Workshop “Climate Change and Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture” Conclusions on knowledge gaps and research needs 1. Introduction In February 2008, FAO and Bioversity International held an international workshop on Climate Change and Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, in partnership with the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The aim of the workshop was to contribute to the on-going debates of the international community on climate change, food security and biodiversity. A synthesis report of the workshop has been prepared to inform FAO’s High Level Conference on World Food Security and the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy to be held 3-5 June, 2008 and is available at http://www.fao.org/foodclimate/expert/em8.html. The workshop presentations have also been posted in this web-site. The present document, prepared by the Platform for Agrobiodiversity Research, is a follow-up to the workshop synthesis report and examines the knowledge gaps and research questions that were identified at the Workshop. The document provides a basis for further analysis and discussion on the knowledge needed, and research that should be undertaken to ensure that agrobiodiversity contributes most effectively to climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies at all levels. The focus reflects the approach of the Platform and is on agrobiodiversity maintenance and use of particular relevance to small scale farmers where research involving partnerships between farmer and researcher and a multidisciplinary approach are like to be of particular importance. The questions and subjects identified are also mostly concerned with issues which involve multiple components of the agro-ecosystem rather than with specific elements such as crop or animal genetic diversity per se. As a background to the discussions on knowledge gaps and research questions, and as noted in the Synthesis Report, participants noted that the reports of the IPCC Working Groups pay little or no direct attention to agricultural biodiversity but that WG2 report noted that: “Many of the regions characterized by subsistence and smallholder agriculture are storehouses of unexplored biodiversity. Pressure to cultivate marginal land or to adopt unsustainable cultivation practices as yields drop, and the break down of food systems more generally may endanger biodiversity of both wild and domestic species”. “Smallholder and subsistence farming areas are often also environmentally marginal (which does not necessarily conflict with biodiversity) and at risk of land degradation as a result of climate trends, but mediated by farming and livestock-production systems”. It was concluded by Workshop participants that: Conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of ecosystem structure and function are important for climate change adaptation strategies, due to the protection of genetically-diverse populations and species-rich ecosystems necessary for sustaining local livelihoods. Agrobiodiversity conservation should be made a basic component of Climate Change adaptation strategies. 2. General questions and issues The fundamental hypothesis to be investigated could be expressed as follows: Agricultural biodiversity can contribute effectively to climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies and activities. From this would follow a series of questions concerning what agrobiodiversity might contribute, how, when, where and in what ways it might do so, and who might be most importantly involved in use of agrobiodiversity as part of climate change management activities. Other general questions that were identified included: What is the relationship of climate change to other human-induced pressures on ecosystems – nature, extent and consequences of interactions and how one might disentangle the different pressures and consequences? Are there critical thresholds above which things change differently? What time lags can we expect to see in agro-ecosystem responses? What is the impact of species extinction on agro-ecosystem maintenance? More generally, research should be framed to explore the links between agrobiodiversity, climate change and food security. 3. Monitoring agrobiodiversity trends and associated risks Scale and significance of climate change in relation to agrobiodiversity What is the projected impact of climate change on agrobiodiversity in respect of different elements and properties and at different scales? One aspect of this relates to the time scale over which change is expected and the likelihood that populations of useful species within the agro-ecosystem will be able to adapt (e.g. pollinating insects, soil organisms, agroforestry species). Some forestry studies have suggested much more rapid changes in adaptation will be required than are likely to occur. Which agro-ecosystems, components or properties of agrobiodiversity are most (or least) sensitive to climatic stresses – at what scales? Related to the previous point but more specifically, what is the vulnerability of the different centres of crop and livestock diversity? How much change is expected, of what type and what impact might this have of the agrobiodiversity present? Current commonly available climate change scenarios were initially very large scale (global and continental) although they are now being downscaled. Similarly, adaptation and mitigation strategies will need to be developed at different scales and current large scale approaches will need to be downscaled. Measuring and monitoring change What might be the best ways of monitoring change and identifying significant changes? a) in individual components b) in ecosystem function and ecosystem services What long term monitoring of functional agrobiodiversity is occurring or might be put in place under different production systems, e.g., conventional vs Conservation Agriculture? What would constitute the most useful baseline data on components, their interactions and ecosystem properties? And at what scales? Could one suggest a generic approach to monitoring that pays attention to the effect of the nature of agroecosystem use and management on agroecosystem properties and services? Indicators for monitoring agrobiodiversity should cover appropriate taxa and habitats, monitor ecosystem services, be culturally, socio-economically and environmentally relevant and work at the appropriate scale. A first step would be to review existing monitoring activities for relevance. At local levels, elements of an approach working with local communities might involve: Determine long term natural climate variability as well as current trends Survey agrobiodiversity habitats and their relationships with existing production environments and practices Analyse potential vulnerability (see next point below) to climate change and how it can be reduced by improving the use of agrobiodiversity through changes in production environments and practices. Observed agricultural vulnerability to change at community level has included: Flood, erosion, drought Season changes and variability – particularly adaptation to increasing temperatures during growth and maturation Need for changes in crop and livestock varieties Increase in post harvest pests, insects and diseases Soil organic matter breakdown and nutrient cycling Change in food spoilage Threats to gathered products, NTFP etc. Loss of pollinators Loss of soil and landscape quality. These provide entry points for monitoring strategies and for exploring the use of agrobiodiversity as part of adaptation or mitigation strategies. A particular concern with alien and invasive species was noted. What existing or additional monitoring approaches might be relevant? Invasive pests and diseases such as stemborers might be of particular concern and targeted in any research. Techniques for monitoring changes in vegetation (e.g. GLORIA) have been developed and tested. Are some of them particularly relevant, appropriate and easily applicable – and, at what scales and in what situations? Do ecotones (boundaries between ecosystems) provide particularly appropriate places for monitoring on the grounds that one can detect boundary shifts (tree line change for example) fairly easily? 