Rare dolphin species spotted in the Adriatic Sea

August 26, 2020 by  
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The Delphinus delphis , an uncommon dolphin species, has been repeatedly spotted in the Adriatic Sea. According to recent research led by marine scientists at the University of St Andrews, the rare dolphin has been observed multiple times off the coasts of Italy and Slovenia. The research was done in collaboration with Morigenos Slovenian Marine Mammal Society with a goal to determine the occurrence of common dolphins in the Gulf of Trieste and the Northern Adriatic Sea. The findings of the study, published in the journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems , came as a shock to many scientists, given that Delphinus delphis was considered regionally extinct in the Adriatic Sea. The decline in Delphinus delphis numbers in the Adriatic Sea can be traced back to misinformed policies put in place by Italy and former Yugoslavia in the mid-20th century. At the time, this species of dolphin was considered a pest to the fishing industry. The two countries encouraged people to kill these dolphins for monetary reward to reduce competition for fish. In the 1970s, the number of Delphinus delphis dropped significantly, leading to the species being listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Besides the direct killing of the species, increased fishing activities have also led to a reduction in the number of dolphins in the Adriatic Sea. Related: Lapsed fishing moratorium endangers Amazon river dolphins Over the past 30 years, Delphinus delphis have been very rare in this area, leading to speculations that they might be regionally extinct . However, the recent findings show that Delphinus delphis are showing up more regularly, with four animals spotted repeatedly over a 4-year span. The research, conducted through photo-identification, also shows that some of the dolphins spotted in the Adriatic Sea had traveled as far as 1,000 kilometers. “Unfortunately, the species continues to be rare in the region. It is difficult to say if the species is likely to make a comeback to the Adriatic Sea,” said Tilen Genov, leader of the research team and member of the Sea Mammal Research Unit for University of St Andrews. “The chances for that are likely slim, as there is currently no evidence of any increase in common dolphin abundance or sightings anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea. But hopefully, this contribution can serve as a baseline and encourage potential future cases to be reported, in order to provide further insights into the occurrence of common dolphins in the region.” + Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems Image via University of St Andrews

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Modern passive house is carbon-negative and energy-positive

August 26, 2020 by  
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Designed by McLean Quinlan Architects, the Devon Passivhaus combines contemporary architecture with a rustic outdoor setting. The modern passive house uses a minimalist-yet-elegant brick wall as its facade, with a discreet doorway carved into the front and a simple oriel glass window to peek inside at the stunning interiors. The brick design is modeled after an existing garden wall that connects the property, while the front door mimics the style of an old gate that would have accompanied such a wall in the past. The original garden and footprint inspired the design of the home, while the historic brick paths leading up to the property were restored as well. The house is certified Passive and includes eco-friendly features such as air source heating, MVHR, solar power , battery storage, super-insulation and triple-glazing in order to sustain over 100% of its required energy. Related: Local earth bricks form this inspiring co-working space in Ouagadougou Past the initial brick and into the interior of the home, a glass roofed courtyard with a winter garden is located in the center, helping to channel natural light to the inside. Natural and repurposed materials, including reclaimed terracotta, sawn oak wood and clay plaster, are found throughout the home in order to connect it with the outdoors. The clients are also avid art collectors, so the designers were sure to include spaces to display and curate their many pieces of pottery and paintings. The project leaders decided to aim toward passive capability after achieving planning under the open countryside house route. “We’d always aimed to make the house high performing, but having a benchmark to aim for and test against enabled the whole project team to get behind the ambition,” said Fiona McLean of McLean and Quinlan Architects. “The wall panels, 4Wall fromTribus, were an innovative product. A ‘hyperSIP’ panel constructed using steel framing and magnesium oxide boards sandwiching PIR insulation. Their benefits were excellent airtightness, waterproof, minimal thermal bridging, good core strength and low U-Values.” According to the clients, they’ve become carbon-negative and energy-positive by 40% thanks to the clever design. In the sunny summer months, the house generates 3,500kwh of electricity while only using 60kwh, with remaining power stored in the grid. + McLean and Quinlan Photography by Jim Stephenson via McLean and Quinlan

