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Resilience to climate change in agricultural systems

June 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Climate change is impacting agroecosystems widely. Ecological connectivity makes regions more resilient and hence helps conserve biodiversity and combat climate change, while ecologically sound analysis and management help keep agroecosystems alive. In this context, a bioeconomic approach may help guide the integration of natural and human systems. In Umbria, the origin of this approach was the opening lecture of TreviNatura (Trevi, Italy 25-27 October 2015) delivered by Professor Andrew P. Gutierrez (CASAS Global) and titled  “The economy of nature and humans: the role of ecosystem services” that illustrated the often conflicting interaction between humans and nature, and how this interaction can be best understood using bioeconomics, with ecosystem services playing a central role. The region of Umbria in Central Italy is particularly amenable to developing and implementing a holistic approach to the integrated management of agricultural and natural ecosystems, because this region has pioneered biodiversity conservation and management at both national and European level, and it is about to deploy a third improved version of its Regional Ecological Network. Notably, the local environmental protection agency ARPA Umbria is committed to a systemic vision of the environment where the different components (e.g., agricultural, natural, urban) interact in complex ways and hence may not be managed separately. This commitment will build capacity by developing specific research projects, higher education, and training. The Workshop “Biodiversity for ecologically based resilience to climate change in agricultural systems” was a key step for developing a Summer School on Agroecology, to be held during 2018 at the Polvese Island’s Research Center for Climate Change and Biodiversity in Wetlands and Lakes (see the draft program for the Center).

Workshop – Biodiversity for ecologically based resilience to climate change in agricultural systems. Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Perugia, Italy, 31 May 2017. Program and info

Earth observation: bridging the gap to crop-pest systems

November 16, 2016 Leave a comment

The workshop “When Space Meets Agriculture” aimed at promoting a better understanding of the significance and potential of Europe’s space systems (EGNOS/Galileo and Copernicus) for the agricultural sector. While introducing Rural Development Programmes of selected regions and exploring opportunities to set synergies for the development of space applications for the agriculture sector, it will present the main strands of the European Agriculture Policy and more generally link the space community to the agriculture community. Our contribution identified recent and prospective holistic analyses of climate change effects on crop-pest systems in the Mediterranean Basin. The approach used in the analyses involves using physiologically based demographic modeling (PBDM) of crop-pest-natural enemy interactions in the context of a geographic information system (GIS). A major goal is to link the PBDM/GIS technology with increasingly available biophysical datasets from global modeling and satellite observations, and use them to bridge the gap between bottom-up (primarily physiological and population dynamics) and top-down (climatological) GIS approaches for assessing on ground ecosystem level problems, such as agricultural pests.

Ponti L., Gutierrez A.P., Iannetta M., 2016. Climate change and crop-pest dynamics in the Mediterranean Basin. When Space Meets Agriculture: Fostering Interregional collaborations, investments and definition of user requirements. Workshop organized by NEREUS, the Network of European Regions Using Space Technologies, Matera, Italy, 14‐15 November 2016. | Presentation freely available online

Conceptual diagram representing how physiologically-based demographic models bridge the gap between bottom-up (primarily physiological and population dynamics) and top-down (climatological, remote sensing, and ecological niche modeling) GIS approaches for assessing on-ground ecosystem-level problems such as agricultural pests (see Rocchini et al. 2015).

Agrobiodiversity in a changing world

July 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Exotic species that invade new areas cause economic loss annually nearly tenfold that of natural disasters. The economic impact of such biological invasions has been considerable also in agriculture, with many major agricultural pests being invasive species, which number is expected to increase given the combined action of climate warming and globalization, particularly in the Mediterranean Basin. This region is rich in natural and agricultural biodiversity but also considerably vulnerable to biological invasions that threaten key elements of Mediterranean agro-biodiversity such as the traditional perennial crops grape and olive. Currently, most major threats to grape and olive culture are invasive species – often vector borne diseases so serious that the only control method is removal and destruction of infected crop plants. However, how to assess the potential impact of such invasive threats, and hence how to manage them, remains an unresolved and largely unexplored problem. Gaps exist between theory and management of invasive species, mostly due to a limited ability to assess their ecological and economic impact. Mechanistic process-based demographic approaches such as physiologically-based demographic models (PBDMs) have the capacity to bridge these gaps, as they address many of the shortcomings that affect mainstream methods currently used to assess invasive species under climate change.

