Malnourished Insects: Higher CO2 Levels Make Plants Less Nutritious | naked capitalism

Why It Matters

Ecologists have thus far focused on pesticide use and the loss of native habitats as causes for insect declines.

These factors aren’t likely at the large native prairie reserve where I work. Yet the 2% per year decline in grasshoppers our study found is eerily similar to the 2% declines reported from long-term studies around the globe of moths and butterflies, whose young – caterpillars – are also voracious plant feeders.

Other factors, like pesticide use and habitat destruction, are certainly hurting insect populations in many places. But since CO2 is increasing globally, my colleagues and I suspect that nutrient dilution is likely bad news for plant-eating insects across a huge variety of habitats, in both pristine and degraded ecosystems. And since insects are crucial parts of all terrestrial food webs, their loss affects many other organisms from plants to birds.

How We Do Our Work

Konza Prairie is a large protected prairie in northeastern Kansas, and researchers have been collecting data on the grasses, insects, and animals there since the early 1980s. My colleagues and I relied on this long-term data and physical samples from years past to perform our study.

Grasshopper numbers fluctuate on a roughly five-year cycle that follows changes in the climate, like the El Niño Southern Oscillation. Having a decades-long data set allowed my colleagues and me to clearly separate these cycles from the long-term population decline and see how increasing CO2 levels played a part.

This kind of data is surprisingly rare, which has led to a good deal of controversy regarding the ubiquity of insect declines. Sites like the Konza Prairie (part of the NSF-funded Long-Term Ecological Research Network) are on the front lines in documenting Earth’s changing ecosystems.
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Peak Phosphorus And Food Production – Business Insider

A Genius Investor Thinks Billions Of People Are Going To Starve To Death — Heres Why�15/34��Phosphorus P is essential for life. Plants absorb it from fertilized soil, and then animals absorb it when they eat plants and each other. When the plants and animals excrete waste or die, the phosphorus returns to the environment. Eventually, given enough time, it gets compressed into rock at the bottom of the ocean.

via Peak Phosphorus And Food Production – Business Insider.

Flora of North America – The Outreach Resources | Flora of North America

Flora of North America – The Outreach ResourcesSpecies and Specimens: Exploring Local BiodiversityIn this lesson, appropriate for middle through high school, students practice skills essential to all scientific investigation: carefully observing and collecting data. Students become field biologists in a series of hands-on activities to collect and identify specimens, and survey and calculate the diversity of plant species in their local environment

via Flora of North America – The Outreach Resources | Flora of North America.

Reduction in Phytoplankton-40% since 1950s

It may be hardest of all to care about something unseen. A single glass of seawater drawn from the surf in Newport or Brookings might look clear but in fact would roil with at least 75 million organisms called phytoplankton.

And we vitally depend upon such creatures. Out in the ocean, infinite numbers of them produce half the world’s oxygen and form the base of the marine food chain. For what it’s worth, phytoplankton eat crazy amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

But their numbers are down 40 percent worldwide since the 1950s and may be headed down further. The culprit appears to be rising ocean temperatures associated with climate change. The sea’s warming top layer of water, where phytoplankton do their job, increasingly lacks life-sustaining nutrients from the cold deep.

via An ocean on the slide could hurt us badly |

Plant math | Making More Plants for Free

Author Ken Druse tells how to multiply and divide garden favorites. By Debra Prinzing May 4, 2008

Cuttings from woody plants above or from the stems of herbacious plants right can be rooted to form new plants. Author Ken Druse explains how in his book, “Making More Plants,” and in a special lecture here May 12.

Should you find yourself touring a friend’s garden and falling in love with an uncommon plant growing there, you might want to borrow a technique from Ken Druse

via Plant math | The San Diego Union-Tribune.

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Tracking the Ancestry of Corn Back 9,000 Years –

Dr. Beadle returned to the issue and sought ways to gather more evidence. As a great geneticist, he knew that one way to examine the parentage of two individuals was to cross them and then to cross their offspring and see how often the parental forms appeared. He crossed maize and teosinte, then crossed the hybrids, and grew 50,000 plants. He obtained plants that resembled teosinte and maize at a frequency that indicated that just four or five genes controlled the major differences between the two plants.

via Remarkable Creatures – Tracking the Ancestry of Corn Back 9,000 Years –

In the Garden – Upside-Down Crops Are Growing in Popularity

IF pests and blight are wrecking your plants, it might be time to turn your garden on its head.

Donald Rutledge, in New Braunfels, Tex., put his buckets on pulleys to protect his plants from deer.

Mark McAlpine made his own containers for his Ontario garden.

Growing crops that dangle upside down from homemade or commercially available planters is growing more popular, and its adherents swear they’ll never come back down to earth.

via In the Garden – Upside-Down Crops Are Growing in Popularity –

via In the Garden – Upside-Down Crops Are Growing in Popularity.

Invasion of the Superweeds – Room for Debate Blog

What should farmers do about these superweeds? What does the problem mean for agriculture in the U.S.? Will it temper American agriculture’s enthusiasm for genetically modified crops that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup?

  • Michael Pollan, author, “Food Rules”
  • Stephen Powles, plant biologist and grain farmer
  • Blake Hurst, farmer
  • Anna Lappé, Small Planet Institute
  • Micheal D.K. Owen, professor of agronomy

via Invasion of the Superweeds – Room for Debate Blog –