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Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change

August 7, 2020 by  
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Planting tiny urban forests can boost biodiversity and fight climate change Alex Thornton Fri, 08/07/2020 – 00:30 How much space do you think you need to grow a forest? If your answer is bigger than a couple of tennis courts, think again. Miniature forests are springing up on patches of land in urban areas around the world, often planted by local community groups  using a method inspired by Japanese temples. The idea is simple — take brownfield sites, plant them densely with a wide variety of native seedlings and let them grow with minimal intervention. The result, according to the method’s proponents , is complex ecosystems perfectly suited to local conditions that improve biodiversity, grow quickly and absorb more carbon dioxide. The Miyawaki method The method is based on the work of Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki . He found that protected areas around temples, shrines and cemeteries in Japan contained a huge variety of native vegetation that co-existed to produce resilient and diverse ecosystems. This contrasted with the conifer forests — non-indigenous trees grown for timber — that dominated the landscape. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. His work developed into the Miyawaki method — an approach that prioritizes the natural development of forests using native species. Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. They act as oases for biodiversity, supporting up to 20 times as many species as non-native, managed forests. Local pollinators such as butterflies and bees, beetles, snails and amphibians are among the animals that thrive with a greater diversity of food and shelter. Greening urban spaces worldwide The popularity of Miyawaki forests is growing, with initiatives in India , the Amazon and Europe. Projects such as Urban Forests in Belgium and France, and Tiny Forest in the Netherlands, are bringing together volunteers to transform small patches of wasteland. Urban forests bring many benefits to communities beyond their impact on biodiversity. Green spaces can help to improve people’s mental health , reduce the harmful effects of air pollution , and even counter the phenomenon of heat islands in cities, where expanses of concrete and asphalt raise temperatures unnaturally high. Carbon sinks The potential for helping to combat climate change makes Miyawaki forests a particularly attractive option for many environmentalists. Reforestation is a key part of strategies to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, with initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge , Trillion Trees Vision and the World Economic Forum’s 1t.org project setting ambitious targets. It’s estimated that new or restored forests could remove up to 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2050. If you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. However, not all forests are equally effective in sequestering carbon. Mature forests of native trees soak up much more carbon dioxide than the monoculture plantations that make up many reforestation projects. As scientists learn more about the role of other factors, such as carbon in the soil , it is increasingly clear that planting the right kind of trees matters as much as the number. Conservation groups stress that Miyawaki forests should not be seen as an alternative to protecting existing native forests. Small, unconnected wooded areas never can replace the large tracts of forest that are vital to so many species — and that remain under threat from commercial plantations and slash-and-burn farming. But if you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. Pull Quote Miyawaki forests can grow into mature ecosystems in just 20 years — astonishingly fast when compared to the 200 years it can take a forest to regenerate on its own. If you have a patch of wasteland in your local community that is sitting idle, a Miyawaki forest could be one way of doing your bit to help the environment. Topics Forestry Cities World Economic Forum Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An urban forest in Shirakawa-Go, Japan. Photo by Rap Dela Rea on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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1 million minks culled in Spain, the Netherlands

August 6, 2020 by  
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More than 1 million minks have been killed on farms in Spain and the Netherlands due to an outbreak of coronavirus among the furry animals. According to the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, there has been coronavirus outbreaks on 26 and counting Dutch mink farms. The novel coronavirus has been detected in a number of animals including dogs, cats and tigers, although none of these animals has been proven to infect humans. However, scientists are now investigating the outbreak of a coronavirus among minks on farms in Spain and the Netherlands to determine whether these animals may have infected some humans. The outbreak of mink infections in Spain and the Netherlands is believed to have started from a human, although officials are not certain. It is believed that the virus spread from workers to the minks. Related: Animal rights groups work to “Open Cages” of animals on fur farms An outbreak was discovered at one mink farm near La Puebla de Valverde in Spain in May. Seven of the 14 employees tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the closure of the farm . Two other employees tested positive after the farm had been shut down. Due to the widespread infections in mink farms, over 1.1 million minks have been killed for the fear that they may spread coronavirus to humans. Because the virus strain affecting these animals is similar to the one affecting humans, there is a possibility of the minks spreading the virus to humans, according to Wim van der Poel, a veterinarian and professor at Wageningen University & Research. The World Health Organization has noted that the spread of the coronavirus on mink farms could have transmitted both from humans to the animals and from animals to humans. However, the organization says that such an occurrence is limited. “This gives us some clues about which animals may be susceptible to infection, and this will help us as we learn more about the potential animal reservoir of (the virus),” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove of WHO. Via Chicago Tribune Image via Derek Naulls