Ponti L., Gutierrez A.P., 2015. Climate change and invasive species, with a particular focus on vine and olives. A (bio) diverse world: agro-biodiversity in a changing world, EXPO Milano 2015, Milano, Italy, 6 May 2015. http://cascina.fondazionetriulza.org/en/initiative/un-mondo-biodiverso-lagrobiodiversita-in-un-mondo-che-cambia/44/

Risk assessment for tiger mosquito in Europe

July 19, 2015 Leave a comment

The Asian tiger mosquito (Ae. albopictus) is indigenous to the oriental region, but is now widespread throughout the world. It is an aggressive mosquito, which causes nuisance and is well known vector of important human disease. It is one of the world’s most invasive species and is now invading Europe by both natural means and human assisted dispersal. Currently, there is no consensus on the limits of its potential geographic distribution in Europe. For this reason, studying the role that environmental driving variables, mainly temperature, play in determining the spatial variation of the potential population abundance of the mosquito should be considered a high priority. To assess the risk posed by Ae. albopictus to Europe, a lattice model based on the temperature-dependent physiologically based demographic modelling approach has been developed and is being tested against field observations. The area of potential distribution of this insect is simulated as driven by current climate and climate change scenarios. An index of population abundance is derived in order to investigate the average annual abundance as well as the change in the pattern of population dynamics as a function of the local climatic conditions. Uncertainty affecting model parameters is also considered and the implication on model simulation is evaluated.

Gilioli G., Pasquali S., Ponti L., Calvitti M., Moretti R., Gutierrez A.P., 2015. Modelling the potential distribution and abundance of Aedes albopictus in Europe under climate change. Impact of Environmental Changes on Infectious Diseases, Sitges, Spain, 23-25 March 2015. http://www.iecid2015.com

Area of potential establishment for the tiger mosquito in Europe under +2 °C climate warming.

MED Solutions

July 9, 2015 Leave a comment

Launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in August 2012, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) mobilizes scientific and technical expertise from academia, civil society, and the private sector in support of sustainable development problem solving at local, national, and global scales. SDSN is chaired by Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University (for more details see unsdsn.org). University of Siena coordinates the SDSN Regional hub for the Mediterranean (MED Solutions). The second MED Solutions conference was held in Siena on 5-6 March 2015 (http://www.sdsnmedconf.unisi.it). One of the four Solutions for Agri-Food Sustainability selected and presented at the conference was “SPMP-MED: A Sustainable Pest Management technological Platform for the MEDiterranean basin” (see presentation by Dr. Gianni Gilioli linked below) that includes an approach not unlike that used by the GlobalChangeBiology project. The Mediterranean basin is a biodiversity hotspot characterized by intensive and marginal farming that affect biodiversity and ecosystem services. SPMP-MED was proposed as technology for assessing sustainable local and regional pest management using weather driven models with high spatio-temporal resolution. The technology will be made available to a wide range of stakeholders.

Gilioli, G., Caroli A., Memo M., Castelli F., Ponti L., Gutierrez A.P., 2015. SPMP-MED: A Sustainable Pest Management technological Platform for the MEDiterranean basin. Second Conference of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) for the Mediterranean (MED Solutions) “Solutions for Agri-food Sustainability in the Mediterranean: Policies, Technologies and Business Models”, Siena, Italy, 5-6 March 2015. http://www.sdsnmedconf.unisi.it/wp-content/uploads/sites/20/2015/03/Gianni-Gilioli.pdf

Mediterranean-wide analysis of the olive-olive fly system

August 6, 2009 Leave a comment


The Mediterranean Basin is expected to be particularly vulnerable to climate change including pronounced climate warming and desertification. Olive (Olea europaea) is of eco-social importance in the Mediterranean where it was domesticated, and it is also considered a sensitive climate indicator. This crop and its major pest, the olive fly Bactrocera oleae are a suitable model system to study Mediterranean climate. A weather-driven physiologically-based demographic model (PBDM) of olive and olive fly (http://cnr.berkeley.edu/casas/) is being used to analyze this plant-pest system in the Mediterranean region based on ERA-40 weather data (http://www.ecmwf.int/) downscaled via the regional climate model RegCM3 coupled to the MIT ocean model. PBDM predictions are mapped with the open source GIS GRASS (http://grass.osgeo.org/).

Ponti L., Gutierrez A.P., Ruti P.M., 2009. The olive–Bactrocera oleae system in the Mediterranean Basin: a physiologically based analysis driven by the ERA-40 climate data. 5th Study days “Models for Plant Protection”, Piacenza, Italy, 27-29 May 2009.
http://www.grimpp.it/v_giornate_di_studio.htm