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Archive for the ‘Biodiversity’ Category

Contributed by Kritika Babbar, CABI India

ICBL.jpgClimate change has emerged as one of the most important environmental, social and economic issues today – especially for South Asia, which is highly impacted by these changes. In light of this, an international conference on Biodiversity, Climate Change Assessment and Impacts on Livelihood (ICBCL) was convened in Kathmandu from 10-12 January 2017. The conference was opened by Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the President of Nepal, and saw participation from eminent scientists, policy makers and development workers across the agriculture sector in South Asia.

Plantwise was invited to showcase its work on climate change and Tuta absoluta in three developing regions – Asia, Africa and South America.  CABI and Nepal’s Plant Protection Directorate (responsible for Plantwise implementation in Nepal) highlighted their role in reporting, monitoring and disseminating information about the pest to farmers in Nepal. Since Tuta absoluta was first reported in Nepal in 2016, plant clinics have been aiding in both monitoring and management of the invasive pest. CABI staff also took the opportunity to raise awareness about the upcoming launch of CABI’s Invasive Species programme and highlighted the synergy between it and Plantwise as a holistic approach to address pests like Tuta absouta. The presentation was well received and Plantwise’s global approach to coordinate efforts against the spread of plant pests and diseases was widely recognised as particularly efficient.

For more information about Tuta absoluta, visit the Plantwise Knowledge Bank.
For more information about Plantwise in Nepal, visit the Plantwise website.

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The rusty patched bumblebee is the first bumblebee to be designated as an endangered species in the United States.
Photograph by Alamy

For the first time in the United States, a species of bumblebee is endangered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday on its website that the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), once a common sight, is “now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction.” Over the past two decades, the bumblebee’s population has declined 87 percent, according to the announcement.

The news comes just a few months after the first ever bees were declared endangered in the U.S. In September, seven species of Hawaiian bees, including the yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus anthracinus), received protection under the Endangered Species Act. (Read “For the First Time, Bees Declared Endangered in the U.S.”)

The threats facing those seven species are similar to the ones that have depleted rusty patched bumblebee populations: loss of habitat, diseases and parasites, pesticides, and climate change. This is a big deal not only for bees but for humans, too—after all, bees pollinate a lot of our food.

“Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rusty patched bumblebee profile. “The economic value of pollination services provided by native insects (mostly bees) is estimated at $3 billion per year in the United States.” (See seven intimate pictures that reveal the beauty of bees.)

 

Once spread across half the U.S., rusty patched bumblebees are now found in only 13 states.
Photograph by Alamy

In its announcement about the rusty patched bumblebees’ endangered status, the department listed ways that individuals can help stop the bees’ decline. These include planting native flowers, limiting or avoiding pesticides, and fostering “natural landscapes and leave grass and garden plants uncut after summer to provide habitat for overwintering bees.”

Unlike Stephen Colbert, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stopped short of telling people to teach the bees about military history and engineering.

Becky Little is a writer focusing on history and culture.

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Nepal terraces

Nepal international conference on biodiversity, climate, and livelihood

Protecting unique assemblages of biodiversity together with meeting the needs of people under the scenario of climate change poses a great challenge. The impacts of climate change, along with habitat loss, invasive species, and other ecological threats, are most severe for the global poor, and South Asia is a highly affected region. In this backdrop, an International Conference on Biodiversity, Climate Change Assessment and Impacts on Livelihood (ICBCL) has been programmed in Kathmandu for January 10-12, 2017 by Nepal and US universities with USAID IPM Innovation Lab support.

The conference will focus on approaches from the natural and social sciences to support sustainable economic development particularly in developing countries, which face climate hazards, biological invasion and agricultural pests, biodiversity loss, nutrient and water stress, and social and gender inequities. We will bring together eminent scientists, policy makers and development workers for integrating science, technology, policy and action. Emphasis will be on innovative applications of scientific and technological research to promote rural livelihood and broad based improvements in nutrition, health, and quality of life. This conference will also include opportunity for developing knowledge sharing hubs, regional working groups, and pilot projects for regional climate change adaptations and village based ecological enterprises.