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Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying

August 6, 2020 by  
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Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying Heather Clancy Thu, 08/06/2020 – 00:45 There were plenty of juicy news tidbits in Microsoft’s recent progress report about its goal to become carbon negative over the next decade. But its new goal to link at least 500 megawatts of forthcoming solar energy contracts to environmental justice considerations is bold for many reasons.  For context, the total pledge amounts to about a quarter of the capacity that Microsoft already has signed (1.9 gigawatts) in solar and wind contracts. This is the largest commitment it has made to a single portfolio investment, so it isn’t some side project. Nor is this a reaction to the nationwide protests triggered by the death of George Floyd this spring — the active planning has been under way since December.  “We spend a lot of time talking about the energy transition needed if our society is going to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050,” Microsoft’s environment chief, Lucas Joppa, told me. “Microsoft’s position is that the transition has to be an inclusive and just one.” The arrangement, with project financer, investor and developer Sol Systems , will prioritize opportunities and investments in communities “disproportionately affected by environmental challenges.” What does that mean more specifically?  The installations could be in urban neighborhoods that haven’t typically had access to economically priced clean energy resources or that historically have been disproportionately affected by pollution. But they also might be sited in rural communities that have been negatively affected by job losses triggered by the closure of fossil fuels plants or extraction operations, notes Sol Systems co-founder and CEO Yuri Horwitz. “We think it’s equally important that we engage all segments of society,” he said.  As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects. The arrangement also will prioritize buying from minority and women-owned businesses. And it will provide at least $50 million in the form of grants to support educational programs, career training, habitat restoration and initiatives that provide low-income communities with access to clean energy and energy efficiency programs. “Solar is, and should be, an economic engine for everyone,” Horwitz added. To make this work, the two companies created a framework power purchase agreement to cover individual projects as they are identified with the intention of getting them validated and approved more quickly. Among the terms: A certain portion of the revenue that’s generated will be reinvested back into the community where a solar farm is located. “You can do this at scale and at a price point that is economically doable,” Joppa said. Microsoft will use third-party evaluators to help quantify and document both the social and environmental outcomes.  Lily Donge, a former principal in the energy practice at Rocky Mountain Institute and now director of corporate innovation for communities with Groundswell, believes Microsoft’s deal with Sol Systems is a sign of things to come. “We do not know whether the community process will be equitable, transparent or consultative,” she wrote on the community solar organization’s blog. “But this is a signal that a giant tech company is willing to understand the demands of the community, under-served customers and the public at large.” As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects, but Sol Systems has been focusing on methodologies for doing so for the past 12 years — it already has about 800 MW of similar projects in its portfolio , including deals it has done for Amazon and Under Armour . The latter project was built in Maryland on land that couldn’t be used for residential development; it will contribute about $1.4 million in tax revenue to the local community. Another Sol Systems ally is Nationwide Insurance, its financing partner . This isn’t the only relationship Microsoft will use to procure energy in the future, so it will be important to watch how that consideration bleeds into other contracts. I’ll definitely be asking. You should do so, too. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects. Topics Social Justice Renewable Energy Corporate Procurement Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Sol’s 196-kilowatt solar installation at Christ Church apartments, a low-to-moderate income senior living facility located on the Baltimore Harbor.  Courtesy of Sol Systems Close Authorship

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Over 500 new dams planned for protected areas worldwide

