Modernizing rainwater harvesting for the dry areas

Written on Nov 26,2017

Although there is renewed interest in indigenous rainwater harvesting, traditional practices and technologies are rarely suitable or feasible. ICARDA is promoting a practical and cost-effective alternative that combines indigenous knowledge with mechanization to enhance effectiveness and strengthen resilience.

Although rainwater harvesting remains relevant, there have been few efforts in recent decades to modernize old practices, develop new ones, or create an enabling environment to unlock its full potential. Many rural communities have become overly attached to old practices and all too often the concept of rainwater harvesting is blamed for failure when in reality mismanagement and poor design are most at fault.

The limitations of rainwater harvesting

One key limitation is that the technical aspects of water harvesting structures – never simple and often complex – are usually implemented by unskilled labor. Laying ridges or contour lines is essential to the proper functioning of a water harvesting system, but this is a complicated procedure and requires special training. Proper site selection is also required. Failure to adequately tailor a method to site characteristics – topography, soil type, vegetation cover etc. – will result in failure.

In addition, the contextual environment in the drylands is increasingly unfavorable. The break-down in collective conservation systems, subsidized feed, and a corresponding increase in animal populations and overgrazing means that unless new legislation is introduced and existing institutions are reformed dry ecosystem restoration schemes will have limited success.

A practical and cost-effective approach

In an effort to overcome these constraints, ICARDA scientists worked with two communities in Jordan’s badia – Mhareb and Majdieh – to design, test, and promote a practical rainwater harvesting package. The package combines indigenous knowledge with mechanization and a contour laser guiding system to enhance the accuracy of ridges and bunds.

Efforts were also taken to improve the selection of restoration sites, design appropriate structures, select the right shrubs, and most importantly, implement sustainable grazing strategies and ensure on-going maintenance.

With support from Jordan’s National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE), 80% and 90% of farmers in Mhareb and Majdieh used the package. Jordan’s Ministry of Environment also adopted it, allocating funds for its implementation across 2000 Ha so far – an area the Ministry is planning to extend even further.

The result? Rapid vegetation growth, more animal feed, less soil erosion, and enhanced biodiversity. The package is also cost-effective: it costs a mere USD 32/hectare – which includes the production, planting, and maintenance of shrub seedlings – and the economic internal rate of return is estimated at some 13%.

Achieving long-term sustainability

While the positive impacts of the rainwater harvesting package are clear, additional financial support is needed to extend the intervention over a wider area and ensure its long-term sustainability. Given that local communities are unable or unwilling to fully cover the costs of implementation, public funding is essential.

However, to extend benefits and reduce costs even further, public-private partnerships should be initiated to pay for the building of water harvesting structures. This would enhance the intervention’s viability across the dry areas and ensure that many more rural communities could benefit from land restoration and enhanced resilience to climate variability and change.

This blog is based on an article recently published in the Journal Environmental Reviews: ‘Rainwater harvesting for restoring degraded dry agro-pastoral ecosystems; a conceptual review of opportunities and constraints in a changing climate.’

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the ICARDA and retrieved on 12/07/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM Inc. accordingly.


On the trail of ancient treasure in Peru

By Neil Palmer @ CIAT


Source: CIAT, 2017

It’s down there somewhere.


At least, it was. Almost thirty years ago.

Looking out over Peru’s Sacred Valley, Daniel Debouck checks his map. The same one as before, impeccably preserved.

Daniel Debouck checks his map

But Daniel is no ordinary treasure hunter. What he’s looking for is something more ancient than the Incas, and potentially more valuable than all their silver and gold.

And if he finds it, he’s just going to look at it.

For a few minutes.

And then leave.

We wind our way down to the valley floor and through the little towns of Pisac and Lamay. Daniel scours the roadside, taking meticulous readings from the car’s odometer. Shunning nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites to comb wasteland, our driver clearly thinks we’re bonkers.

At a non-descript verge, Daniel politely asks to pull over and dons his hiking boots.

And he’s off. Suitcase in hand; long, lurching strides that I scamper to keep up with; brief pauses to scan the roadside before marching on. To passing traffic he must look like a hitchhiker searching for lost keys.

A hundred metres later and with no luck, I start to console myself: it’s been nearly three decades. Anything could have happened. The story will have to be that we didn’t find treasure at all.

Suddenly, Daniel stops.

