Workshop Climate change and agrobiodiversity

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					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?

				
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posted:12/20/2010
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Description: Workshop Climate change and agrobiodiversity