please contact:

Flora Hancox, flora.hancox@greenhousepr.co.uk +44 7841 828567
Rachel Parkes , rachel.parkes@greenhousepr.co.uk +44 7799 072320


Your Pastures Would Make Great Solar Farms

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A recent Oregon State University study found that the top three land covers with the greatest solar power producing potential are croplands, grasslands and wetlands. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, says that if less than 1% of agricultural land was converted to solar panels, it would be sufficient to fulfill global electric energy demand. Like other researchers, they see this as an opportunity for farmers to continue raising livestock and crops while adding solar power production to their income stream.

When you think about it, the result isn’t really all that surprising. As study author Chad Higgins noted, “It turns out that 8,000 years ago, farmers found the best places to harvest solar energy on Earth.” According to their results, that include he most efficient continental locations include western America, southern Africa, and the Middle East. Other studies have found these areas also make the most sense from the standpoint of transmission and economic potential.

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Source:  Kathy Voth, On Pasture, September 23, 2019.


AgEmerge Podcast 003. Jeff Mitchell

From one of his test plots in Five Points, California, Dr. Jeff Mitchell talks with Monte about a few of the studies he’s conducted over the years. Listen to their discussion about his observations in yield, carbon, and microbial activity when comparing conventional tillage to no-till plots with and without cover crops. Some of these studies have been ongoing with recorded observations starting in 1999! Jeff also shares some insights from the 15 different plot trials being conducted to monitor how cover crops affect soil-water content and water depletion.

For more information about AgEmerge, visit http://www.AgEmerge.com


Waters to Watch

The National Fish Habitat Partnership (www.fishhabitat.org) has unveiled its list of “Waters to Watch” for 2019. This annual list represents a collection of strategic conservation efforts implemented on rivers, streams, estuaries, and lakes to protect, restore, or enhance their current condition. These voluntary, locally-driven projects represent some of the top conservation activities in progress implemented by 20 regional Fish Habitat Partnerships throughout the country. These projects are carried out under the goals and objectives of the 2nd Edition of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (2012).

The conservation projects are designed to conserve freshwater, estuarine, and marine habitats essential to the many fish and wildlife species that call these areas home. These examples of conservation have been fundamental to the overall success of the National Fish Habitat Partnership since 2006.  These conservation efforts are working to reverse persistent declines in our nation’s aquatic habitats. Having featured over 110 partnership projects since 2007, these “Waters to Watch” aim to show that science-based, on-the-ground conservation efforts can make a difference in improving fish habitat across the United States.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service provides both funding and technical assistance to the 20 Fish Habitat Partnerships across the country to aide in implementing aquatic conservation projects nationwide. “We can’t do this work alone! We rely heavily on these 20 unique and innovative partnerships to help us improve fish habitat and achieve our shared conservation goals,” said David Hoskins, Asst. Director of Fish and Aquatic Conservation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “These projects are representative of some of the best collaborative initiatives in conservation today.” Said Ed Schriever, Chair of the National Fish Habitat Board. “The leveraging of resources through our partnerships is remarkable and proves that we can collectively achieve more to benefit fish habitat.”

People interested in learning more about the National Fish Habitat Partnership and partner projects happening across the U.S. can find out more information on how to get involved on our Partnerships page; http://www.fishhabitat.org/the-partnerships/.

The 2019 “Waters to Watch” list and associated Fish Habitat Partnerships:

1. Alexander Creek, AK – Mat-Su Basin Salmon Habitat Partnership
2. Amargo Creek, NM – Desert Fish Habitat Partnership
3. Coal Creek, WY – Western Native Trout Initiative
4. Crews Creek, GA – Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership
5. Elephant Butte Reservoir, NM – Reservoir Fish Habitat Partnership
6. Megler Creek, WA – Pacific Marine and Estuarine Partnership
7. Spasski River and Hoonah Native Forest Partnership, AK – SE Alaska Fish Habitat Partnership
8. Sullivan Gulch, OR – Pacific Marine and Estuarine Partnership
9. Tainter Creek, WI – Fishers and Farmers Partnership/Driftless Area Restoration Effort
10. Upper Green Valley Creek, CA – California Fish Passage Forum

For more information on project maps and descriptions of the “Waters to Watch” list for 2019, Visit: http://bit.ly/2LodYvT.

More info here.

Check out #10 for more info about the Gold Ridge RCD partnership project located in Upper Green Valley Creek.  


Confronting the Challenges of Climate Change by Rattan Lal

Lal is a professor of soil science and Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at the Ohio State University.

This talk was part of the “Confronting the Challenges of Climate Change” symposium. The symposium on the topic of energy and the environment was held in honor of Theodore “Ted” Brown, the Founding Director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

This talk was presented at the Beckman Institute of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on October 16, 2018.