With a jab of his finger, he points into an impenetrable tangle of quite dead-looking bushes.

As I catch up, he turns to me, eyes full of excitement, and says:

“G40725. It’s still here.”

It’s a code that means bean. A wild, untamed bean. One that contains secrets.

I peer uselessly into the undergrowth. After a few years at CIAT, I’ve seen my fair share of beans. But even with this really special one right in front of me, I can’t spot it. Daniel guides my eyes, and finally, there it is: Phaseolus augusti, an ancient, rustic cousin of the better-known Lima bean.

Far from dead, he explains that the pods have all opened, leaving their dried, twisted casings dangling from the vines. I get a flash of The Blair Witch Project and shake it away.

Is that it, a bedraggled bean plant? That’s the treasure?

I know; I owe you an explanation. So here goes.

Once there was a plant. We’re talking about 8 million years ago, in what is modern-day Mexico. This “proto-bean” – now long extinct – is the earliest ancestor of the beans that today feed 400 million people. Yes, the kinds the British have on toast and that Mexicans themselves are known to re-fry.

By 5 million years ago, proto-bean had spawned several genetically distinct offspring. Responding to natural variations in climate, some of these new plants started to move south, at the excruciatingly slow rate of about five meters per year – the result of seed drop and regrowth, drop and regrowth. Little by little, they adapted to the environments they moved through.

Over the course of a few more million years, this southerly saunter led them down through Central America, and into many parts of South America, including here, in the Peruvian Andes. Daniel can even point to the direction from which they first slinked into the Sacred Valley (north-west).

Fast-forward to around 15,000 years ago – experts disagree as to exactly when – and the first hunter-gatherers arrived in the Andes. They stumbled upon several kinds of wild beans while foraging. But the seeds were small, bitter-tasting and – here’s the deal-breaker – poisonous. It’s the reason you need to soak and cook beans even today.

But what happened next changed the course of agricultural and culinary history. The hunter-gatherers possibly saw birds feeding on the young, green pods of one bean in particular – P.vulgaris, or wild common bean. Given they didn’t promptly squawk in agony and drop out of the sky, the hunter-gatherers surmised – so the argument goes – that the immature beans were probably safe to eat. Some brave soul must have been the guinea pig.

When he or she survived, they plucked some of the beans from the wild and started cultivating them – a process known as domestication. Daniel’s research suggests that for common bean, this happened around 6-7,000 years ago in Peru’s Apurímac Region, not far from where we are in Cusco Region.*

Over time these early farmers noticed that some of the domesticated plants produced bigger seeds than others. Easier to harvest and more fun to eat, they discarded smaller-seeded plants in favor of the larger ones. Over centuries, domesticated beans tripled in size, soaking and cooking became the norm, and they became a staple food.

The once-wild common bean had been tamed.

Fast-forward to the present day and human activity has gobbled up many of the habitats of wild beans. But, whatever: they were small and poisonous anyway. Good riddance.

Fortunately, that’s not where the story ends.

Because there are still little pockets where wild beans endure. These ecological niches have managed to either repel, escape or adapt to the forces of modernity. They’re often unassuming wastelands, and the beans little more than weeds. Just sitting there, looking dead.

Great. But what about the treasure?

Well, the fact the wild beans have survived so long means they probably have some kind of evolutionary advantage. And here, on the outskirts of Lamay, one particular strength is clear: at 2,940m above sea level, this is high. And high means cold. Nowadays, farmed beans can barely survive above 2,000m.

So this particular wild bean in front of us – yes, this dead-looking thing amid a jumble of other dead-looking things – is actually right at the evolutionary frontier of cold tolerance. If you’re a crop breeder concerned with developing better beans for smallholders around the world, that’s something akin to striking gold.

And here’s why: if you cross cold-tolerant wild beans with high-yielding, large-seeded types, you could produce beans for farmers in cooler climates. Or ones that can be grown at different times of the year. For a crop that’s already humanity’s most important source of vegetable protein, it’s a tantalizing prospect.

It also means a bean like this really ought to be conserved in a genebank somewhere. And fortunately, it is. Wild bean G40725 was collected back in 1987 on the same verge, by the same Daniel Debouck. Things were quite different then. He tells me that at one point he was bean hunting on the valley floor while overhead, government troops exchanged fire with rebels from the Shining Path.

