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Japan's Record-Breaking Heatwave Declared Natural Disaster, 80 Dead

Climate
A man wipes perspiration from his head in Tokyo on July 24, 2018, as Japan suffers from a heatwave. Martin Bureau / Getty Images

Hot, dry and fiery conditions are being seen by many parts of the globe right now. This includes Japan, where the nation's meteorological agency just declared the extreme heat a "natural disaster."


An agency spokesman said that "unprecedented levels of heat" were being felt, as quoted by AFP.

The city of Kumagaya, located about 40 miles northwest of Tokyo, even broke the country's all-time record when it reached 106 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday. The previous record was 105.8 degrees, set on Aug. 12, 2013 in the town of Ekawasaki.

The ongoing heatwave "is fatal, and we recognize it as a natural disaster," the weather agency spokesman added.

Preliminary government data shows that the heatwave caused 65 deaths from July 16-22. Another 22,647 people were also sent to hospitals with heat stroke symptoms. Both of the figures are the highest for one week since record-keeping began in 2008, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

As of Tuesday, Fire and Disaster Management Agency said a total of 80 people have died from the heat since the beginning of July, and more than 35,000 have been hospitalized, AFP reported.

Japan's meteorological agency expects that temperatures will continue to be 95 degrees and higher into August, USA TODAY reported. Officials advised people to stay hydrated, stay indoors, use air conditioning and avoid direct sunlight.

The sweltering conditions come not long after historic flooding and mudslides killed more than 220 people in western and central Japan.

As EcoWatch previously mentioned, that weather disaster fell in line with government predictions for the impact of climate change on Japan. A 2012 report found that global warming could increase the risk of flooding and landslide disasters due to heavy rain.

"I've felt the seasons change about 20 days earlier than usual, and the rainy season also ended much earlier. It must be global warming," a Japanese woman commented to AFP's cameras.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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