August 5, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the journal Conservation Letters has revealed that over 500 new dams are currently being constructed or are planned to be constructed within protected areas. More than 1,200 dams already exist in such areas. In the first global report on dam construction areas, it has been revealed that most governments are bypassing or rolling back laws in order to construct dams in these protected areas. The main concern being raised by the authors of the study is that the people who are mandated with protecting riparian areas are also the ones responsible for invading them. In the EU alone, about 33% of all the proposed dams lie within protected areas. For example, two hydropower projects in Romania pose a danger to Natura 2000 sites. If such constructions are not stopped, the reserved areas, rivers and natural resources around them are at risk. Michele Thieme, lead author of the study and freshwater scientist at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said, “Rivers are the lifeblood of ecosystems. Any policy that aims to conserve nature must prioritize the free flow of rivers.” Related: Hydropower demand is damaging Indigenous lands The study has established that many governments are redefining boundaries of protected lands to create room for construction . The study points out that if legislation continues being loosened in this manner, it will not be long before the delicate ecosystems in these areas are irreversibly damaged. “The sheer number of dams that are planned within protected areas is alarming,” Thieme warned. “Government and industry policies must prevent the development of dams planned within these areas. The dams that already exist within protected areas should be prioritized for possible removal and the surrounding river systems should be restored.” This study follows another paper that highlighted the impact of dams on ecosystems. A 2019 paper published in Nature revealed that over 65% of long rivers across the world are impeded with dams and other structures. Worse yet, the report established that the construction of dams across major rivers is to blame for a 76% reduction in freshwater migratory fish populations since 1970. Because dams impede the movement of fish upstream for breeding, they have led to a decline in freshwater fish populations significantly. The report is now calling on governments and other stakeholders to stop bypassing and changing laws for short-term gains. Those in authority must protect these areas at all costs to avoid further harm to ecosystems. + Conservation Letters + WWF Image via Hans Linde

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Kangaroo leather sporting goods illegally sold in California

July 29, 2020 by  
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Nearly 5 years after California outlawed the sale of products made from kangaroo skin, over 100 retailers are still selling these items. In 2016, the California Penal Code § 653o went into effect, banning the sale and import of athletic shoes made from kangaroo leather, or k-leather. However, a recent investigation by the Center for a Humane Economy (CHE) has proven otherwise. In the investigation, which spanned several months, CHE has established that the majority of 117 physical specialty stores and 76 online retailers are selling products made with kangaroo skin . The investigation has found that some leading retailers, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nike and New Balance, are still stocking k-leather products years after the ban. According to the California Penal Code § 653o, any person found selling or importing k-leather products could face penalties of up to $5,000 and six months in jail. Such penalties have not stopped retailers from selling the products, in part due to a lack of enforcement. Even some of the leading shoe brands are still producing k-leather products years after the legislation was put in place. Related: Dutch designer creates leather alternative from palm leaves In a recent attempt to determine whether Nike still produces k-leather products, Robert Ferber, a former Los Angeles city prosecutor specializing in animal cruelty crimes, ordered a pair of shoes from Nike. He requested that the shoes be made with k-leather. “I’ve ordered pairs of Tiempo Legend 8 Elite to see if Nike was following the law,” Ferber said. “Except for a brief period this spring, the shoes I ordered through Nike.com appeared promptly and illegally on my doorstep.” In Australia alone, approximately 2 million kangaroos are killed annually for their skin. Given that their skin is very tough, it is a popular choice for sporting goods manufacturers that want to make durable products. CHE and other organizations are now collaborating to end the use of kangaroo leather . CHE has created a list of companies that use kangaroo skin and specifically outlined which products include this material in a bid to discourage people from buying these items. + CHE Via VegNews Image via Terri Sharp

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Summer gardening tips for a great harvest