Undeterred, he and his Peruvian colleague took plant samples to Lima’s National University of San Marcos and deposited the seeds at the genebank at the National Agrarian University – La Molina, also in Lima. In accordance with an agreement between CIAT and Peru’s Instituto Nacional de Innovación Agraria (INIA), duplicate seeds were conserved at CIAT’s genebank in Colombia, where Daniel continues to work. In 1988, he returned, searching for more wild beans.

Retracing his steps today – in a much more peaceful Peru – is a quest to see how resilient or simply lucky an ecological niche can be. A lot can happen in three decades: a wildfire could wipe it out; invasive plants might choke it off; humans might build a burger bar on it. Think Joni Mitchell.

And it’s more than a hypothetical risk. Daniel has collected wild beans in parts of Mexico that are now urban areas; their evolutionary journeys and all their genetic mysteries snuffed out by asphalt and bitumen. Fortunately, those seeds are safely conserved at the CIAT genebank. Others weren’t so lucky.

So why has this particular niche in Peru survived? Daniel notes that the rocky verge is unlikely to be developed for construction or farming. The absence of vegetation-clearing goats is a boon too. He’s happy to conclude that the niche is stable.

I ask how he knows where to look for these little nooks of leguminous delight.

“That’s my trick,” he replies with a grin.

But as we begin the search for wild bean number two, it becomes clear that he has, in fact, several tricks.

Daniel can read landscapes, picking up signals from nature. The presence of certain shrubs; soil type; proximity to water, all give little whispers that he’s tuned-in to. When the whispers converge into a chorus of clues, it’s just a matter of pulling over and having a look.

He’s honed this quasi-mystical ability during a career spent on the trail of wild beans. Rummaging through the undergrowth in 14 countries in the Americas, and usually wearing his signature cyan and magenta hat, he’s discovered 15 new species and deposited 3,270 new samples in the CIAT genebank.

These and others in the nearly 38,000-strong CIAT bean collection – the largest in the world – are freely shared with scientists around the globe under the United Nations’ International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

CIAT and its partners have already found plants that are tolerant to pests, diseases, drought and heat, and with higher levels of important minerals like iron and zinc. These have been used in crop breeding programmes to develop hardier, more nutritious beans that are now grown by millions of people in Africa and Latin America. More breakthroughs are likely too: one-fifth of the beans in the CIAT collection are yet to have their secrets unlocked. CIAT’s Future Seeds initiative hopes to move ahead with screening these.

Back on the treasure trail near Ollantaytambo, our luck continues.

We stop at a dusty roadside where the bean drumbeat drew Daniel almost 30 years ago. And after a bit of a scout around, there’s wild bean number two (G40711; another P. augusti), buried in another vegetative tangle but safe and well. Proximity to the town’s impressive Inca ruins seems to be its saviour: planning regulations prevent construction too close to the historic site.

This niche, he concludes, is also stable.

But further downhill, in the village of Puente Achaco, things aren’t looking so rosy for the final bean on our list – and the one we really want to find: wild common bean.

Work to dredge the Limatambo River had gutted the original collection site.

Daniel seems perturbed.

Once again, I scamper after him as he paces up and down a long stretch of road, rifling through hedgerows and staring into more tangles of weeds, at times almost sniffing the wind for beans.

I find myself urging his magical powers to pick up the scent.

He searches…

He seeks them here...

And searches…

He seeks them there...
Getting warmer, hopefully

And searches some more…

Danile reads the landscape...
...and then continues the search

Then, a few hundred meters downstream, the sandflies start to bite: we’re close.

We cross a bridge to an area which, in disconcertingly literal testament to the aforementioned Joni, had actually been turned into a car park. And there it is: a solitary common bean plant (G23454) hugging the gravelly perimeter.

Daniel is delighted.

He uncovers more plants up a nearby trail. Some of the pods show signs of damage by feeding birds, harkening back to what those early hunter-gatherers might have seen. He pops one open to reveal the small, shiny, patterned seeds.

A pod of a wild Phaseolus vulgaris plant (accession no. G23454)
The tiny seeds of wild Phaseolus vulgaris (G23454)

He can’t say what secrets they might contain – this is one of the beans that’s yet to be screened. But some kind of disease resistance is a possibility: surviving the constant attack for a few million years is a long time to be simply lucky. At the very least, the seeds from this fragile niche are safely conserved, thanks to the efforts of Daniel and INIA 30 years ago.