4. Understanding and managing change Understanding the effects and consequences of climate change and the specific role of agrobiodiversity will involve research in many different areas. Those identified during the workshop included ecosystem management and the maintenance of ecosystem services, production and productivity aspects, farmer and community strategies for maintenance and use of agrobiodiversity, and conservation questions. Ecosystem services There is still a need to study ecosystem relations on farm to provide better descriptions of ecosystem service provision and ecosystem function in different kinds of production systems. How might the ecosystem approach prove of greatest use in respect of the development of agrobiodiversity based climate change adaptation strategies? In what ways is soil and the manner it is managed a major driver of climate change responses? While crops and livestock can be moved, soil and soil biodiversity are generally fairly static and will evolve and adapt in response to climate change. Are certain aspects more vulnerable? Will changing soil properties constrain production in respect of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, water, etc, retention properties? Are there soil-crop management practices that enhance soil biodiversity and quality including soil porosity, soil organic matter and biota, water infiltration and retention, biological nitrogen fixation, soil rooting environment, etc, that lead to more sustainable and productive farming systems and livelihoods as well as improved ecosystem services? Managing agro-ecosystems to ensure continued effective functioning of below ground biodiversity and its relationship with productivity and sustainability of above ground crop-tree-livestock systems may present the greatest challenge and require substantial research. Figure 1. Potential vulnerabilities from exposure to climate change and the response in terms of mitigation and adaptation options (Jackson and Tomich, unpubl.) Climate Change Regulations Scenarios External Population Agricultural Growth Markets Exposure to Change Urbanization and land Agricultural use change productivity Vulnerabilities GHG emissions Economic viability Resource availability Institutions & planning Response (water, nutrients, biodiversity) Mitigation of GHG Adaptation for agricultural emissions sustainability 1) Less fossil fuel use 1) Agricultural technology 2) Reduced net GHG emissions 2) Land use for ecosystem services 3) Increasing carbon sequestration 3) Public investment in resource mgmt 4) Institutions for risk mgmt Ecosystem function Higher agrobiodiversity in the landscape can increase indirect use value, resilience and risk mitigation, but valuation of multifunctionality is difficult and therefore needs further investigation. Is agro-ecosystem resilience sufficient to tolerate future anthropogenic driven climate change? How might this be investigated? Discussion of adaptability, stability and risk avoidance in respect of ecosystem function by the workshop was limited. Further contributions are clearly needed on these topics. Production perspectives and interactions between components There are bound to be interactions among crops and between crops and livestock etc. Is it possible to identify any particular agrobiodiversity perspectives that the Platform could be usefully concerned with? The importance of understanding better interactions between crops (or livestock) and other components of production system were flagged by participants. Examples on insects included: Understanding multitrophic interactions in climate change context – plant/herbivore, pest/parasitoid, predator/prey Phenological monitoring across crop-pest-natural enemy food chains to detect emerging mismatches Monitoring of host shifts and agrobiodiversity exchanges between cultivated and natural habitats These are amenable to modeling approaches Crops and livestock can be moved to new production situations. Do we need a lot more information on their adaptability to support movement of resources to different farming environments and are there relevant aspects for the Platform or is this something the traditional agricultural research and breeding communities will do in any case. Underutilized species might be a useful focus for research work to explore some questions about whether they are particularly vulnerable (narrow adaptation) or particularly useful in adaptation (varieties are often still variable and adaptable and more often used in marginal production areas). Farmers’ strategies Farmers and rural communities adapt to change continuously, though with greater or lesser success. There is a range of questions here, which include existing farmer adaptation strategies, the role of traditional knowledge, the nature and operation of local institutions such as seed supply systems, and the ways in which farmers perceive and conceptualize climate change. Exploring these may well allow the development of more affective adaptation strategies and is likely to contribute to helping farmer communities and iindigenous peoples play an active role in climate change discussions and policy. Agrobiodiversity (especially crop and livestock diversity) has traditionally formed an important part of farmer risk management and productivity enhancing strategies. How is this done and how might these approaches be best supported, including introducing new or different farming practices that promote a greater use of agrobiodiversity for sustainability and productivity such as Conservation Agriculture, IPM, SRI agronomy in rice, etc? Is traditional knowledge particularly at risk and/or particularly relevant to coping with climate change? If the answer to either question is yes, what might be the appropriate response? Conservation The extent of change (and the rate at which it occurs) may be so great as to limit the effectiveness of in situ conservation approaches for on farm conservation and for e.g. crop wild relatives and other non cultivated agrobiodiversity. On the other hand, in situ maintenance may be essential to maintaining adaptability in populations. This raises a range of questions on conservation strategies and the ways in which they might need to be adapted for different degrees of climate change. There will also be a need to develop better utilization pathways for ex situ conserved material. What research issues are most pressing in relation to improved use – the pathway from genebank to farmer is still not well developed, but is this a research issue? 5. Developing an appropriate policy framework Policies What characteristics are required of climate change sensitive agrobiodiversity? Policies? What policies might support adaptation and mitigation? The need for increased movement of crop materials to meet different production conditions might suggest that it becomes important to add to the Annex 1 List. What evidence might there be to support this assertion? Valuing agrobiodiversity under climate change Agrobiodiversity is undervalued and this is likely to be an additional barrier to its effective use in contributing to adaptation and mitigation strategies. How might one demonstrate this in a sufficiently clear and rigorous way and what valuation strategies might be possible to support farmers’ access to new diversity when needed?