June 19, 2020 by  
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When the much-anticipated summer season finally arrives, make the most of your garden time with a checklist of ongoing tasks that will keep your plants healthy year-round. Clean up Much of your clean up might have taken place in the spring. However, if winter rolls straight into summer in your part of the country, or you haven’t had the time or motivation to tackle the task, get busy pulling weeds, mowing the lawn and cleaning the patio furniture. Avoid harsh chemicals and instead borrow a pressure washer to blast the deck, fencing, porch and paver stones. Also, tidy up any concrete blocks along your raised beds. Related: Where to order vegetable seeds online Continue to plant Again, your garden is probably well underway from your spring plantings. But in addition to monitoring the growth of your current plants, continue planting for late summer and fall crops. Plan to keep your garden producing by planting fall crops such as pumpkins and squash. Create a calendar for planting based on where you live and how long crops need until harvest. Use mulch Summer heat zaps moisture out of the soil, and many plants suffer without mulch to help them retain much-needed water. Check your trees, shrubs and flowering bulbs a few times each month and supplement the mulch as needed.  Plant bulbs Although spring and summer steal the show for flowering bulbs, the fall months can dazzle too if you think ahead. Use the warm days of late summer to plant bulbs such as autumn crocus, winter daffodil and Guernsey lily that will burst to life in the fall. Be sure to mark where you placed them, so you don’t plant over them. Install a timer Using water efficiently not only benefits your pocketbook and the planet’s resources, but it also results in better plant production. The best way to water where you need when you need is to use timers that automatically turn the system on and off. Timers can be used for complex underground sprinkler systems with several zones and also for simple drip systems for hanging baskets or berry patches.  Water  in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are cool and evaporation is less likely. Make sure to turn the timers off when rain is in the forecast. Prune and deadhead As plants continue to thrive throughout the season, they’ll benefit from a trim here and there. Identify plants that bloom early winter to late spring and prune them back during the summer. Deadhead current blooming plants as blossoms die off; this diverts the energy away from spent blooms and towards active ones.  Support your plants Early in the season, get cages around your brambling plants, such as raspberries and tomatoes . Other plants also need support as they grow, including bush beans, snap peas and flowers like delphinium. Check on your plants at least every other day to keep them in line.  Train them to climb Summer is also a productive season for your climbers, and without training, they may grow to undesirable places within or even outside your yard. Keep up with your hops, grapes, clematis and wisteria, guiding them up trellises or along wires as they reach new heights. Close the buffet for animals Your garden full of flowers or fruits is a tempting invitation for the neighborhood  animals . Summer is the time to protect your plants against critters large and small. Put up fencing around your food garden and make sure it is tall enough that deer can’t jump over it. Inside your garden, further protect plants from smaller animals that may squeeze in, such as rabbits and chipmunks. To protect against the smallest of hungry animals, keep ladybugs around to feed on aphids, move old plants to another area of the yard, use natural insecticides and place short, open cans or cups of beer nearby to draw in slugs. You can also use netting over the top of your crops to keep birds from having a free meal at the plant buffet. Feed your plants Even after your plants are well established, most need a little boost now and then to keep up energy for production. Around midseason, provide your plants with some fertilizer to help them out.  Turn your harvest into a meal plan Growing a garden can take a lot of work and money, so you don’t want your resulting harvest to go to waste. The best way to use up fresh vegetables is to plan for their arrival. You can add the tops of radishes, beets and carrots to pesto, which can be eaten fresh or frozen/canned for later. Plan to use your lettuce promptly after harvest with myriad salad options that can incorporate your carrots, beets, snow peas, broccoli, strawberries and more. The point is, as your garden produces various foods , create an upcoming meal plan to match.  Protect wood products Summer is also the time to restain fencing and decking. Apply a fresh coat of paint or stain to furniture and the garden bench. Invite pollinators to the party Pollinators such as  bees, butterflies, birds  and bats can really benefit your yard, so as summer progresses, cater to their needs. Build and install bat, butterfly, bird and bee houses. Keep the bird feeders and baths clean and supplied. Finally, plan your seasonal garden flowers around those that attract your feathered and winged friends to the party.  Start a compost pile Anytime is a great time to start a compost pile. Still, the heat of summer can help the stratified material break down faster than it would during other seasons.  Set up rain barrels Even if you have rare summer rains, getting rain barrels set up now will give you ample water when the rains return. You can then use this to water plants, the lawn or even the animals. Check your state’s rainwater harvesting laws before getting started, though. Preserve your harvest Finally, preserving food is a quintessential part of summer. Rows of canning jars, a freezer full of fresh crops and the dehydrator working overtime all represent the fruits of your labor. Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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Why the private sector needs to invest in conservation agriculture right now