The abstract submission deadline is 15 September, while the early registration deadline is 30 November. Please see icbcl17.org for more details, or contact the conference organizers at icbcl17@gmail.com

For more information contact:

Prof. Mohan Siwakoti

Tribhuvan University

Kathmandu, Nepal

Email: icbcl17@gmail.com

Phone: 00-977-1-4331322

Website: http://icbcl17.org

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1 ICBC_first_announcement_July_2016-0

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International conference on Biodiversity, Climate Change Assessment and Impacts on Livelihood

Nepal 1

Kathmandu, Nepal

10-12 January 2017

Main sponsor: USAID Feed the Future IPM Innovation Lab

IPM IL Logo        USAID logo

For more details see: http://climdev17.org

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A bee collecting pollen from a wildflower

Pollination by wild bees contributes an average $3,251 per hectare per year to crop production, researchers find
A bee collecting pollen from a wildflower.Researchers followed the activities of nearly 74,000 bees from more than 780 species at 90 projects around the world. Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex Shutterstock

Agence France-Presse

Tuesday 16 June 2015 23.44 EDT
Last modified on Thursday 18 June 2015 11.45 EDT

Wild bees provide crop pollination services worth more than $3,250 per hectare per year, a study reported on Tuesday.

Their value to the food system is “in the billions, globally,” its authors wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

Over three years, researchers followed the activities of nearly 74,000 bees from more than 780 species. The team looked at 90 projects to monitor bee pollination at 1,394 crop fields around the world.

They found that on average, wild bees contribute $3,251 a hectare to crop production, ahead of managed honeybee colonies, which were worth $2,913 a hectare.
Nearly one in 10 of Europe’s wild bee species face extinction, says study

The study adds to attempts to place a dollar figure on “ecosystem services” – the natural resources that feed us – to discourage environmental plundering.

Amazingly, 2% of wild bee species – the most common types – fertilise about 80% of bee-pollinated crops worldwide, the team found.

The rest, while crucial for the ecosystem, are less so for agriculture – so conservationists may undermine their own argument by promoting a purely economic argument for the protection of bee biodiversity, the authors said.

“Rare and threatened species may play a less significant role economically than common species but this does not mean their protection is less important,” said David Kleijn, a professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, who led the study.

A healthy diversity of bee species was essential, given major fluctuations in populations, he added.

Honeybees in many parts of the world are suffering a catastrophic decline, variously blamed on pesticides, mites, viruses or fungus. Last month US watchdogs reported that US beekeepers had lost 42% of their colonies from the previous year, a level deemed too high to be sustainable.

“This study shows us that wild bees provide enormous economic benefits but reaffirms that the justification for protecting species cannot always be economic,” said a co-author, Taylor Ricketts of the University of Vermont.

“We still have to agree that protecting biodiversity is the right thing to do.”

According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, about 80% of flowering plant species are pollinated by insects, as well as by birds and bats.

At least a third of the world’s agricultural crops depend on these unpaid workers, the UN agency says on its website. Crops that require pollination include coffee, cocoa and many fruit and vegetable types.

The economic value of pollination was estimated in a 2005 study at €153bn, accounting for 9.5% of farm production for human food.

Commentators not involved in the study said it may play an invaluable part in the campaign to save bees.

“Crucially, the commonest wild bees are the most important, which gives us the ‘win-win’ situation where relatively cheap and easy conservation measures can support these and give maximum benefit for the crops,” said Pat Willmer, a professor of biology at Scotland’s University of St Andrews.

“For example, planting wildflowers with wider grassy margins around crops, as well as less intensive or more organic farming, all enhance abundance of the key crop-visiting bees,” she told Britain’s Science Media Centre.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/17/bees-are-worth-billions-to-farmers-across-the-globe-study-suggests

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redOrbit

October 5, 2012

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112707607/predator-prey-relationship-in-insects-and-plants-drives-evolution-100512/

Primrose

Image Caption: A large natural population of evening primrose (yellow), which is a common plant in eastern North America. Agrawal’s team set up 16 identical plots. During each growing season for five years, eight of the plots were treated biweekly with an insecticide; the other eight were controls. Credit: Anurag Agrawal
 Economists know that the consumer’s taste drives variety and innovation in almost every field of industry. It is the same in the natural world. An international team of researchers has determined that just as consumers’ diverse food preferences give rise to varied menu offerings, the preferences of plant-eating insects’ play a role in maintaining and shaping the genetic variation of their host plants in a geographic area.

