Tag: sustainability

Groundwater depletion embedded in international food trade 

Recent hydrological modelling1 and Earth observations2, 3 have located and quantified alarming rates of groundwater depletion worldwide. This depletion is primarily due to water withdrawals for irrigation1, 2, 4, but its connection with the main driver of irrigation, global food consumption, has not yet been explored. Here we show that approximately eleven per cent of non-renewable groundwater use for irrigation is embedded in international food trade, of which two-thirds are exported by Pakistan, the USA and India alone. Our quantification of groundwater depletion embedded in the world’s food trade is based on a combination of global, crop-specific estimates of non-renewable groundwater abstraction and international food trade data. A vast majority of the world’s population lives in countries sourcing nearly all their staple crop imports from partners who deplete groundwater to produce these crops, highlighting risks for global food and water security. Some countries, such as the USA, Mexico, Iran and China, are particularly exposed to these risks because they both produce and import food irrigated from rapidly depleting aquifers. Our results could help to improve the sustainability of global food production and groundwater resource management by identifying priority regions and agricultural products at risk as well as the end consumers of these products.

Source: www.nature.com

Seafood prices reveal impacts of a major ecological disturbance

Coastal hypoxia is a growing problem worldwide, but economic consequences for fisheries are largely unknown. We provide evidence that hypoxia causes economic effects on a major fishery that was once the most valuable fishery in America. Our analysis is also a breakthrough in causal inference for coupled human-natural systems. Although establishing causality with observational data is always challenging, feedbacks across the human and natural systems amplify these challenges and explain why linking hypoxia to fishery losses has been elusive. We offer an alternative approach using a market counterfactual that is immune to contamination from feedbacks in the coupled system. Natural resource prices can thus be a means to assess the significance of an ecological disturbance.

Source: www.pnas.org

High fishery catches through trophic cascades in China

Fishing marine ecosystems indiscriminately and intensely can have negative impacts on biodiversity, but it may increase the biomass of fish available for capture in the system. We explore the possibility that China’s high fishery catches are a result of predator removal using an ecosystem model of the East China Sea (ECS). We show that China’s high fishery catches can be explained by the removal of larger predatory fish and consequent increases in the production of smaller fish. We project that single-species management would decrease catches in the ECS by reversing these ecosystem effects. Fisheries similar to those in China produce a large fraction of global catch; management reform in these areas must consider the entire ecosystem, rather than individual species.

Source: www.pnas.org