As we douse ourselves in repellent, I ask how he can be so sure that these beans are actually wild and not just escapees from nearby farms. Apart from visible clues like seed size, it’s ultimately about polymorphisms, he says. These are mutations in the beans’ DNA, like a genetic autobiography. They enable geneticists to read the moves and shakes in a bean’s long journey like a book.

Briefly mesmerized by the huge volume of history contained in the tiny seed in his palm, I ask a rhetorical question:

“Can we take it with us?”

“No; it stays here,” he replies, flicking the bean back into the undergrowth.

To collect seeds you need an official permit for each trip. And for good reason: the UN’s Plant Treaty recognizes that wild plants are a country’s intellectual property and that there is a risk of biopiracy. Permits are a requirement with which Daniel has always dogmatically complied.

But having spent a couple of days with him, I also knew that he was tipping the nod to something much more profound: the idea that this wild bean should be left to continue its evolutionary journey, whichever direction it may take.


The work of Daniel Debouck and his team at CIAT’s Genetic Resources Program, which runs the organisation’s genebank, has been possible thanks to funding from the Belgian Agency for Development Cooperation (AGCD); Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ); The European Union; the Crop Trust; the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources; the International Union for Conservation of Nature; Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); the United States Department of Agriculture, and the World Bank.

In addition, Daniel would like to personally thank his colleagues at INIA, for their years of support and friendship, and their important contributions to the conservation and study of wild beans in Peru. Specifically, the herbarium at the National University of San Marcos, Lima; the herbarium at the National Agrarian University – La Molina, Lima; and the Vargas Herbarium, Cusco.

* P.vulgaris is believed to have been domesticated twice; first in Peru, with a separate “domestication event” in Mexico a few thousand years later.

The codes G40725, G40771, and G23454 are accession numbers of the beans at the CIAT genebank. They are also identified respectively as populations #2312, #2313 and #2580.


Pics by Neil Palmer, except for the shot of Daniel Debouck in the 1980s, taken by CIAT’s Joe Tohme.

Many thanks to the Crop Trust for their inputs.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by CIAT and retrieved on 11/07/2017 and reposted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the original authors and publisher. We will not be held accountable for the reliability, accuracy, and validity of the published materials. If you need additional information about the contents and materials of the article, please contact the original authors and publisher. INDESEEM is an emerging nonprofit, research and development organization which seeks to enhance development partnerships in developing countries to achieve the sustainable development goals by 2030 and beyond. Please cite article accordingly. Thank You.








Moja Global: Creating Open Source Tools to Help the Environment


Communities members plant tree seedlings in Kenya as part of a forest carbon project supported by CCI. Photo credit: Mary Petrini.


To understand and address issues such as land degradation, deforestation, food security, and greenhouse gas emissions, countries need access to high-quality and timely information. As these challenges have become more urgent over the past decade, the need for more information has also increased. At the recent 2016 Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, we introduced a new open source project called Moja Global, supported by the Clinton Foundation and the governments of Australia, Canada, and Kenya, that aims to provide the tools necessary to help address these issues.

The past decade has seen considerable advances in satellite technology and methods. There have also been large-scale campaigns collecting ground measurements, which can be combined with satellite data to produce the information required by countries to plan and respond to land management issues.

Unfortunately, few tools exist that can integrate these data into coherent, operational systems. Instead, analysis of satellite and ground data largely continues in isolation, often with little consideration of the expected end uses or actual country needs.

This is partly due to the lack of generic tools that allow countries to combine their own ground and satellite data to meet their specific needs. This also leads to countries building several smaller, custom-developed tools. This is slow, inefficient, and results in a proliferation of approaches and systems that are not comparable.


The Moja Global project will help provide software and data solutions for countries and communities to better manage their land. The initiative aims to develop and manage new generic tools that can be used by any country, NGO or private sector organization to combine satellite and ground data to develop efficient and credible systems that put useful data into the hands of decision makers.

Specifically, the Moja Global team has developed a new integrating tool, the Full Lands Integration Tool (FLINT) that combines satellite and ground data in ways that meet policy needs. The FLINT is based on more than 20 years of experience building and operating similar tools in Australia and Canada, but additional development work is needed.

