SciCombinator

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Concept: Deforestation

163

In order to reduce soil erosion and desertification, the Sloping Land Conversion Program has been conducted in China for more than 15 years, and large areas of farmland have been converted to forest and grassland. However, this large-scale vegetation-restoration project has faced some key problems (e.g. soil drying) that have limited the successful development of the current ecological-recovery policy. Therefore, it is necessary to know about the land use, vegetation, and soil, and their inter-relationships in order to identify the suitability of vegetation restoration. This study was conducted at the watershed level in the ecologically vulnerable region of the Loess Plateau, to evaluate the land suitability using the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). The results showed that (1) the area unsuitable for crops accounted for 73.3% of the watershed, and the main factors restricting cropland development were soil physical properties and soil nutrients; (2) the area suitable for grassland was about 86.7% of the watershed, with the remaining 13.3% being unsuitable; (3) an area of 3.95 km(2), accounting for 66.7% of the watershed, was unsuitable for forest. Overall, the grassland was found to be the most suitable land-use to support the aims of the Sloping Land Conversion Program in the Liudaogou watershed. Under the constraints of soil water shortage and nutrient deficits, crops and forests were considered to be inappropriate land uses in the study area, especially on sloping land. When selecting species for re-vegetation, non-native grass species with high water requirements should be avoided so as to guarantee the sustainable development of grassland and effective ecological functioning. Our study provides local land managers and farmers with valuable information about the inappropriateness of growing trees in the study area along with some information on species selection for planting in the semi-arid area of the Loess Plateau.

Concepts: Nutrient, Soil, Erosion, Analytic Hierarchy Process, Analytical hierarchy, Land use, Geomorphology, Deforestation

147

In the Loess Plateau, soil erosion has not only caused serious ecological and environmental problems but has also impacted downstream areas. Therefore, a model is needed to guide the comprehensive control of soil erosion. In this study, we introduced the WEPP model to simulate soil erosion both at the slope and watershed scales. Our analyses showed that: the simulated values at the slope scale were very close to the measured. However, both the runoff and soil erosion simulated values at the watershed scale were higher than the measured. At the slope scale, under different coverage, the simulated erosion was slightly higher than the measured. When the coverage is 40%, the simulated results of both runoff and erosion are the best. At the watershed scale, the actual annual runoff of the Liudaogou watershed is 83m3; sediment content is 0.097 t/m3, annual erosion sediment 8.057t and erosion intensity 0.288 t ha-1 yr-1. Both the simulated values of soil erosion and runoff are higher than the measured, especially the runoff. But the simulated erosion trend is relatively accurate after the farmland is returned to grassland. We concluded that the WEPP model can be used to establish a reasonable vegetation restoration model and guide the vegetation restoration of the Loess Plateau.

Concepts: Sediment, Soil, Erosion, Silt, Surface runoff, Geomorphology, Loess Plateau, Deforestation

139

The bacterial community in soils of cotton that have continuously been cropped for 2 years, 6 years, 11 years and 14 years and treated with biochar (B0, 0 t·ha(-1); B1, 12.5 t·ha(-1); and B2, 20 t·ha(-1)) was investigated using next-generation sequencing. Of the 45 bacterial genera (relative abundance ratio of genera greater than 0.3%), 21 genera were affected (p < 0.05) by the biochar treatment, whereas 20 genera were affected by the continuous cropping. Between the soils that have been continuously cropped for 2 years and 14 years, 12 different genera were significantly observed (p < 0.05), and 6 genera belonged to the phylum Acidobacteria. The relative abundance of Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas in the biochar-treated soils was significantly higher than that in the soil without biochar treatment (p < 0.05), and the relative abundance of Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas in soils that have been continuously cropped for 2 years and 6 years was significantly higher than that in the soils continuously cropped for 11 years and 14 years (p < 0.05). The results suggest that the biochar application has a significant impact on the soil bacterial community, which may improve the microbial diversity of continuous cropping systems in cotton soils.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Organism, Microbiology, Biotechnology, Soil, Deforestation, Terra preta