June 6, 2020 by  
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Why the private sector needs to invest in conservation agriculture right now William Ginn Sat, 06/06/2020 – 02:00 This is an excerpt from ” Valuing Nature ” by William J. Ginn. Copyright 2020 William J. Ginn. Reproduced here with permission from Island Press, Washington, D.C.  Resistance to change is universal. For example, despite more than 30 years of good science and best practices that support conservation agriculture in the United States, less than 5 percent of U.S. soy, wheat, and corn farmers use cover crops, and only 25 percent have adopted crop rotation and conservation tillage practices, even though the country is losing more than 10 billion tons of soil each year as well as more than $50 billion in social and environmental benefits. One challenge is the increasing percentage of farms owned by investors who lease land year to year to the highest bidder, which gives farmers little incentive to invest in conservation practices that might take years to be fully realized. Nevertheless, [The Nature Conservancy (TNC)], along with a consortium of farmers’ groups and a contingent of seed and fertilizer companies, has set a goal of getting half of the country’s wheat, soy, and corn crops into conservation tillage by [2025] (PDF). To achieve this goal, the same kind of incentives, extension services, and creative financial mechanisms being advocated for in the developing world are going to be needed in the United States too. Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. Although big-picture interventions are often understood in theory, the capacity of farmers to implement these solutions on the ground is often quite limited. Nearly everywhere these challenges exist, we need to dramatically increase the number of intermediaries who can help farmers through the difficult but necessary transition to new cropping and livestock-raising systems. It is all high-risk business, and as such, it is not always successful. Several years ago, TNC entered into an agreement with an agricultural consulting company in Argentina with the objective of helping farmers improve sheep-grazing practices. Years of overgrazing had left the region’s grasslands substantially degraded; in fact, at one point in the early years of Patagonia’s colonization, more than 45 million sheep roamed free. Today, the region is home to between 5 million and 8 million sheep, but even that number may be too many. Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. The restoration plan, called the Patagonia Grassland Regeneration and Sustainability Standard, or GRASS for short, incorporated conservation science, planning, and monitoring into the management plans of wool producers. The idea was not new: rather than grazing sheep in one place continually, they are moved in and out of different pastures depending on the conditions of the grasses. This practice encourages more diversity of native grass species and expanded yields from the revitalized pastures. Done well, ranchers, sheep, native plants, and animals can thrive together. But what motivates ranchers to make these investments in better management and fencing? The basic business idea of GRASS was to improve management practices on ranches and produce a certified wool product that would attract buyers willing to pay more for sustainably grown wool. The program attracted two early adopters, Patagonia, Inc ., a brand committed to sourcing their raw materials sustainably, and Stella McCartney , a high-end clothing manufacturer and daughter of Paul McCartney. Prior to this venture, both companies had been buying their wool primarily from Australia and New Zealand, but for Patagonia in particular, a shift to sourcing from Argentina provided a nice opportunity for alignment with their brand. Dozens of ranches signed up to participate, and many saw measurable yield improvements, even though the initial wool purchases were small. Despite the program’s early successes, the program became unraveled when the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released video footage of alleged animal abuse occurring at some of the ranches. As chief conservation officer of TNC at the time, I can say that I was not very happy with these practices, but I thought some of the allegations were overblown. For example, PETA considers docking tails of sheep to be inhumane, yet it is long-standing practice that arguably improves the health of animals. Nevertheless, both Patagonia and Stella McCartney abruptly ended their contracts with GRASS, and without a market partner, the program has failed to scale to a commercial model. Although any improvement in grazing is useful, the expected impact across the landscape now seems a distant objective. Because feeding the world is an absolute imperative, farmers, investors, and aid organizations continue their quests for new models of sustainable intensification that will both feed more people and restore the soils and hydrological systems that are essential to agriculture. Providing capital in a way that reaches the hundreds of millions of small farmers across the globe as well as the necessary skills and technical expertise is a challenge that will remain for years, but business opportunities abound. Our shared natural assets — soil, water, and a stable climate — will only increase in value as the world demands more food. Pull Quote Building capacity and providing patient capital at the farmer level is a big challenge; at NatureVest, it is referred to as the last-mile problem. Topics Corporate Strategy Food & Agriculture Biodiversity Books Food & Agriculture Conservation Conservation Finance Collective Insight GreenBiz Reads Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Flock of sheep in Patagonia, Chile. Shutterstock gg-foto Close Authorship

