ecosystem services

Corals like this one in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary are gorgeous, diverse marine species found throughout our world’s ocean. But did you know that corals actually provide humans several critical services? 

In addition to sustaining biodiversity and providing us food, medicine, and recreational opportunities, coral reefs can serve as a critical, natural defense for coastal communities. Healthy coral reefs like those in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary can diffuse much of the energy of hard-hitting ocean waves before waves ever reach the shore, helping to protect coastlines from damage, especially in the event of a large storm. 

(Photo: Tom Moore/NOAA) 


Bees are important, right? That seems to be the general consensus. But is it true? And should you still care even if you don’t eat honey. Phil argues that the answer is ‘yes’ and presents his top five reasons that explain just why bees are so important.

A global transition is needed to shift linear economic models typified by carbon intensive energy consumption and significant environmental impacts, where we ‘take, make and dispose’ natural resources- to circular models with reduced energy requirements from low carbon renewable sources, with minimal environmental impacts, and where natural resources are recycled and reused, and products are maintained and re-manufactured. 

Investing in projects and schemes, and across a range of sectors and scales, that align with this transition can have significant environmental benefits, as well as other positive sustainability related outcomes. Consider, as examples, the range of environmental, social and economic benefits that can be achieved at both a regional/national, and global, level of investing in cycling as a mode of urban transport- or by designing and engineering natural infrastructure that works in harmony with existing natural systems.

I’m at a conference on biodiversity and ecosystem services and it’s giving me a) so many ideas for and b) so much confidence in my PhD topic and research, I really feel like I’m doing something important and relevant. 

Had a climb at the local bouldering gym too because what else do you do on conference evenings? :P

Urban green space, such as parks, forests, green roofs, streams, and community gardens, provides critical ecosystem services. Green space also promotes physical activity, psychological well-being, and the general public health of urban residents.
—  Wolch, Byrne and Newell 
Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice:
The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough’’

#350Species: Autumn in the Sagebrush Ecosystem

Like Greater sage-grouse, more than 350 species depend on the sagebrush ecosystem for their survival. People are one of them. We will be sharing an ongoing series that highlights the #350species, such as the many animals, plants, and insects that live on the range, that weaves our human stories and sense of place into this complex landscape.

Autumn in the sagebrush ecosystem is a time of transition for the millions of animals and birds migrating through and preparing for winter. Once spanning almost 300 million acres of North America (an area larger than Texas and California combined), habitat fragmentation, development, agricultural conversion, tree encroachment, invasive species like cheatgrass and resulting wildfires have caused the sagebrush ecosystem to shrink to approximately half its original size. As this crucial habitat shrinks and fragments, it becomes increasingly difficult for Greater sage-grouse and other sagebrush-dependent species to travel and survive on the range.

Greater sage-grouse, 350+ other species, and millions of people depend on the iconic sagebrush ecosystem for their survival. The BLM manages about 67 million acres of the remaining Greater sage-grouse habitat. These public lands connect to private, state, and federal lands across the range. Conserving such a large ecosystem and key species like the Greater sage-grouse truly requires an all hands, all lands approach. With this in mind, the BLM and partners are working together and with the Greater sage-grouse plans on efforts that sustain the sagebrush landscape and the many species who call it home. #350species

Story by Nancy Patterson, BLM Rocky Mountain Region

Green roofs

The concept of the green roof is not a new phenomenon; with its basic functionality being utilised for several centuries. A green roof (also known as an eco-roof, nature roof, living roof or roof greening system) is a living, vegetative system that contains a substrate (growing media) and a vegetation layer at its outermost surface. Green roof systems can be used as a way of compensating for the increase of impervious surfaces, providing a visual and recreational escape from the ‘concrete jungles’ of urban landscapes.

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I want to follow more grad school / PhD bloggers! Here for: study tips, PhD life chat, #overlyhonestmethods, fieldwork stories, general despair, teaching tales, etc.

Reblog or like this if you are a grad student and let’s make friends :)

I am an Ecology PhD researcher studying ecosystem services and urban agriculture but I don’t only want to follow researchers in my field! Bonus points if you are though.
'Desperate environmentalism' won't save the environment
When I started teaching environmental law and policy, I thought I would work with the next generation of extraordinary environmentalists. I don't.
By Los Angeles Times

A must read power piece in this week’s LA Times. 