137

For half a century, the process of economic integration of the Amazon has been based on intensive use of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources, which has brought significant basin-wide environmental alterations. The rural development in the Amazonia pushed the agricultural frontier swiftly, resulting in widespread land-cover change, but agriculture in the Amazon has been of low productivity and unsustainable. The loss of biodiversity and continued deforestation will lead to high risks of irreversible change of its tropical forests. It has been established by modeling studies that the Amazon may have two “tipping points,” namely, temperature increase of 4 °C or deforestation exceeding 40% of the forest area. If transgressed, large-scale “savannization” of mostly southern and eastern Amazon may take place. The region has warmed about 1 °C over the last 60 y, and total deforestation is reaching 20% of the forested area. The recent significant reductions in deforestation-80% reduction in the Brazilian Amazon in the last decade-opens up opportunities for a novel sustainable development paradigm for the future of the Amazon. We argue for a new development paradigm-away from only attempting to reconcile maximizing conservation versus intensification of traditional agriculture and expansion of hydropower capacity-in which we research, develop, and scale a high-tech innovation approach that sees the Amazon as a global public good of biological assets that can enable the creation of innovative high-value products, services, and platforms through combining advanced digital, biological, and material technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in progress.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Agriculture, Forest, Sustainability, Tropical rainforest, Global warming, Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, Deforestation

129

Tropical carbon emissions are largely derived from direct forest clearing processes. Yet, emissions from drought-induced forest fires are, usually, not included in national-level carbon emission inventories. Here we examine Brazilian Amazon drought impacts on fire incidence and associated forest fire carbon emissions over the period 2003-2015. We show that despite a 76% decline in deforestation rates over the past 13 years, fire incidence increased by 36% during the 2015 drought compared to the preceding 12 years. The 2015 drought had the largest ever ratio of active fire counts to deforestation, with active fires occurring over an area of 799,293 km2. Gross emissions from forest fires (989 ± 504 Tg CO2year-1) alone are more than half as great as those from old-growth forest deforestation during drought years. We conclude that carbon emission inventories intended for accounting and developing policies need to take account of substantial forest fire emissions not associated to the deforestation process.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Rainforest, Emission standard, Global warming potential, Global warming, Deforestation, Desertification, Climate forcing agents

120

Human activity and related land use change are the primary cause of accelerated soil erosion, which has substantial implications for nutrient and carbon cycling, land productivity and in turn, worldwide socio-economic conditions. Here we present an unprecedentedly high resolution (250 × 250 m) global potential soil erosion model, using a combination of remote sensing, GIS modelling and census data. We challenge the previous annual soil erosion reference values as our estimate, of 35.9 Pg yr-1 of soil eroded in 2012, is at least two times lower. Moreover, we estimate the spatial and temporal effects of land use change between 2001 and 2012 and the potential offset of the global application of conservation practices. Our findings indicate a potential overall increase in global soil erosion driven by cropland expansion. The greatest increases are predicted to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. The least developed economies have been found to experience the highest estimates of soil erosion rates.

Concepts: Africa, Soil, Erosion, Surface runoff, Drought, Geomorphology, Deforestation, Desertification

113

Palm oil is the most widely traded vegetable oil globally, with demand projected to increase substantially in the future. Almost all oil palm grows in areas that were once tropical moist forests, some of them quite recently. The conversion to date, and future expansion, threatens biodiversity and increases greenhouse gas emissions. Today, consumer pressure is pushing companies toward deforestation-free sources of palm oil. To guide interventions aimed at reducing tropical deforestation due to oil palm, we analysed recent expansions and modelled likely future ones. We assessed sample areas to find where oil palm plantations have recently replaced forests in 20 countries, using a combination of high-resolution imagery from Google Earth and Landsat. We then compared these trends to countrywide trends in FAO data for oil palm planted area. Finally, we assessed which forests have high agricultural suitability for future oil palm development, which we refer to as vulnerable forests, and identified critical areas for biodiversity that oil palm expansion threatens. Our analysis reveals regional trends in deforestation associated with oil palm agriculture. In Southeast Asia, 45% of sampled oil palm plantations came from areas that were forests in 1989. For South America, the percentage was 31%. By contrast, in Mesoamerica and Africa, we observed only 2% and 7% of oil palm plantations coming from areas that were forest in 1989. The largest areas of vulnerable forest are in Africa and South America. Vulnerable forests in all four regions of production contain globally high concentrations of mammal and bird species at risk of extinction. However, priority areas for biodiversity conservation differ based on taxa and criteria used. Government regulation and voluntary market interventions can help incentivize the expansion of oil palm plantations in ways that protect biodiversity-rich ecosystems.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Biodiversity, Agriculture, Forest, Greenhouse gas, Palm oil, Oil palm, Deforestation

