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200+ Scientists Want Trump-Backer and Climate Denial Funder Rebekah Mercer Kicked Off Natural History Museum Board
By Julia Conley
More than 200 scientists have called on the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) to cut ties with board member Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire backer of President Donald Trump who has also funded "climate denial" groups in order to protect the fossil fuel industry's pollution-causing extraction of oil and gas.
"We ask the American Museum of Natural History, and all public science museums, to end ties to anti-science propagandists and funders of climate science misinformation, and to have Rebekah Mercer leave the American Museum of Natural History Board of Trustees," wrote the group, which includes James Hansen, who first brought climate change to the U.S. government's attention in 1988, and other prominent researchers.
Mercer has held her position on the museum's board since 2013. Along with her billionaire father, Robert Mercer, she oversees the Mercer Family Foundation. The group has donated more than $2 million to organizations that deny the consensus that the earth is in a state of climate crisis driven by human activity.
The foundation's contributions include $800,000 to the Heartland Institute, which holds regular meetings promoting the denial of climate crisis, and $500,000 to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank which, as recently as this month, has published articles claiming that cold weather proves that the Earth is not warming.
"The most important asset any museum has is its credibility," wrote the scientists. "This can be damaged by ties to donors and board members who are publicly known for investing in climate science obfuscation and opposing environmental solutions."
Mercer has also sought to directly impact the Trump administration's climate policy. She reportedly suggested to the president that Arthur Robinson, who has called scientists' belief in climate crisis "a false religion" and distributed a widely-discredited petition signed by supposed experts which stated that global warming is not harmful, should be named the administration's chief science advisor.
Along with calling for Mercer's dismissal, the letter took issue with "misleading information on climate science in an Exxon-funded exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History," which environmental economist Jonah Busch drew attention to in a tweet last week.
"To its credit, the AMNH's response was swift: it committed to updating the outdated information to reflect the best available science," the scientists noted. "But the initial online public anger showed that trust in the museum is undermined by the museum's association with climate science opponents."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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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.