Assisted migration

Would you move a species threatened by climate change to an area where it isn’t currently found but where the new climate suits it better? That’s “assisted migration,” and the lively debate around it is described by Carl Zimmer in the New York Times here. He quotes a thorough review of the ecological and evolutionary responses to climate change which may be found online as a pdf here. It seems to me that assisted migration is likely to be feasible for only a small number of wild species, but what about crops? Making threatened crops and landraces available to farmers in more suitable climates sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Build coastal resilience

Deriving food from the coastline is more like hunting than fishing, and a new report from GRID Arendal stresses the need to protect coastal regions and ensure that they maintain the resilience to feed people. The report is available directly from Eldis, which says that “According to the report, the recommendation by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), that 10% of all marine and coastal ecological regions be conserved in MPAs by 2012, will not be met until 2069. MPAs further need to be of a significant size, effectively managed and designed and implemented in such a way to facilitate the conservation of marine biodiversity and the associated ecosystem services, including close regulation of the adjacent land-based activities to reduce pollution.”

GRID Arendal is part of UNEP’s GRID network, specialising in GIS and its uses.

Certificates of Origin

One way in which agricultural biodiversity can help people live better lives is if they can market some unique product to boost their income. Difficulties arise, however, if someone else, seeing a thriving market, steps in and sells something similar but not quite the same. That’s one reason why certificates of origin are a big deal. Champagne has to come from the Champagne region of France; sparkling white wines made elsewhere using identical methods may be delicious, but they aren’t champagne.

Kathryn, over at Blogging Biodiversity, is following progress at the first meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s ‘Group of Technical Experts on an Internationally Recognized Certificate of Origin/Source/Legal Provenance,’ which is taking place in Peru. She explains why this matters and what the options are better than I could, and I’ll be using her insights to following progress.

Sachs in Kenya

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the UN Millennium Project, is in Nairobi, and The Nation reported yesterday that he “said … giving farmers high yield seeds, fertiliser and mosquito nets to prevent malaria infection would accelerate the country’s economic growth.” He quoted the experience of the Millennium Villages: at Sauri in Siaya District, for example, cases of malaria have dropped by half since the distribution of free mosquito nets and last year the harvest was four times bigger than two years ago. I have no issue with the malaria interventions, but does anyone really still think that “high yield seeds” and fertilizer are the sole answer to agricultural development in Africa? Couldn’t Prof. Sachs have said something about the importance of diversity too?


I just heard a programme on the BBC World Service in the One Planet series called “Nuts.” It looked at the problems encountered in developing the Brazil nut as a source of income for poor Amazonian farmers. Unfortunately, it appears that some very tight – some would say unreasonably tight – EU regulations about levels of aflavotoxins are preventing exports. There’s part two next week. The website for the One Planet series is here, but this particular programme does not seem to be online yet. I’ll keep looking out for it. Coincidentally, WWF also has a long piece on the Brazil nut out today, which you can find here. International Trade Forum had a piece on Brazil nuts here in 2004.