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Co-operation & information sought for a study about agrobiodiversity and climate change

The BUKO Agro Coordination under the authorship of Sandra Blessin is planning to publish a study about agrobiodiversity and climate change in 2009/2010

The Study will be about interdependency between climate change and agrobiodiversity:

1. The impacts of climate change on agriculture and agrobiodiversity

2. The contribution of agrobiodiversity to the mitigation on climate change

3. Analysis on national or international projects to face the climate change challenges

4. Other approaches

The study will analyse new investigations, evaluate resolutions and summarize in possible scenarios. It will refer to requirements of international climate negotiations as well as on the impact of patent and plant variety regulation. Which projects and strategies get subsidies? Which role plays the international Gene-banks? Who are the actors who the donors?

Are there alternative projects the improve the agrobiodiversity and in the same time the mitigation of climate change?

Some more thoughts on global warming

If we want to discuss mitigation of and adapation to climate change, it might be useful to have some understanding of climate change and understand why climate is changing. If we know the reasons for it, mitigating and adapting might be easier.

It is now accepted that our planet is getting warmer, yet there a different opinions on the why and what should be done.

One school (now minority) thinks that there were fluctuations of global temperatures in the past, and that solar spot activities and alikes are the reasons for the increase in global average temperatures. Green house gas (GHG) concentrations rising, concurrent to temperature rises are regarded as not being linked (like human birth rates and stork density), and it is argued that the cycles of GHGs and their thermal effects are not yet fully understood. And neither are the effects of rising global temperatures. One argument is that rising CO2 concentration are like a fertilizer and promote plant growth (as shown by controlled experiments). 

The now majority school thinks that GHG emissions by human activities and rising concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere are the cause of rising average global temperatures and that there might be a great number of negative effects of global warming - deviations from normal weather patters, especially with respect to rainfall, more drought periods on the one hand, more floods on the other, melting of glaciers, which change water flows in and around mountains, spread of thus far tropical and subtropical diseases into thus far temperate areas, etc.

Some more comments to the foodwatch study

With great interest I read the (German) Foodwatch report (link to the report reference).

If I haven't overlooked something important, the CO2 and Green House Gas (GHG) budgets presented do have restrictions, i.e are incomplete.

CO2 sequestration was not always taken into account. If animals are kept on pastures thes use a vegetation type, which generally is called grassland (even if it also contains herbs, shrubs and trees). Grasslands fixes more CO2 than does croplands. In some Dutch studies, it was found that intensively managed grassland can fix up to 6 t of C per ha and year, if it is cut and vegetative material is export (e.g. as hay), under grazing (i.e. vegetation is digested and a large part of the nutrients are recycled) 7 t/ha x a). According to my - admittedly old - chemistry books 1 kg of C is equivalent to 3.66 kg of CO2. If organic agricultural needs more area for producing 1 kg of beef, this means that, if animals are mainly kept on pasture, that more area is available as carbon sink.

Now, grazing animals are mostly ruminants and ruminants do emit methane (a gas produced during decomposition of organic matter under unaerobic conditions - e.g. in the rumen).

A European study (under French leadership) concludes that, when the CO2 sink of pastures is compared with the CH4 (methane) emission of grazing livestock the balance comes close to zero, i.e grazing is "climate-neutral". In fact, if stocking rates are low, there pastures act as carbon sink. Three gases (CO2, CH4 and N2O) were taken into account. On average for 9 locations the annual net carbon sink was 0.9 t/ha (stastically not different from zero). Stocking rates did have effects. The lower the stocking rates the higher the net CO2 sequestration.

Climate Change and Animal Production

A number of recent publications on climate change focus on the impact of agriculture on green house gases (GHG), and come to the conclusion that agriculture can be pretty bad. Some highlights:

  • For Germany it was found that agriculture contributes almost as much GHG emission than does traffic
  • Animal husbandry is particularly bad, and, because of methane production in the rumen, cattle keeping is the worse
  • Organic agriculture is not a saviour. In fact the calculated CO2- equivalent output is such, that organic beef produces more GHG emission per kg of product than conventional production

If food is compared with transport km feeding habits do differ greatly (sorry the graphs are in German) 


Effect of Eating Habits on Climate Change


First posting - test

Beginning of September there will be 2 events on adaptation to climate change, one in Norway, one on Rwanda. For more information please see in our News and Information section.