Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

World Vegetable Harvests Threatened by Environmental Changes

Food
World Vegetable Harvests Threatened by Environmental Changes
Pexels

Climate change is boxing us into a dietary corner. Research last month suggested that avoiding meat and dairy was the best thing an individual could do to reduce their ecological footprint, but now scientists predict that rising global temperatures and other changes could make vegetable and legume alternatives harder to come by.


The new study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the first to consider the impacts of climate change on the harvest of non-staple vegetables and legumes. It found that if no action is taken, environmental changes predicted for the second half of the 21st century could reduce vegetable and legume yields by around one-third.

"Vegetables and legumes are vital components of a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet and nutritional guidelines consistently advise people to incorporate more vegetables and legumes into their diet. Our new analysis suggests, however, that this advice conflicts with the potential impacts of environmental changes that will decrease the availability of these important crops unless action is taken," study lead author Dr. Pauline Scheelbeek of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said in a LSHTM press release.

While the potential impact of climate change on staple crops has been studied in depth, all that was known about its impact on non-staple vegetables was that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might increase yields.

To get a more complete picture, researchers examined every experimental study published since 1975 on the impact of various environmental changes on vegetable and legume yield and nutritional content in 40 countries.

Based on the data, the researchers estimated how changes predicted for the mid-to-late 21st century, such as increased carbon dioxide levels, increased ozone levels, decreased water availability, increased water salinity and increased temperatures, would impact yields and nutrition.

Impacts on nutrition were mixed, but researchers found worrying changes in the potential yields of these healthy foods. While they found that an increase in carbon dioxide of 250 parts per million would increase vegetable and legume yields by an average of 22 percent, this was counteracted by the impact of other changes. A 25 percent increase in ozone would decrease yields by 8.9 percent, a 50 percent increase in water scarcity would decrease yields by 34.7 percent, a 25 percent increase in salinity would decrease yields by 2.3 percent and a four degree Celsius increase in temperature in warmer regions like Southern Europe, Africa and South Asia would decrease yields there by 31.5 percent.

Senior study author and LSHTM Professor Alan Dangour said the results were a call to action for governments, agricultural workers and public health officials.

"Our analysis suggests that if we take a 'business as usual' approach, environmental changes will substantially reduce the global availability of these important foods. Urgent action needs to be taken, including working to support the agriculture sector to increase its resilience to environmental changes and this must be a priority for governments across the world," Dangour said in the release.

"But our study also identifies the broader policy relevance of environmental change. Vegetables and legumes are essential constituents of healthy diets and so efforts to ensure that their global availability is not threatened by predicted environmental changes must also be high on the global public health agenda," he said.

A seagull flies in front of the Rampion offshore wind farm in the United Kingdom. Neil / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

A key part of the United States' clean energy transition has started to take shape, but you may need to squint to see it. About 2,000 wind turbines could be built far offshore, in federal waters off the Atlantic Coast, in the next 10 years. And more are expected.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Frank La Sorte and Kyle Horton

Millions of birds travel between their breeding and wintering grounds during spring and autumn migration, creating one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. These journeys often span incredible distances. For example, the Blackpoll warbler, which weighs less than half an ounce, may travel up to 1,500 miles between its nesting grounds in Canada and its wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Kevin Maillefer / Unsplash

By Lynne Peeples

Editor's note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. Read the launch story, "Thirsting for Solutions," here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city's tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

Read More Show Less
Eat Just's cell-based chicken nugget is now served at Singapore restaurant 1880. Eat Just, Inc.

At a time of impending global food scarcity, cell-based meats and seafood have been heralded as the future of food.

Read More Show Less
New Zealand sea lions are an endangered species and one of the rarest species of sea lions in the world. Art Wolfe / Photodisc / Getty Images

One city in New Zealand knows what its priorities are.

Dunedin, the second largest city on New Zealand's South Island, has closed a popular road to protect a mother sea lion and her pup, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less