By Miroslav Djuric, DVM, CAB International, Wallingford, UK.
Bee specialists from South Australia have described four new native bees. Three of these bee species have been described as having narrow faces and very long mouths, allowing them to feed on slender flowers found on the emu bush, a hardy native of the Australian desert environment, and to collect the nectar through a narrow constriction at the base of the emu bush flowers. Based on the authors' description, the way these bees have adapted to feed on emu bush flowers is an excellent example of evolution. The fourth species belongs to a different group and has a more commonly observed round-shaped head.
The four new species belong to the genus Euhesma. Their description is based on evaluation of DNA ‘barcoding’ and morphological comparison of the bees with museum specimens.
Tropical rainforests are often referred to as the lungs of the planet for their crucial role in the global carbon cycle. They also harbour a large proportion of the world’s biodiversity and provide commodities for consumers around the globe. But the health of these forests is declining due to logging, climate change, invasive species, and other impacts arising from human activities. Metaphorically speaking, decades of chain smoking are starting to take a big toll on this vital organ. Now there is a need for a suitable health care plan. The latest special issue of Science was dedicated to forest health. It reviews the present and future threats to tropical and temperate forests. Of particular interest is the growing research on tropical secondary forests and their capacity to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services.
June 17 has been designated by the United Nations as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCD). The slogan of this year's WDCD is 'Land Belongs to the Future, Let’s Climate Proof It’, which aims to ‘highlight the benefits of mainstreaming sustainable land management policies and practices into our collective response to climate change’. The objectives of this year’s WDCD are to increase the attention given to land and soil within climate change adaptation; mobilise support for sustainable land management and call for the inclusion of land and soil and their role in food security into national climate adaptation policies.
A few months ago, in the ‘silly season’ of summer, we were fretting about the future of food – how we were ever going to produce enough to feed and fuel the world, whether we were all going to be subsisting on fermented barley sludge and have to give up milk.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate to meet with some very sound-minded people, who have pointed out to their fellow agriculturalists – the food producers – that no, we’re not going to starve.
May 22nd is the International Day for Biological Diversity
2008. This year’s
theme is ‘Biodiversity in
Agriculture‘. According to the Convention on
Biodiversity who are co-promoting the day’s festivities along with such
luminaries of food and nutrition as the FAO, modern food production is
responsible for both increasing and decreasing biodiversity. One of the things
the CBD is interested in is stabilising the balance, so we can benefit from
improved food (and fuel) production, whilst preserving species (the ‘genetic
treasures’) that could become the food ingredients and medicines of the future.
Agriculture is mostly concerned with efficient production of nutritious, safe
foodstuffs. To do this involves the promotion and prevention of growth of an
enormous number of different species, soil, plant and animal-based organisms of
various shapes and sizes – minimising the pests and pathogens while promoting
the useful and edible ones.
Biological diversity in food is a very diverse subject area indeed.