The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
In Europe, Climate Change Brings New Crops and Ideas
By Martin Kuebler
With hotter summers, severe storms and prolonged dry spells in the forecast, the outlook for Europe's farmers is daunting.
Average annual temperatures are expected to increase anywhere from 1 to 5.5 degrees Celsius (1.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit), with the strongest warming projected across the south of the continent in the summer months.
A September 2019 report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) noted that heat stress, extreme weather events like flash floods and hailstorms, and water shortages have already changed growing conditions for several crops in Europe — especially for Mediterranean staples like olives and wine grapes.
❓How concerned are you about the impact of #climatechange on #farming in #Europe? #Adaptation will be crucial - fin… https://t.co/XPkbPic6DY— EU EnvironmentAgency (@EU EnvironmentAgency)1568963878.0
Places in northern Europe, meanwhile, could see agricultural benefits from climate change, including longer growing seasons and a shorter frost period "allowing the cultivation of new crops and varieties," said the report. Suitable cropland around the Baltic Sea could more than double by 2100, from 32% of land area today to about 76%, with certain crops now common to southern Europe taking root further north.
UK, Scandinavian Wines
Those climatic changes have already borne fruit — quite literally. In the northern German state of Lower Saxony, where average temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees Celsius in the last several decades, some farmers have started cultivating fruits typically found further south, such as apricots and nectarines. And wine cultivation, typically associated with more southern slopes in France, Spain and Italy, is now taking off in places like Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Ryedale Vineyards, in northeastern England, has been producing British wines since 2006. As one of the UK's northernmost wineries, it relies mainly on hybrid disease-resistant grape varieties more suited to northern Europe's cooler regions.
The warming trend of the past decades has seen the UK's wine industry quadruple in size since 2000, with English vineyards producing some 13.2 million bottles in 2018. But the changing climate does pose other challenges, including unusual weather patterns and increased risk of disease associated with wetter summers. which have been linked to climate change.
"Unpredictable weather events, droughts and intense summer storms are a real problem and seem to have increased in frequency," said Jon Fletcher, who runs Ryedale Vineyards with his family. In an email to DW, he listed off the challenges: late frosts, destructive hailstorms and dry spells that can last for months. "This year we have already had the sunniest May on record and no rainfall for two months, so the unpredictable weather continues."
"Climate change is posing a risk for the sustainability of vineyard management at global scale and, particularly, in Europe," said Josep Maria Sole of VISCA (Vineyards Integrated Smart Climate Application), an EU-funded project that aims to help Europe's wine industry develop medium- and long-term adaption strategies. He said wine producing areas will increasingly suffer from intense heat waves and droughts and, in certain regions in Spain, more intense spring frosts, which can damage grapevine buds.
Blaz Kurnik, an expert on climate change impacts and adaptation at the EEA, said these higher temperatures, especially warmer winters, will also favor the introduction of new diseases and pests, including the olive fruit fly. Increasing swarms are threatening Europe's olive oil industry, responsible for around three-quarters of the world's supply. "In the worst-case scenario, up to 80% of [Italy's] olive trees will be affected by this every year," said Kurnik, adding that flies were also infesting Spain's olive groves.
Mango, Avocado and Lychee: Europe's Future Cash Crops?
Italy, which ranks second in the world for olive oil production, saw a disastrous harvest in 2018. Bad weather and frost caused production to drop by 57%, representing a loss of nearly €1 billion ($1.13 billion).
Sicily is one of Italy's top olive oil-producing regions, along with Calabria and Puglia. But some farmers there have begun focusing their attention on crops native to tropical regions, including mangoes, avocado and lychee fruit.
Tropical crops were first introduced to Sicily back in the 1970s, but recent years have seen an exponential growth of these crops and the introduction of new species such as papaya, replacing citrus fruits which "are no longer remunerative," said Vittorio Farina, an associate professor in agriculture at the University of Palermo.
"The favorable climate of many areas in the Mediterranean basin is promoting tropical fruit cultivations," he said in an email to DW. "In fact, the predominant mango and avocado production is concentrated in tropical countries, but recently its cultivation has spread outside the traditional geographical regions to the Mediterranean basin and in particular in Egypt, Israel, South Africa, Europe, mainly Spain and Italy."
Farina said a succession of milder winters has favored the expansion of mango, avocado and papaya orchards destined for export markets further north, though the corresponding drier summers and extreme weather events remain a challenge.
"The problem of the scarcity of water resources for agriculture will increasingly impose the introduction of species with low water requirements," said Farina, suggesting the possible introduction of fruit like the cactus pear. "For most other tropical species, irrigation in the warm months in the dry areas is an essential condition for obtaining a quality product." Farina said they were testing precision irrigation strategies to limit the water footprint of the tropical crops.
Finding the Right Solution
Margarita Ruiz-Ramos, an associate professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, told DW that new crops were also being tested in Spain, including pistachios. However, she stressed that the priority now was experimenting with different varieties of existing crops that could withstand new growing conditions — such as types of fruit that don't rely as heavily on winter chill to produce spring blossoms.
"There already is the possibility to adapt the variety without changing the [main] crop in the short to medium term," she said, pointing out that some crops could also shift to other more suitable areas within the same country.
As part of her work at the Research Center for the Management of Agricultural and Environmental Risks, Ruiz-Ramos analyzes crop varieties, planting schedules, soil conditions, irrigation options and many other variables to find the optimum strategy for farmers and "design locally tailored adaptations." The most promising solutions are then tested in the field.
"It's a compromise between different needs. And that's why it's not so obvious as to just bring in some African crops," she said. However, she didn't rule out the fact that dramatic temperature changes could one day lead growers to take a chance on non-native crops.
Yves Madre, a co-founder of Brussels-based think tank Farm Europe, said the EU's farming sector needs to be more open to new breeding techniques that would introduce drought and disease-tolerance genes to existing crops, which can include genome editing.
With more innovation and investment, he said the EU would be able to meet its goals in terms of food security and growth, especially in rural areas.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
- Europe's Hot Summer Weather Could Worsen the Effects of COVID-19 ›
- 'Disturbing': Europe Is Warming Much Faster Than Science Predicted ›
- A Shortage of Beer and Fries? Climate Change Hits Europe Where It ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
- Coral Reef Tipping Point: 'Near-Annual' Bleaching May Occur ... ›
- Scientists Warn Humanity in Denial of Looming 'Collapse of ... ›
To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.
A new EarthxTV film special calls for the protection of the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous people that call it home. EarthxTV.org
- Meet the 'Women Warriors' Protecting the Amazon Forest - EcoWatch ›
- Indigenous Tribes Are Using Drones to Protect the Amazon ... ›
- Amazon Rainforest Will Collapse by 2064, New Study Predicts ... ›
- Deforestation in Amazon Skyrockets to 12-Year High Under Bolsonaro ›
- Amazon Rainforest on the Brink of Turning Into a Net Carbon Emitter ... ›
By Anke Rasper
"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.
- World Leaders Fall Short of Meeting Paris Agreement Goal - EcoWatch ›
- UN Climate Change Conference COP26 Delayed to November ... ›
- 5 Years After Paris: How Countries' Climate Policies Match up to ... ›
- Biden Win Puts World 'Within Striking Distance' of 1.5 C Paris Goal ... ›
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?
- This Indian Startup Turns Polluted Air Into Climate-Friendly Tiles ... ›
- How to Win the Fight Against Plastic - EcoWatch ›
In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
- Appalachian Fracking Boom Was a Jobs Bust, Finds New Report ... ›
- Long-Awaited EPA Study Says Fracking Pollutes Drinking Water ... ›
- Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Much Higher Than ... ›