The new study, which will appear in the journal Science, involves aphids and the small research plant Arabidopsis thaliana, commonly known as wall cress. The findings provide the first measurable evidence that the process of natural selection and genetic diversity is driven by the predator-prey relationship between insects and plants. The pressures that natural enemies exert on plants forces them to create diverse natural defenses in order to avoid being eaten. The study also found that plants were quick to abandon those defense mechanisms when pests disappeared, confirming the high costs of these defenses.

“Our data demonstrate that there is a link between the abundance of two types of aphids and the continental distribution of Arabidopsis plants that are genetically different in terms of the biochemicals they produce to defend against insect feeding,” said UC Davis botanist Dan Kliebenstein.

Kliebenstein and his colleagues are examining the naturally occurring chemicals that the plant uses to ward off potential predators. They hope to better understand the role of these biochemicals in the environment and to explore their potential for improving human nutrition and fighting cancer.

GENETIC VARIATION: THE KEY TO SURVIVAL

Genetic change and variation are crucial to allowing a plant and animal species to survive changing environmental conditions such as new diseases or pests.

The team has documented that nonbiological changes, such as soil and climate variation, can exert pressures that cause genetic changes within a plant species. Prior to this study, there was little direct evidence that biological forces like feeding insects or species competition could lead to genetic variation within a single species across a large geographic area.

The scientists mapped the distribution of six different chemical profiles within Arabidopsis thaliana plants across Europe. Each chemical profile is controlled by variations in three genes. When they mapped out the geographic distribution of these genes in Arabidopsis plants, they noticed a change in the function of one of the key genes across different geographic regions. The gene that they identified changed in plants as they were tracked from southwest to northwest.

The theory that the researchers created to explain this is that two aphid species — Brevicoryne brassicae and Lipaphis erysimi (cabbage and mustard aphids, respectively) — are most likely the cause of the geographic variation. Both aphid species are abundant in the regions and they feed heavily on Arabidopsis and other related plants.

The team examined data on fluctuations in aphid populations in Europe that was collected for nearly 50 years by British researchers. What they found was that the distribution of the two aphid species closely mirrored the geographic distribution of the different variations of Arabidosis plants. One aphid preferred the northeastern chemical type, while the other preferred the southwestern chemical type.

“There is natural variation in chemical defenses which is under genetic control,” explained ecologist Tobias Züst from the University of Zurich. “And this variation is maintained by geographic variation in the composition of aphid communities.”

“Genetic variation is the raw material for evolution, so the maintenance of genetic diversity is essential if populations are to respond to future environmental changes such as climate change or environmental degradation”.

Next, the team attempted to determine whether the similarity between the distribution patterns of the plants and the two aphid species was more than a coincidence. To do this, they set up an experiment that allowed them to observe what would happen when the different aphid types fed on five generations of experimentally raised Arabidopsis thaliana plants.

The team confirmed that the plants were genetically adapting to the aphids. Each successive plant generation showed less damage from the insects’ feeding. The genetic changes that each generation of plant underwent were specific to the type of aphid that was feeding on them. Moreover, the laboratory plants evolved in a way that mirrored the geographic distribution of the two aphids and the types of defense chemicals used by Thaliana plants in the wild.

The team found growth speed made a difference as well. The faster-growing Arabidosis plant types fared better, while the slowest-growing plant types actually went extinct in the experiment.

“These data make it clear that even functionally similar plant-eating pests can affect the biochemical and genetic makeup of plant populations, playing a major role in shaping and refining the plant defenses in a natural community,” Kliebenstein said.