“When I started teaching environmental law and policy, I thought I would work with the next generation of extraordinary environmentalists. I don’t.

My students are extraordinary, but many see themselves as “corporate social responsibility consultants,” “ecosystem service managers,” “sustainability leaders,” “industrial efficiency experts,” maybe “clean energy entrepreneurs” — not environmentalists. They avoid that label because they associate it with stalled progress on the issues they care about. But this reinvention is a losing strategy.

Without a long view, traditional environmentalism can look like a failure.-  

It is hard to blame anyone for shying away from the environmental movement. Many of my students were infants at the time of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments, the last time there was national legislative success on an environmental issue. Without a long view, traditional environmentalism can look like a failure. But dormancy does not equal failure.

The kind of stewardship championed by David Brower, Paul Ehrlich, E.O. Wilson, Morris and Stewart Udall, Edmund Muskie and Richard Nixon reflected their awe at the grandeur, interconnectedness and unpredictability of the ecosystems and wild landscapes. That perspective was transformative. It ushered in the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, to name just a few successes.

This suite of laws produced real results and is still working, still protecting natural systems and the people who rely on them. After all, we have the hopeful and heroic thinkers who gave us the Clean Air Act to thank for the 2015 Clean Power Plan, the only tool the United States has to enforce national climate change action.

But from climate change denial to corporate malfeasance, resistance to enforceable environmental protection is rampant. Seeking any conceivable path forward, many young leaders are exchanging their sympathy for the victims of environmental damage for the concerns of the regulated community. They turn away from enforceability-based approaches and promote more conservative techniques that they hope will impress and persuade reticent and cynical policymakers and power brokers.

If this is environmentalism at all, it is “desperate environmentalism,” characterized not by awe, enthusiasm and enjoyment of nature but by appeasement. It relies on utilitarian efficiencies, cost-benefit analyses, private sector indulgences and anthropocentric divvying of natural resources. It champions voluntary commitments, tweaks to corporate supply chains, protection not of the last great places on Earth but of those places that yield profit or services. From market-friendly cap-and-trade to profit-driven corporate social responsibility, desperate environmentalists angle for the least-bad of the worst options rather than the robust and enforceable safeguards that once defined the movement.

So, why are you an environmentalist? Via LA Times


Pollinators Vital To The Majority Of World’s Food Supply Are Dying Out 

It’s not just bees that are slowly disappearing. All sorts of animals and insects that help pollinate our food might be facing extinction, according to a new report from The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. That list includes bees, butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other creatures.

By: Newsy Science.

Ecosystem services provided by urban green space not only support the ecological integrity of cities, but can also protect the public health of urban populations. Green space may filter air, remove pollution, attenuate noise, cool temperatures, infiltrate storm water, and replenish groundwater; moreover, it can provide food.
—  Wolch, Byrne and Newell  ‘Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough’’ (2014)

achinstraplife  asked:

NBC just published an article titled, "Scientists build case for 'Sixth Extinction' ... and say it could kill us." Obviously climate change and species extinction are real and dangerous things happening right now, but is this headline truly accurate or is it another tactic of sensationalist mass media click-baiting? I feel like I should be better at knowing what's credible and what isn't, but I always want to make certain before I (dis)credit anything.

This is so interesting. I have a bunch of asks about this but, from an evolutionary biology and ecology standpoint, there’s really nothing new about this study. The headline is accurate in it’s way. Yes, we are in the midst of a mass extinction event, yes we are the cause of that event and yes it “could kill us.” 

It probably /won’t/ kill us, but that’s not gonna get any clicks. 

Here’s the abstract of the actual study that these stories are referencing:

The oft-repeated claim that Earth’s biota is entering a sixth “mass extinction” depends on clearly demonstrating that current extinction rates are far above the “background” rates prevailing in the five previous mass extinctions. Earlier estimates of extinction rates have been criticized for using assumptions that might overestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. We assess, using extremely conservative assumptions, whether human activities are causing a mass extinction. First, we use a recent estimate of a background rate of 2 mammal extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (that is, 2 E/MSY), which is twice as high as widely used previous estimates. We then compare this rate with the current rate of mammal and vertebrate extinctions. The latter is conservatively low because listing a species as extinct requires meeting stringent criteria. Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than the background rate. Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear. These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.