The FLINT makes developing and operating advanced systems achievable by all countries. It is a generic platform with a modular structure, allowing countries to attach any variety of models or data to build country-specific systems. The platform handles complex computer science tasks, such as the storage and processing of large data sets, leaving users to focus on monitoring, reporting and scenario analyses. The first implementation of these concepts has been demonstrated in Kenya with the System for Land Emission Estimation for Kenya (SLEEK), which runs on the FLINT platform.

Open Source Support Is Needed

But simply having a new tool is not enough. The FLINT needs to be supported and managed at a level that gives governments and other users confidence that it will be sustained in the long-term. Moja global aims to provide this confidence by managing the FLINT as collaboratively developed, professional-grade software. Moja global can also be used to house other software required by governments and other users, such as satellite data processing methods, databases, and GIS processing tools.

A key element of the FLINT is that all of the software will be open source. True open source approaches are uncommon in the land sector software world. Most groups simply place the code on GitHub without licensing or processes that foster a diverse developer and user community. Jim Zemlin’s opening presentation at the 2016 Collaboration Summit provides a clear path that needs to be followed if we are to move away from this.

We look forward to working with organizations like The Linux Foundation to create a true open source approach to land sector software — bringing the experience and expertise of the open source developer community for the good of the planet.

This is just the first step in, hopefully, a long journey. Numerous obstacles lie ahead, that are common to many other software projects. The Moja Global project must actively address issues of funding, developer time, documentation, community management, organizational roles, and project management. We invite you to join us in building Moja Global into a vibrant open source project working to create the tools that countries and communities need to improve land management.

To find out more about Moja Global and assist in the development of the FLINT, please contact us at, or @mojaglobal on Twitter.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Linux and retrieved on 05/17/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Australia to ax support for long-term ecology sites


An Australian agency plans to pull the plug on a long-term ecological monitoring program in the stunning Simpson Desert.

By John PickrellAug. 11, 2017 , 5:10 PM

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—The Simpson Desert of central Australia is as starkly beautiful as it is ecologically entrancing. Ranks of rusty red sand dunes run unbroken for hundreds of kilometers. During rare years with sustained downpours, moist swales are carpeted with spiky spinifex grasses that take on the appearance of fields of golden wheat. Desert ecosystems dominated by spinifex or Triodia grasses cover about 70% of Australia, but the only long-term experiment for studying them is set in a section of the desert in western Queensland—and that research site is now in jeopardy.

Launched in 1990, the study has shown that heavy rains cause flushes of vegetation and seeds that lead to booms of insects, small marsupials, and rodents. Outback pools draw immense swarms of parakeets called budgerigars. That explosion of life attracts feral foxes and cats, which have had a role in the extinction of 27 species and subspecies of mammals in Australia since European colonization in 1788. The invasive species ravage the native ones, which may spend many years hunkered down in scrubby woodland refugia until fresh downpours start the cycle again.

If you monitored the desert’s fauna for just a few years at a time you’d miss that dynamic, says Glenda Wardle, an ecologist at the University of Sydney here. “Long-term research in the Simpson Desert has provided fundamental insights into the ecology of outback Australia” and crucial information for protecting endangered species and other natural resources, says Wardle, co-leader of the Simpson Desert Mammal Monitoring project.

But such studies are now slated for the chopping block. A body funded by Australia’s federal government plans to stop funding all 12 sites in Australia’s Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTERN), including the 8000-square-kilometer Simpson Desert site, at the end of this year. In a letter in today’s issue of Science, Wardle and 68 co-authors decry the decision as “totally out of step with international trends and national imperatives.” She and leaders of the other projects are now scrambling to find other sources of funding before their coffers run dry.

LTERN’s demise could have major consequences, supporters say. “In a country like Australia, which is facing huge challenges with climate change, with expanding populations, with major pressures on its water supplies and land area—we’re not going to be able to predict anything about the status of our environmental assets,” says David Lindenmayer, LTERN’s science director, lead signatory of the letter, and an ecologist at the Australian National University in Canberra. Barring an 11th hour reprieve, some sites will surely have to shut down, he predicts. “That’s a catastrophic loss because it means we have no real ability to take a health reading on the country.”

