Resilience against food prices, temperature thresholds and much more! PDF Print E-mail
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In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Friday, 01 July 2011 21:07

As Sweden goes into collective vacation mode in July, so does sdupdate. We might  pop up with some short posts and twitter feeds but don't count on too much activity until the beginning of August. But before the summer holidays begin, we have a round-up of some relevant news from the past week

1. Building global resilience against volatile food prices:

An extra 150 million people were thrust into the ranks of the hungry during the last food price crisis. Considering the projections that food prices will continue their upward trend and exhibit an increasing volatility, we need to devise ways to build resilience against this complex driver of social-ecological change.

The Guardian's brilliant Global development blog reports how Greg Smith, from Global Commodities (an Australian investment fund) argues that we can do this by building buffering food reserves that can be accessed in times of need -

"We have volatility in food prices because of inventory shortages," said Smith, who was attending the fourth annual world agriculture investment summit in London, bringing together investment managers, policymakers and NGOs. "What we need is more inventory instead of this just-in-time approach. We need to look at how we increase buffer stocks of grain. After the second world war, governments would have three to six months of supply of grain. Now it's two or three weeks."

The post also reports how

"Oxfam, in a paper called Preparing for Thin Cows, said a global grain reserve of just 105m tonnes would have been enough to help avoid the food price crisis in 2007-08. The cost of maintaining this would have been $1.5bn or just $10 for each of the extra 150 million people who joined the ranks of the hungry, said the charity."

Identify and understand the long-term drivers, and shift focus from short-term control. That's resilience thinking!

2. Temperature thresholds affect maize yields:

A recent paper published in Nature Climate Change by scientists from Stanford University and CGIAR pairs historical maize trial data from research stations in southern, central and east Africa with weather records to see how temperature affects maize yields. The results show that for each day above 30C during the growth season of maize final yields are reduced by 1% - a surprisingly big impact for a crop that is thought to be relatively heat tolerant.

3. Modern fish communities live fast & die young:

I love this title. Its from the press release of a new study by scientists of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Kenya. Tim McClanahan and Johnstone Omukuto compared fish recently caught by artisanal fishers in Kenya with the bones of fish contained in ancient Swahili middens that date back to 1400 AD. Back in those days fish communities were dominated by big-sized and long-lived predators and this is mirrored by the fish remains excavated from the ancient Swahili settlements. In contrast Kenyan reef fish communities of today, and the fish caught by modern reef fisheries, are dominated by small-sized species that feed on plants and small invertebrates. Like in all other marine ecosystems of the world, the effects of human overexploitation have been going on for many centuries.

4. World Forum on Enterprise & the Environment - valuing ecosystem services:

This ongoing forum is generating some interesting discussion on how to incorporate ecosystem services and biodiversity in markets, government decisions and company agendas.



See you soon again in August!

Albert & Fredrik


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