An interesting Letter to Nature entitled “Effects of biodiversity on the functioning of trophic groups and ecosystem” here. A meta-analysis of studies that have “experimentally manipulated species diversity … shows that the average effect of decreasing species richness is to decrease the abundance or biomass of the focal trophic group, leading to less complete depletion of resources used by that group … (but also that) … the standing stock of, and resource depletion by, the most species-rich polyculture tends to be no different from that of the single most productive species used in an experiment.” Are there enough data out there for a similar meta-analysis of experimental manipulations of genetic diversity in crop fields?
The world is awash with millennial beer traditions, but this frothy cornucopia is increasingly under threat as the Big 5 Brewers globalize their way to domination, according to Chris O’Brien, author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World and of this article, from which I borrowed the title of this post. The disappearance of home-brewing would adversely affect social bonds, community identity, women’s position in society and their income, and rural people’s health and nutrition. What to do? Here’s a taste:
“Domestic policies that favor small-scale, local production, just like the ones that now support the American craft-brewing renaissance, must be applied to foreign policy as well. Policies that burden small brewers with regulations must be reduced or removed, while tax incentives and public giveaways to industrial brewers are halted. Proven strategies can be used for promoting small business, such as low-interest loans and other community investments tools. Small-scale technology and structures must be prioritized in order to benefit the greatest number of domestic brewers, while subsidies favoring large-scale production and distribution should be eliminated.”
Surely promoting the local crops and landraces which form the raw materials of local homebrews also needs to be in the mix?
The Slow Food movement 20 years old this year.Â It isÂ having its annual showcase in Italy this week. Slow Food “aims to promote traditional farming techniques and products, to counter the spread of factory farming.” Its potential as a means of promoting neglected and underutilized species is clear, but I wish there were some tangible success stories from developing countries.
The question is: would Ethiopia trademarking its Sidano and Harar coffee result in a better return to local farmers through increased leverage or in a worse return through higher prices. Read about it here. I’d be tempted to bet on the former, or Starbucks wouldn’t be protesting so much. Or is that too cynical?
A forthcoming Science paper by Charles W. Whitfield, a professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and othersÂ looks at the evolution of the honey-bee, Apis mellifera. EurekAlert has a summary and some pithy quotes from the author here. SNPs revealed that the honey-bee originated in Africa and then spread to Europe in two waves, resulting in genetically-distinct though nearly sympatric populations there. No word on whether these migrations could be related to human movements in any way, at least not in the summary.