Sunday, October 28, 2012

New items for the new semester

Welcome to new students for this semester. To start off the semester I picked three new items from the last few days.

First is the issues of biodiversity and especially ecosystem services. This article from ARKive shows how some pesticides are killing bumblebees. These bees are very important for pollination of many crops. Loss of bee population is a loss of biodiversity and pollination is a good example of an ecosystem service. (See also this video from the BBC.)

Of course one of the big environmental topics is global warming. The biggest issue for this year is the fact that the Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of this year. One thing agreed to in the last year's negotiations is the Global Climate Fund (GCF). Last week there was a meeting to setup the GCF (which has no money yet pledged). It agreed that the fund headquarters would be in South Korea. For this and other results of this meeting see this report from World Resources Institute.

One source of greenhouses gases (which cause global warming), that is often not recognized, is rice farming. Bacteria associated with the rice root system produce methane, a greenhouse gas stronger than carbon dioxide. This study shows that global warming may actually be increasing the amount of methane produced by rice. This is an example of a feedback mechanism.

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