Friday, March 27, 2009

Images that make you think...

Click on picture to read journal article.

This is a picture of the polar ice cap as September 2007. The figure also gives you the boundaries in three different time periods. In the graph at the bottom of the figure, it gives the rate of melting. The rate has a sudden increase as of 2007. When the ice cap melts, it reflects less solar radiation and more is absorbed by the oceans. This absorption is a feedback that melts more ice, so the rate continues to increase.

Another frightening thing is the increase of greenhouse gases (GHG), mostly attributed to carbon dioxide.

Historically, the concentration of carbon dioxide is the highest that it has ever been. Doubter of global warming tells us it is a cycle. It is a cycle, but humans have influenced it so much that at the last peak the concentration of carbon dioxide was 325 parts-per-million (ice cores estimates from 100-millions years ago), now it is at 380 parts-per-million, far exceeding anything throughout geological history. Ten-time more rapid than geological changes!

Reflect on this for a while to see what we are doing

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sigma Xi Grant Proposal

The Roles of Natural and Semi-Natural Habitats in the Biodiversity of Beneficial Insects in Agricultural Landscapes.

Increased demands for food, livestock and biofuels have led to agricultural intensification and reductions in natural and semi-natural habitats that provide plant pollinators and natural enemies of insect pests with nectar, prey, and nesting resources. Connectivity between natural habitats in agricultural landscapes is thought to enhance the diversity of beneficial insects. Land-use practices that retain natural and semi-natural habitats may therefore support a high species diversity and abundance of beneficial insects, and the ecosystem services they provide.

Species diversity is important to community recovery following a disturbance (i.e., planting, spraying, or harvesting), especially for beneficial insects with limited dispersal abilities. Natural and semi-natural habitats provide structural complexity that supports larger populations and higher between-patch (beta) diversity of beneficial insects. Beta diversity provides “insurance” that the loss of function with a decline of one species will be replaced by a functionally similar species, therefore buffering against agricultural disturbance. In the Midwest US, marginal lands planted with perennial vegetation under the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) may provide important ecosystem services beyond erosion control and wildlife habitat. My proposed research will examine whether these ecosystem services also include a diversity of beneficial insects.

I will test three hypotheses: (1) the size and connectivity of semi-natural CRP habitats determines the within-patch (alpha) diversity and between-patch (beta) diversity of pollinators and natural enemies, with larger, more connected areas; (2) the relative amount of intensive (row crops) and extensive (pastures/meadows) land uses will influence the diversity, abundance, and species composition of beneficial insects; and (3) CRP plantings with warm season vs. cool season grasses affects the diversity of beneficial insects. I predict landscapes with larger, more connected natural and semi-natural habitats will have higher alpha and beta diversity of beneficial insects, and that native warm-season plantings will support a higher diversity of beneficial than cool-season grasslands.

My research will focus CRP habitats at 20 locations in 30 km2 of southwest OH. Sites are 2-20 ha in size and planted in either cool- or warm-season grasses and forbs. At each site, 3 x 5 grids of combined flight intercept/pan traps will be used to sample beneficial insects. Pollard walks will be used to estimate butterfly diversity, and transects will be used to sample plant species composition and flower availability. Trap samples will be sorted into bees (Apidae), flower visiting flies (Syrphidae and Calliphoridae), generalist predators (spiders, beetles, and true bugs), and parasitic Hymenoptera. Digital orthophotos, Landsat imagery, and GIS will be used to quantify the size and arrangement of surrounding land-use types at several radial distances around each site. I will use general linear mixed models and multivariate ordinations to determine how the species richness and abundance of pollinators and natural enemies vary with plant species composition, habitat area and connectivity of CRP land, and surrounding land uses.

My study will increase our understanding of the ecosystem services provided by semi-natural areas in agricultural landscapes, and inform landowners and agencies (USDA – NRCS) on CRP of land-use practices that promote the abundance and diversity of beneficial insects.

Bianchi, F. J. J. A., Booij, C. J. H., and Tscharntke, T. 2006. Sustainable pest regulation in agricultural landscapes: a review on landscape composition, biodiversity and natural pest control. Proc. of the R. Soc. 273, 1715-1727

Clough, Y., Holzschuh, A., Gabriel, D., Purtauf, T., Kleijn, D., Kruess, A., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Tscharntke, T. 2007. Alpha and beta diversity of anthropods and plants in organically and conventional managed wheat fields. J. of Appl. Ecol. 44, 804-812

Holzschuh, A., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Kleijn, D., and Tscharntke, T. 2007. Diversity of flower-visiting bees in cereal fields: effects of farming system, landscape composition and regional context. J of Appl. Ecol. 44, 41-49

Kremen, C., Williams, N. M., and Thorp, R. W. 2002. Crop pollinaton from native bees at risk from agricultural intensification. Proc. Nat. Aced. Sci. 99, 16812-16816

Kremen, C., Williams, N. M., Bugg, R. L., Fay, J. P., and Thorp, R. W. 2004. The area requirement of an ecosystem service: crop pollination by native bee communities in California. Ecol. Lett. 7, 1109-1119

Kremen, C., Williams, M.N., Aizen, M.A., Gemmill-Herren, B., LeBuhn, G., Minckley, R., Packer, L., Potts, S.G., Roulston, T., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Vázquez, D. P., Winfree, R., Adams, L., Greenleaf, S. S., Keitt, T. H., Klein, A., Regtz, J., and Ricketts, T. H. 2007. Pollination and other ecosystem services produced by mobile organism: a conceptual framework for the effects of land-use change. Ecol. Lett. 10, 299-314