Animating Biodiversity, Ecosystems & Sustainability: ‘Not Another Nature Film’

From Green TV

A specially-commissioned animation featuring the voice of Stephen Merchant explaining, in simple terms, the state of our natural world, and our impacts on it.
The 5 Most Important Points of Pope Francis's Climate Change Encyclical
We can and must make things better

Hot topic of the moment. Not everyone agrees with the Pope’s encyclical, and I have little ‘faith’ that the environmental community will do anything more than wave the Pope’s call around for political gain. I doubt they (well, ‘we’ since I am clearly part of the enviro-community!) will change behaviors to pivot to help others. We won’t agree to get involved in political decision making (are you going to run for office or go to your city council meetings?). I doubt we’ll make serious and effective efforts to basically reverse the western way of life. And I am firmly confident the enviro-left will absolutely reject his call to reduce investments and dependence on new technologies.

So, what will change because of his call? After all, conservatives and business leaders around the world have openly condemned Pope Francis as a temporary blip. The right are masters of the ad-hominen attack (namely because the media eats it up). The right thinks the Pope no longer has influence. So, to them, it’s not risky to throw a world-religious leader under the bus. For me, I wonder if there are changes, how will people be held accountable if they don’t act? How will possible changes be monitored and measured? Climate denial knows no bounds.  

Here are the five according to TIME:

1. Climate change is real, and it’s getting worse. Though some politicians in the U.S. still argue about the reality of the climate change, Pope Francis doesn’t mince words: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day,” he says. “If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.”

2. Human beings are a major contributor to climate change. While many agree that climate change is real, some believe that human beings don’t contribute to it. The science suggests otherwise, and Pope Francis—a trained chemist—says human beings do have an effect on the Earth: “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.”

3. Climate change disproportionately affects the poor. Climate change’s worst impact, Pope Francis says, “will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry.” This environmental inequality creates a strange economic phenomenon: Poor countries are often financially indebted to rich countries. The world has what Pope Francis calls a “social debt towards the poor … because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”

4. We can and must make things better. Some of those who study climate change believe this process to be irreversible, too far gone. But Francis—whose first major letter was entitled Joy of the Gospel—says he doesn’t believe we should be robbed of hope. “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”

5. Individuals can help, but politicians must lead the charge. Francis argues that personal responsibility is an important step toward reversing climate change, but that political and structural transformations are needed for lasting change. “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies.”

At our lunchtime Ecology Group meeting today, a third-year PhD student told us about his work on assessing above-ground wood production in forests of different tree species compositions in Spain. He has discovered some very neat patterns suggesting that species richness is positively correlated with productivity, and has proposed some mechanistic explanations based on stability theory. His research forms part of the FunDivEUROPE project, which is analysing the value of functional diversity in forests at a network of plots in Finland, Poland, Germany, Romania, Italy, and Spain.


I’ve talked before in this blog, on a number of occasions, about the instrumental value of our natural environment- the benefits (and fundamental basis) it has for economic and social development. 

However, the intrinsic value of our environment- its value in, and of, itself- is as much a justification for its conservation and protection. This intrinsic beauty and majesty of nature, and the diversity of its ecosystems and landscapes, is often best captured through photography.

Above are a few of my favourite photographs that I have taken in places I have travelled to which convey some of the intrinsic value of nature. (However, it is also worth noting the considerable instrumental value many of these locations provide for society- tourism, natural resources, cultural and spiritual benefits, etc…)

If you would like to see some more of my images, they can be found at my side tumblr blog Everywhere is nowhere.  

The impending enrichment of Arctic countries would not compensate for the costs of runaway Arctic warming. Arctic species, habitats and quite possibly whole ecosystems would be lost. No Arctic country—not even Russia, which has a poor history of conservation—could contemplate wreaking such environmental havoc unilaterally. Yet all are happy to profit from it. That makes the Arctic a textbook illustration of the commons-despoiling tragedy that climate change is.
—  Cold Comfort, The Economist (Special Report: The Arctic)