In control populations with no aphid feeding, successful genotypes from aphid populations were lost. This occurred because defense mechanisms are costly to the plant species.

“Genetic diversity was only maintained across the different treatments; within each treatment much of the diversity was lost. In the control populations, this meant the loss of defended genotypes, as here investment in costly defenses brings no benefit to the plant,” explained fellow researcher Lindsey Turnbull of the University of Zurich.

Commerical research in this field could eventually lead to the development of custom seeds that are resistant to specific local pest communities, thus limiting the need for pesticides.

EVOLUTION IN A HURRY

A similar study also published in Science was conducted by the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) in collaboration with Cornell University, University of Montana and University of Turku in Finland. Researchers in this study found that the effect of insects on plant evolution can happen more quickly than was previously assumed, sometimes even over a single generation.

“Scientists have long hypothesized that the interaction between plants and insects has led to much of the diversity we see among plants, including crops, but until now we had limited direct experimental evidence,” says Marc Johnson, Assistant Professor in the UTM Department of Biology.

“This research fills a fundamental gap in our understanding of how natural selection by insects causes evolutionary changes in plants as they adapt, and demonstrates how rapidly these changes can happen in nature.”

The team planted evening primrose, a typically self-fertilizing plant that produces genetically identical offspring. The primroses were planted in two different plots, each containing 60 plants of 18 different genotypes.

One plot was kept free of predatory insects using the regular biweekly application of insecticide throughout the entire study period, while the other plot was left free to natural levels of insects. The plots had no other interference for five years. Each year of the study, the team counted the number and types of plants colonizing the plots and analyzed the changing frequencies of the different evening primrose genotypes and the traits associated with those genotypes.

Anurag Agrawal, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, explained: “We demonstrated that when you take moths out of the environment, certain varieties of evening primrose were particularly successful. These successful varieties have genes that produce less defenses against moths.”

The study states that evolution, expressed as a change in genotype frequency over time, was observed in all plots after only a single generation. In response to insect attack or lack thereof, plant populations began to diverge significantly in as few as three to four generations. In the untreated plots, there were increases in the frequencies of genotypes associated with higher levels of toxic chemicals in the fruits, making them unpalatable to seed predator moths. Plants that flowered later in the year also increased in number since they were able to avoid most insect predators.

The findings show that evolution might be an important mechanism for changing whole ecosystems and that these changes can occur quite rapidly.

“As these plant populations evolve, their traits change and influence their interactions with insects and other plant species, which in turn may evolve adaptations to cope with those changes,” says Johnson. “The abundance and competitiveness of the plant populations is changing. Evolution can change the ecology and the function of organisms and entire ecosystems.”

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

The researchers also observed ecological changes that involved other plant and animal species in the plots when insects were removed. Competitor plants like dandelions colonized both sets of plots; however, they were more abundant in the plot without insects, reducing the number of evening primroses in that plot. According to the study, these changes were the result of the suppression of a moth caterpillar that prefers to feed on dandelions.

“What this research shows is that changes in these plant populations were not the result of genetic drift, but directly due to natural selection by insects on plants,” says Johnson. “It also demonstrates how rapidly evolutionary change can occur — not over millennia, but over years, and all around us.”

“This experimental demonstration of how rapid evolution can shape ecological interactions supports the idea that we need to understand feedbacks between evolutionary and ecological processes in order to be able to predict how communities and ecosystems will respond to change,” said Alan Tessier, a program director in the National Science Foundation´s (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences.

“One of the things farmers are trying to do is breed agricultural crops to be more resistant to pests,” said Agrawal. “Our study indicates that various genetic tradeoffs may make it difficult or impossible to maintain certain desired traits in plants that are bred for pest resistance.”

Primrose oil, for example, has been used medicinally for hundreds of years and the plant is beginning to gain popularity as an herbal remedy.  This research could be useful to the herbal and pharmaceutical industries.

Most previous real-time experiments on evolution have been conducted with bacteria in test tubes, not in nature as this study was. The team intends to keep the experiment running as a long-term living laboratory.

Copyright 2012 redOrbit.com

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