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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

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Traditional farming and the Mediterranean diet

September 10, 2016 Leave a comment

The Mediterranean diet is described by the UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity website (http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00884) as encompassing more than just food of the various cultures. These diets are embedded in bio-cultural landscapes that are at risk from global markets, industrial agriculture, invasive species and climate change, and yet little research aimed at conserving this Mediterranean agricultural heritage is being conducted. A focus on preserving traditional Mediterranean agricultural systems provides unique opportunities to link UNESCO-SCBD’s Joint Programme on Biological and Cultural Diversity (http://www.cbd.int/lbcd/​) and FAO’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems initiative (GIAHS, http://www.fao.org/giahs/) with the goal of developing strategies and policy to preserve this heritage and the food production systems that are its basis for future generations. An important step in this direction is the development of holistic ecosystem-level assessments of the stability and resilience of traditional Mediterranean farming systems to evolving global change including climate change and shifting economic patterns and associated landscape transformations. A holistic approach is an important step to ensure ecologically sustainable development, conserve cultural identities, improve farming community livelihood, preserve agro-biodiversity and ensure the continued provision of vital ecosystem services for humanity.

Ponti L., Gutierrez A.P., Altieri M.A., 2016. Preserving the Mediterranean diet through holistic strategies for the conservation of traditional farming systems. In: Agnoletti M., Emanueli F. (eds.), Biocultural Diversity in Europe, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland: 453-469. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-26315-1_24

Linking UNESCO-SCBD’s Joint Programme on Biological and Cultural Diversity and FAO’s GIAHS initiative may help preserve the traditional Mediterranean agricultural heritage.

Bioeconomic sustainability of cellulosic biofuel production

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

The use of marginal land (ML) for lignocellulosic biofuel production is examined for system stability, resilience, and eco-social sustainability. A North American prairie grass system and its industrialization for maximum biomass production using biotechnology and agro-technical inputs is the focus of the analysis. Demographic models of ML biomass production and ethanol farmer/producers are used to examine the stability properties of the ML system. A bio-economic model that maximizes the utility of consumption having the dynamics of MLs and the farmer/producers as dynamic constraints is used to examine the effects of increased conversion efficiency, input costs, risk, and levels of base resources and inputs on the competitive and societal solutions for biomass production. We posit ML abandonment after biofuel production ceases could lead to permanent land degradation below initial levels that prohibit the establishment of the original flora and fauna.

Gutierrez A.P., Ponti L., 2009. Bio-economic sustainability of cellulosic biofuel production on marginal lands. Bulletin of Science Technology and Society, 29: 213-225.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0270467609333729