LTERN covers more than 1100 long-term field plots in ecosystems including alpine grasslands, tall wet forests, temperate woodlands, heathlands, tropical savannas, rainforests, and deserts. Some sites are globally unique, including Victoria state’s forests of mountain ash trees (Eucalyptus regnans), the world’s tallest flowering plants. Each of the 12 networks of plots started as discrete university-run projects that in 2012 were gathered under the government’s Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN) in Brisbane. But budget cuts and new government guidelines on funding priorities have forced TERN to terminate the AUS$900,000 program, says TERN Director Beryl Morris. TERN will continue to fund a handful of long-term sites that are not part of LTERN, including the Warra tall gum forests of Tasmania.

To illustrate LTERN’s value, scientists rattle off a number of major findings. In 2010, for example, studies centered on Kakadu National Park south of Darwin, Australia, revealed a population collapse of small marsupials and mammals. The cause, says network co-leader Jeremy Russell-Smith of Charles Darwin University in Casuarina, Australia, appears to have been more frequent fires, which created more open ground and allowed feral cats to decimate native species. “People assumed [that ecosystem] was pretty intact,” he says. “That view is totally incorrect, but you need long-term monitoring to show that.”

LTERN’s closure would have international implications, says David Keith, an ecologist at the University of New South Wales here who manages studies at three sites. Of 80 ecological communities listed as threatened by the Australian government, only 24 are monitored, and LTERN studies account for the longest and most reliable data sets. “Their discontinuation will substantially weaken Australia’s … ability to report on progress to meet international targets agreed to under the Convention on Biological Diversity,” he says.

Lindenmayer and others are making a last-ditch bid to find new pots of money to stabilize LTERN—and, if they’re lucky, expand the network to major ecosystem types currently lacking long-term monitoring. “I am hopeful,” says Keith, “that a phoenix will rise from the ashes.”

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the Science Mag and retrieved on 08/11/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Global warming could create 150 million ‘climate refugees’ by 2050


People displaced by Cyclone Nargis line up by their tents for a visit from UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon in 2008 in Kyondah, Myanmar. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Environmental Justice Foundation report says 10% of the global population is at risk of forced displacement due to climate change.

Global warming will force up to 150 million “climate refugees” to move to other countries in the next 40 years, a new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) warns.

In 2008 alone, more than 20 million people were displaced by climate-related natural disasters, including 800,000 people by cyclone Nargis in Asia, and almost 80,000 by heavy floods and rains in Brazil, the NGO said.

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, who presented testimony to the EJF, said people in his country did not want to “trade a paradise for a climate refugee camp”. He warned rich countries taking part in UN climate talks this week in Barcelona “not to be stupid” in negotiating a climate treaty in Copenhagen this December.

Nasheed urged governments to find ways to keep temperature rises caused by warming under 2C. “We won’t be around for anything after 2C,” he said. “We are just 1.5m over sea level and anything over that, any rise in sea level – anything even near that – would wipe off the Maldives. People are having to move their homes because of erosion. We’ve already this year had problems with two islands and we are having to move them to other islands. We have a right to live.”

Last month, the president held a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to the plight of his country.

The EJF claimed 500 million to 600 million people – nearly 10% of the world’s population – are at risk from displacement by climate change. Around 26 million have already had to move, a figure that the EJF predicts could grow to 150 million by 2050. “The majority of these people are likely to be internally displaced, migrating only within a short radius from their homes. Relatively few will migrate internationally to permanently resettle in other countries,” said the report’s authors.

In the longer term, the report said, changes to weather patterns will lead to various problems, including desertification and sea-level rises that threaten to inundate low-lying areas and small island developing states. An expert at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris recently said global warming could create “ghost states” with citizens living in “virtual states” due to land lost to rising seas.

Many other countries, including Bangladesh, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Chad and Rwanda, could see large movements of people. Bangladesh has had 70 climate-related natural disasters in the past 10 years.

“Climate change impacts on homes and infrastructure, food and water and human health. It will bring about a forced migration on an unprecedented scale,” said the EJF director, Steve Trent. “We must take immediate steps to reduce our impact on global climate, and we must also recognise the need to protect those already suffering along with those most at risk.”

He called for a new international agreement to address the scale and human cost of climate change. “The formal legal definition of refugees needs to be extended to include those affected by climate change and also internally displaced persons,” he said.