Ricketts, T. H., Regetz, J., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Cunningham, S. A., Kremen, C., Bogdanski, A., Gennill-Herren, B., Greenfield, S. S., Klien A. M., Mayfield, M. M., Morandin, L. A., Ochieng, A., Viana, B. 2008. Landscape effects on crop pollination services: are these general patterns? Ecol. Lett. 11, 499-515

Tscharntke, T., Bommarco, R., Clough, Y., Crist, T. O., Kleijn, D., Rand, T. a., Tylianakis, J. M., van Nouhuys, S., and Vidal, S. 2007. Conservation biological control and enemy diversity on a landscape scale. Biol. Cont. 43, 294-309

Vollhardt, I. M. G., Tschartke, T., Wäckers, F. L., Bianchi, F. J. J. A., Theis, C. 2008. Diversity of cereal aphid parasitiod in simple and complex landscapes. Agri., Ecos., and Envi. 126, 289-292

Winfree, R., Williams N. M., Gaines, H., Ascher, J. S., and Kremen, C. 2008. Wild bee pollinators provide the majority of crop visitation across land-use gradients in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, USA. J. of Appl. Ecol. 45, 793-802

Yanchi, S. and Loreau M. 1999. Biodiversity an ecosystem productivity on a fluctuating environment: the insurance hypothesis. Proc. Nat. Aced. Sci. 96, 1463-1498

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stop thinking of alternative fuels and start thinking of conservation

As of lately, all I hear is that we need to have a source of energy that is sustainable and not reliable on foreign oil. A new source that we need to use that is clean. A source or energy that has little impact on the environment. We are exploring for new sources of energy, wind, solar, hydropower, nuclear, etc., that we can use instead of oil. I also hear that we don’t need to rely on other countries and we can drill for oil off of our coast or have little impact and drill in pristine habitat. What I don’t hear is conservation. Let’s stop. With our exploration of alternative fuels, we don’t see how they still impact our climate.

Bio-fuels: What a bad idea. First off, for us to grow corn, soy beans, switch grass, etc. we need land that is not already in production for food. One of the worst ideas was to take our food source and make it into a source of energy. That alone has drove up the price of food. Alone almost everything has high fructose corn syrup in it. So instead, we clear lands to make them able for production. When clear lands of natural habitat, this releases carbon that we try to sequester back into the atmosphere. By one estimate, Searchinger et al. (2008) found that by using corn-base ethanol, instead of producing a 20% saving in greenhouse gas, it nearly doubles it over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. This “bio-fuel carbon debt” releases 17 to 420 times more carbon dioxide that the annual greenhouse gas reduction that these bio-fuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels (Fargione et al. 2008).

Hydropower: Today, by estimate, there are at least 75,000 dams in U.S. rivers alone. These dams stop the flood pulses that rivers require to be healthy. Dams stop natural migration of fish. Behind dams, lie sediments and decaying organic matter that releases methane, another greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere (Giles 2006). So, instead of harnessing water for power, it impacts the environments in different ways.

Nuclear: As of December 31, 2007, there are 104 commercial nuclear power generators in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). For us to make nuclear power we need to mine radioactive ore and once the ore has depleted in the reactor it becomes waste. Mining ore from the earth pollutes the land and nearby streams and getting rid of the radioactive waste is highly problematic. Where do we put it? One solution is to bury deep down under a mountain. Is that the best that they can come up with?

Solar: This is a great idea, except that we have to mine for elements that are found in solar cells that harness the suns energy. Of all of these, I can see this as one that doesn’t impact the environment as much as others, but it still does.

Wind: Again, you need to material to build windmills that will last and that requires mining or stripping the land. Then there is the issue of visual or noise pollution and interfering with song-bird migration, which is a federal offense and protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act that decreed that all migratory birds and their parts (including eggs, nests, and feathers) were fully protected. But again, I see this is one that doesn’t impacts the environment as much as others.

From what I see, there is no answer to our problem. For mor information on official energy statistic from the U.S. government, visit the EIA website. Conservation is our only answer. Instead of being reliant on things that require sources outside of your area, make a change so that you can get everything that you need from inside of your community. This is the change that is needed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Too many and not enough

As of July, 2008, according to the CIA, the world population is now over 6 billion people and by 2012 we will reach another milestone of 7 billion. Of that, China has the most settling in at 1.3 billion followed behind by India (1.1 billion) and the U.S. (305 million). Some nations (Monaco) are so crowded that that they have almost 17,000 people per square km (for all those Americans that do not know the metric system that would be approximately 1/3 of a mile squared). Those numbers are astounding, who would think that there are that many people on earth. Now think of it in resources. How much grain does the world have to make to feed that many mouths? How many animals have to be domesticated then sent to slaughter to fulfill the needs of many? How many resources are we raping form earth to keep humans living? How many species are we causing to go extinct because we are selfish?

One thing that I find appalling is that Japan is letting their workers go home early to procreate. This is because that there population is declining with a birth rate of 1.34 well below that of 2.07, the amount of children that need to be born to replace the parents and to keep a population stable. I question why? I know that there has to be a base to keep the economy stable, but that imparts that the world population has to continue to grow. There has to be a point where it can’t grow anymore. There has to be a point where all the resources are gone and there in no more to take from the earth. Technology will not save us. What will eventually happen is that we, as a species, are so dumb is that we will cause our own extinction, but not before we kill everything else off. Sit back and reflect on that for a while…