Dicamba Drift Could Put 60 Million Acres of Monarch Habitat at Risk
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Dicamba—a drift-prone herbicide linked to millions of acres of off-target crop damage across in 17 states—destroys mostly everything in its path except the crops that are genetically engineered to resist it. It's so damaging that several states, including Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri have introduced temporary bans on the weedkiller.
There's now another reason to worry about the controversial chemical. It's particularly harmful to milkweed, the only host plant for the iconic and already at-risk monarch buttery.
In a new report publisehd Thursday, researchers with the Center for Biological Diversity warn that the expanded use of dicamba, which is projected to increase by nearly 100-fold on cotton and soybean fields, will put more than 60 million acres of monarch habitat at risk by 2019.
BREAKING: In our new report we found that within two years, dicamba will be used on more than 60 million acres of c… https://t.co/7LB9dWaBXB— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1519926704.0
Here are some key findings from the paper:
- Accelerating harm: In addition to 61 million acres of monarch habitat being directly sprayed with dicamba, an additional 9 million acres could be harmed by drift of the pesticide.
- Deadly timing: The timing and geographical distribution of dicamba use coincides precisely with the presence of monarch eggs and larva on milkweed.
- Double trouble: Dicamba degrades monarch habitat both by harming flowering of plants that provide nectar for adults as they travel south for the winter and by harming milkweed that provides an essential resource for reproduction.
- Greater menace to milkweed: Research has shown that just 1 percent of the minimum dicamba application rate is sufficient to reduce the size of milkweed by 50 percent, indicating it may have a greater impact on milkweed growth than the already widely used pesticide glyphosate.
Populations of the once-common butterfly have plummeted approximately 80 percent in just the last two decades. A major threat to the species is its loss of habitat due to the lack of availability of milkweed through land conversion for agriculture, removal of native plants and the use of pesticides.
"America's monarchs are already in serious trouble, and this will push them into absolute crisis," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, and author of the report, A Menace to Monarchs.
"It's appalling that the EPA approved this spraying without bothering to consider the permanent damage it will do to these butterflies and their migration routes."
The paper notes that in 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's approval for expanded use of dicamba included nearly 500 pages of ecological analyses, but "glaringly omitted any mention or examination of the threat to monarchs."
For the study, the researchers examined monarch habitat and projected dicamba usage rates in the coming years, which is estimated to reach about 57 million pounds annually. They produced an interactive map showing the locations and time when monarch eggs and larva were sighted, along with the locations and timing of when cotton and soybean crops may be sprayed with dicamba.
The Center for Biological Diversity says the EPA has refused to take the necessary action to address the harms caused by the chemical.
"There's no question that use of dicamba across tens of millions of acres will deepen risks to our dangerously imperiled monarch populations," said Donley. "When dicamba's use on GE cotton and soybeans comes up for reapproval later this year, the only responsible thing for the EPA to do is allow that approval to expire."
From the study: "This indicates that dicamba will be used across the South, East and Midwest at the precise time of year when milkweed is absolutely essential to perpetuate the northern migration of monarchs."
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By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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