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the The Guardian and retrieved on 07/20/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Source of Arctic Mercury Pollution Identified in New Study


DRI research team part of international effort to understand global impact

Reno, NV (Friday July 14, 2017): Vast amounts of toxic mercury are accumulating in the Arctic tundra, threatening the health and well-being of people, wildlife and waterways, according to a new study published this month by an international team of scientists investigating the source of the pollution.

Led by Prof. Daniel Obrist, chairman of UMass Lowell’s Department of Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, an atmospheric chemist and former lead of the Desert Research Institute’s (DRI) Mercury Analytical Lab, the study found that airborne mercury is gathering in the Arctic tundra, where it gets deposited in the soil and ultimately runs off into waters. Scientists have long reported high levels of mercury pollution in the Arctic.

The new research identifies gaseous mercury as its major source and sheds light on how the element gets there.

“Now we understand how such a remote site is so exposed to mercury,” Obrist said. Although the study did not examine the potential impact of global warming, if climate change continues unchecked, it could destabilize these mercury deposits in tundra soils and allow large amounts of the element to find its way into Arctic waters, he added.

Obrist NatureMercuryPaperObrist and his colleagues – including students and researchers from DRI – recently completed two years of field research in the tundra, tracking the origin and path of mercury pollution. Working from an observation site in Alaska north of Brooks Range, he and an international group of scientists identified that gaseous mercury in the atmosphere is the source of 70 percent of the pollutant that finds its way into the tundra soil. In contrast, airborne mercury that is deposited on the ground through rain or snow – a more frequent focus of other studies – accounts for just 2 percent of the mercury deposits in the region, Obrist’s team found.

The new research is the most comprehensive investigation on how mercury is deposited in the Arctic. The full results of the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation, appear in the July 13 edition of the prestigious academic journal Nature.

Mercury is a harmful pollutant, threatening fish, birds and mammals across the globe. The dominant source of mercury pollution in the atmosphere is hundreds of tons of the element that are emitted each year through the burning of coal, mining and other industrial processes across the globe.

This gaseous mercury is lofted to the Arctic, where it is absorbed by plants in a process similar to how they take up carbon dioxide. Then, the mercury is deposited in the soil when the plants shed leaves or die. As a result, the tundra is a significant repository for atmospheric mercury being emitted by industrialized regions of the world.

“This mercury from the tundra soil explains half to two-thirds of the total mercury input into the Arctic Ocean,” Obrist said, adding that scientists had previously estimated mercury runoff from tundra soil supplies 50 to 85 tons of the heavy metal to Arctic waters each year.

Exposure to high levels of mercury over long periods can lead to neurological and cardiovascular problems. The results are being felt by Arctic people and wildlife.

“Mercury has high exposure levels in northern wildlife, such as beluga whales, polar bears, seals, fish, eagles and other birds,” Obrist said. “It also affects human populations, particularly the Inuit, who rely on traditional hunting and fishing.”

Obrist will present the team’s research at the International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant, which will be held Sunday, July 16 through Friday, July 21 in Providence, R.I. The event is the largest scientific conference on mercury pollution, involving nearly 1,000 participants from research institutions, governments and other agencies.

Obrist hopes to continue to investigate whether gaseous mercury is also a dominant source of pollution in other remote lands. Scientists, regulators and policymakers need a better understanding of how the uptake of gaseous mercury in plants and soils is affecting the environment, including the world’s forests, he said.

The research findings underscore the importance of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the first global treaty that aims to protect human health and the environment from the element’s adverse effects, Obrist said. Signed by the United States and more than 120 other countries, the pact will take effect next month, with the goal of reducing mercury emissions caused by industrialization and other human activities.

Other contributors to the study include scientists from the University of Colorado; Gas Technology Institute in Des Plaines, Ill.; Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev.; Sorbonne University in Paris, France; and University of Toulouse in Toulouse, France. Additional support for the research was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, a Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant and funding from the European Research Council and the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

Contributors to this news release included Nancy Cicco, associate director of media relations; and Edwin l. Aguirre, senior science and technology writer/editor, University of Massachusetts Lowell.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,750 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.

The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is a recognized world leader in investigating the effects of natural and human-induced environmental change and advancing technologies aimed at assessing a changing planet. For more than 50 years DRI research faculty, students, and staff have applied scientific understanding to support the effective management of natural resources while meeting Nevada’s needs for economic diversification and science-based educational opportunities. With campuses in Reno and Las Vegas, DRI serves as the non-profit environmental research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education. For more information, please visit


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