111

The Amazon rainforest is the Earth’s largest reservoir of plant and animal diversity, and it has been subjected to especially high rates of land use change, primarily to cattle pasture. This conversion has had a strongly negative effect on biological diversity, reducing the number of plant and animal species and homogenizing communities. We report here that microbial biodiversity also responds strongly to conversion of the Amazon rainforest, but in a manner different from plants and animals. Local taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity of soil bacteria increases after conversion, but communities become more similar across space. This homogenization is driven by the loss of forest soil bacteria with restricted ranges (endemics) and results in a net loss of diversity. This study shows homogenization of microbial communities in response to human activities. Given that soil microbes represent the majority of biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems and are intimately involved in ecosystem functions, we argue that microbial biodiversity loss should be taken into account when assessing the impact of land use change in tropical forests.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Organism, Species, Ecosystem, Brazil, Tropical rainforest, Deforestation

109

Humans have altered terrestrial ecosystems for millennia [1], yet wilderness areas still remain as vital refugia where natural ecological and evolutionary processes operate with minimal human disturbance [2-4], underpinning key regional- and planetary-scale functions [5, 6]. Despite the myriad values of wilderness areas-as critical strongholds for endangered biodiversity [7], for carbon storage and sequestration [8], for buffering and regulating local climates [9], and for supporting many of the world’s most politically and economically marginalized communities [10]-they are almost entirely ignored in multilateral environmental agreements. This is because they are assumed to be relatively free from threatening processes and therefore are not a priority for conservation efforts [11, 12]. Here we challenge this assertion using new comparable maps of global wilderness following methods established in the original “last of the wild” analysis [13] to examine the change in extent since the early 1990s. We demonstrate alarming losses comprising one-tenth (3.3 million km(2)) of global wilderness areas over the last two decades, particularly in the Amazon (30%) and central Africa (14%). We assess increases in the protection of wilderness over the same time frame and show that these efforts are failing to keep pace with the rate of wilderness loss, which is nearly double the rate of protection. Our findings underscore an immediate need for international policies to recognize the vital values of wilderness and the unprecedented threats they face and to underscore urgent large-scale, multifaceted actions needed to maintain them.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Ecology, Natural environment, Nature, Conservation movement, Wilderness, Deforestation

103

Malaria is a significant public health threat in the Brazilian Amazon. Previous research has shown that deforestation creates breeding sites for the main malaria vector in Brazil, Anopheles darlingi, but the influence of selective logging, forest fires, and road construction on malaria risk has not been assessed. To understand these impacts, we constructed a negative binomial model of malaria counts at the municipality level controlling for human population and social and environmental risk factors. Both paved and unpaved roadways and fire zones in a municipality increased malaria risk. Within the timber production states where 90% of deforestation has occurred, compared with areas without selective logging, municipalities where 0-7% of the remaining forests were selectively logged had the highest malaria risk (1.72, 95% CI 1.18-2.51), and areas with higher rates of selective logging had the lowest risk (0.39, 95% CI 0.23-0.67). We show that roads, forest fires, and selective logging are previously unrecognized risk factors for malaria in the Brazilian Amazon and highlight the need for regulation and monitoring of sub-canopy forest disturbance.

Concepts: Malaria, Brazil, Rainforest, Road, Negative binomial distribution, The Road, Deforestation, Logging