Quantcast
Trump Watch
Climate Change
Energy
Food
Science
Animals
Business
Insights + Opinion
Oceans
Politics
Health + Wellness
Adventure
GMO - Genetically Modified Organism
Sponsored by: Amalgamated Bank - Business + Money
Fracking
Renewable Energy

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.

Hurricane Irene caused a stormquake near Little Bahama Bank in 2011. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Powerful hurricanes and other storms can actually cause small earthquakes in the ocean, scientists have found.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Graphical representation of vertical pectoral herding by whale in Southeast Alaska. Prey are denoted in yellow. Whale deploys an upward-spiral bubble-net to corral prey and establish the first barrier; pectorals then protract to form a 'V' shape around the open mouth (depicted by blue arrows), creating a second physical barrier. Kyle Kosma / Royal Society Open Science / CC BY 4.0

When you have a whale-sized appetite, you need to figure out some pretty sophisticated feeding strategies. They mysteries of how a humpback whale traps so much prey have eluded scientists, until now.

Read More Show Less
A Lyme disease warning on Montauk, Long Island, New York. Neil R / Flickr

Biomedical engineers have developed a new, rapid test capable of detecting Lyme disease in just 15 minutes.

Read More Show Less
A. Battenburg / Technical University of Munich

Algae in a pond may look flimsy. But scientists are using algae to develop industrial-strength material that's as hard as steel but only a fraction of the weight.



Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Marlene Cimons

Scientist Aaswath Raman long has been keen on discovering new sources of clean energy by creating novel materials that can make use of heat and light.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Scientists have connected air pollution with a host of health issues — such as cancer, lung and heart diseases — that the World Health Organization says leads to more than 7 million premature deaths each year. But toxic air may also be driving a different type of public health issue: violent crime.

Read More Show Less
Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. Robbie Shade / CC BY 2.0

Google has continued to curry political favor with staunch conservatives by making substantial financial contributions to more than a dozen groups that deny that the climate crisis is real, as The Guardian revealed in a bombshell investigation.

Read More Show Less
Bubbles of methane gas frozen into clear ice in Baikal Lake in Siberia. Streluk / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Russian scientists on an Arctic expedition have discovered, for the first time, methane "boiling" on the surface of the water that is visible to the naked eye. Forget high-tech detection devices, the methane is so pronounced that it can be scooped from the water in buckets, as Newsweek reported.

Read More Show Less
gerenme / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Christopher Curley

Today's high-efficiency home washing machines might not be eliminating bacteria as thoroughly as their older, less-efficient counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Biologist releases GMO mosquitoes in Piracicaba, Brazil on Feb. 11, 2016. Victor Moriyama / Getty Images

By Natalie Kofler, Françoise Baylis, Graham Dellaire, Landon J Getz

Every year, around one million people die of mosquito-borne diseases according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is why mosquitoes are considered one of the deadliest living creatures on the planet — not because they are lethal themselves, but because many of the viruses and parasites they transmit are.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored