Posts Tagged: conservation
“We’ll be looking at the latest rangeland science, practices, and collaborations that support the many public benefits we receive from rangelands,” said UC Cooperative Extension Watershed Specialist Ken Tate with the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences, a key organizer of the event. “Participants will see why diverse interests have agreed on the importance of working rangelands and the need to preserve this way of life for the benefit of future generations of all Californians.”
The two-day gathering at Freeborn Hall will feature two events in one – the first Range Research Symposium and the 7th annual California Rangeland Conservation Coalition Summit. The first day will highlight rangeland research from throughout California. The second day will include ranchers sharing their conservation stories and successful collaborative conservation initiatives, research presentations, and plenty of networking opportunities.
The full agenda and registration information is available here. Student discounts are available.
As it turns out, the farmer and the cowman should be friends, as the classic “Oklahoma!” song suggests. According to a just-published UC Berkeley study, wild bee species pollinate California crops to the tune of $937 million to $2.4 billion per year. That amounts to more than one-third of all pollination “services” to the state’s crops.
Many of those crop-pollinating wild bees live in rangelands – chiefly ranches that graze cattle.
“This means that preserving rangelands has significant economic value, not only to the ranchers who graze their cattle there, but also to farmers who need the pollinators,” said Claire Kremen, UC Berkeley associate professor of environmental science, policy and management, and senior author of the study.
The assumption that wild pollinators were not a significant source of crop pollination is more than just conventional wisdom – it’s business: a majority of farmers rent European honeybees to ensure crop pollination.
But beekeepers have suffered high rates of colony losses due to diseases, pesticides and management factors, increasing the uncertainty of both supply and rental prices.
And wild pollinator species have also shown declines in abundance and diversity on farmlands, most likely due to habitat loss from the intensive monoculture, or single crop, production system that typifies much of California’s agricultural lands.
The result? They are most scarce precisely where they are needed the most.
“Currently, wild pollinators are least abundant in intensive monoculture production areas such as sunflowers, almonds and melons, where demand for pollination services is largest,” said Kremen.
Kremen equated depending mainly on one species – the European honeybee – with putting all our retirement savings in one stock.
“The wisdom of diversification holds true for agriculture as well and yet, many Calfornia farmers rely solely on European honeybees for crop pollination,” Kremen said, adding that the unpredictability associated with climate change amplifies the importance of diversification.
“Some insect species will thrive in changed climate conditions, and other won’t. Maintaining a biodiverse stock of pollinators is like the insurance that a diversified stock portfolio brings: some will be up, some will be down, but having a portfolio of many different species ensures viability into the future,” Kremen said.
While it’s common sense that healthy crops result in a healthy food supply, a separate study led by Kremen, also just published, put a number on the human health benefit of ensuring the viability of pollinators. The researchers estimated that up to 40 percent of some essential nutrients provided by fruits and vegetables could be lost if there were no pollinators around to do the job.
Payment for services rendered
Placing a value on ecosystem services is an established part of conservation science, and this new finding comes at a time when there is growing interest within the ranching community in providing ecosystem services. For example, as part of conservation efforts, California ranchers have been asked to maintain flowers for endangered butterflies and to keep small spring wetlands known as vernal pools healthy – using grazing as a tool to manipulate the grassland.
Darrel Sweet, a fifth generation cattle rancher from Livermore and a former president of the California Cattlemen's Association, said that placing a dollar value on rangelands pollination services lends powerful support to these efforts.
“The value of grazing and other land stewardship practices of California’s ranchers is being increasingly acknowledged as not only a preferred land use, but also as an essential resource management tool,” said Sweet. “I hope this study is just the beginning of comparable findings that show how ranching is a critical – and multifaceted – element of California agriculture.”
The state’s rangelands have been decreasing steadily, as the foothills and oak-dotted grasslands can be highly desirable for residential development. California lost 105,000 acres of grazing lands to urbanization between 1990 and 2004, according to the state Department of Conservation. The California Oak Foundation projects that the state could lose another 750,000 acres by 2040.
Kremen said the findings suggest that if farmers paid ranchers to stay on the land and maintain the habitat, the farmers would be increasing their sources of pollination and developing critical diversification to support their agricultural practices.
California Naturalist program is a way for the institution to spread research-based knowledge about environmental stewardship and nature preservation. Rather than simply educating students, the program engages citizens of all ages through discovery and action in the science of conservation.
After completing the program, California Naturalists will become a committed corps of citizen scientists trained and ready for involvement in natural resources education and restoration.
“To ensure the sustainability of natural resources in California, we need citizens who participate in natural resource conservation, understand the importance of land use decisions and climate change resilience,” said Julie Fetherston, a UC Cooperative Extension program representative for Mendocino and Lake counties. “The California Naturalists will understand the need for biodiversity, be informed about limitations of our water and energy resources, and be aware of the role that science and UC play in sustaining our natural ecosystems.”
Participants in the program take a 40-hour course that combines classroom and field experience in science, problem-solving, communication training and community service. The course materials are offered to sponsoring organizations across the state that have a need for volunteers with an appreciation for natural systems and a desire to be involved in their protection. The curriculum covers ecology, geology, plant communities, interpretation and wildlife. Regional modules are also being added.
“We have developed a flexible curriculum that can be adapted by many different organizations,” Fetherston said.
Organizations that might offer the California Naturalist training are the California Native Plant Society, Audubon societies, land conservation organizations, nature conservancies and state and national parks.
Fetherston and UC Berkeley natural resources specialist Adina Merenlender pilot-tested the program in Sonoma County, where the coursework was offered in collaboration with the Pepperwood Preserve, a coast mountain range nature preserve, and the local community college. The result was a committed and informed group of card-carrying California Naturalists ready to extend their knowledge as volunteers for the Pepperwood Preserve.
For more information or to inquire about offering the program, see the California Naturalist website.