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U.S. rabbit populations contend with lethal virus, RHDV2

May 22, 2020 by  
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Wildlife  officials recently announced outbreaks of Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 (RHDV2) ravaging Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California. The  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)  deems RHDV2 as seriously contagious and nearly always fatal amongst domestic and wild rabbit species and their close relatives, hares and pikas. RHDV2 is not zoonotic, so it won’t infect livestock, pets or humans, asserts the  California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) . Still,  Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW)  advise against pets consuming rabbit carcasses. Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) is the viral agent causing rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD).  Science Direct  says RHDV belongs in the calicivirus family, which infects many  animals  including pigs, cattle, cats and even humans. Norovirus, for example, is a human calicivirus. But humans seem unaffected by RHDV.  Related:  What’s causing the decline in monarch butterfly populations? There are two worrisome strains of RHDV — RHDV1 and RHDV2.  House Rabbit Society ,  Veterinary Practice , as well as both the Vaccine and Veterinary Research  journals document RHDV1 as first emerging in China back in 1984, when, in just one year, 140 million rabbits were decimated. China claims that the outbreak started in Angora rabbits imported from Europe. Eventually, RHDV1 spread to over 40 countries and hit the U.S. in 2000. Given its estimated 95% mortality rate, Australia and New Zealand notoriously introduced RHDV1 into their wild rabbit populations as pest biocontrol. RHDV1 mutated, begetting RHDV2, which was first identified in 2010 when domesticated rabbits in France showed clinical signs of RHD despite being already vaccinated against RHDV1. By September 2018, RHDV2 reached the U.S., manifesting among domestic rabbits in a rural Ohio farm, documents the  Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service . The USDA considers both RHDV1 and RHDV2 invasive pathogens, as they are not native to North America. A  joint paper  put forth by the Center for Food Security & Public Health , Institute for International Cooperation in Animal Biologics, Iowa State University, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the USDA revealed RHD can be difficult to eradicate. Not only can the virus strains survive over seven months on rabbit carcasses, but they also withstand temperatures below freezing and above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  House Rabbit Society  cites several differences between RHDV1 and RHDV2. Incubation is two to 10 days for RHDV1, but three to nine days for RHDV2. Rabbits with RHDV2 can be asymptomatic yet spread the virus for up to two months. There is no known cure for either strain. While a vaccine exists for RHDV1, there are currently no USDA -licensed vaccines for RHDV2. That RHDV2 can “potentially surviv[e] more than 3 months without a host” has prompted some U.S. veterinarians to import RHDV2 vaccines despite a convoluted process. The  USDA  and  VIN News Service  warn RHD is highly contagious, spreading easily by direct contact with rabbit excretions and secretions — saliva, sweat and biowaste. Sharing food, water, bedding, fomites and vehicles spreads RHD. Other vectors are infected rabbit meat, pelts, even insects. Besides farmers and pet owners, biologists and  conservationists  are worried about this virus. As declining rabbit populations have repercussions in  habitat  food chains, RHDV2 could cause severe consequences down the line. + Veterinary Information Network (VIN) News Service Via USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and House Rabbit Society Images via Pexels

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U.S. rabbit populations contend with lethal virus, RHDV2

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