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Ecosystem Services and Key Biodiversity Areas

Biodiversity News

January 4, 2018

Working group discusses paper around tableThe Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) working group on Ecosystem Services and Key Biodiversity Areas, co-led by Penny Langhammer and  Leah Gerber of the ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, hosted an international science workshop with the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas on November 7-10, 2017 in Quebec City, Canada.

The workshop brought together international and Canadian scientists, Canadian federal, provincial and territorial protected area and conservation agencies, experts in Aboriginal and community land-use planning, national and international non-governmental conservation experts and land stewardship experts.

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Marine reserves connectivity and global warming

Biodiversity News

January 3, 2018

Reef in Gulf of CaliforniaASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Founding Director Leah Gerber and Faculty Associate Maria del Mar Mancha-Cisneros recently co-authored a publication led by Jorge Alvarez Romero and other conservation scientists around the world titled “Designing connected marine reserves in the face of global warming.”

Larval connectivity between marine reserves is instrumental in providing a healthy network of habitats for some of the world’s most protected species — including fish, which is the most traded food commodity in the world and primary source of income for fishing communities.

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British diplomat examines US stance on climate change

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December 12, 2017

In December 2017, two years after the Paris climate agreement was signed, the One Planet summit explored ways to meet climate goals without the support of the United States government.

On that note,  Distinguished Sustainability Fellow Sir Crispin Tickell – an ASU Wrigley Institute board member – gave ASU Now his prescription for the denial of climate change science in the U.S.

"We need a bit of political leadership. We had it originally in Britain from Margaret Thatcher, with whom I used to work quite closely," Tickell said. "I think politicians should take a grip and explain clearly to people in language they can understand what is happening and what has to be done about it, and what it will be necessary to do if nothing is done sooner rather than later."

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New publications shed light on translational ecology

Biodiversity News

December 7, 2017

Two geese flying right above waterASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Founding Director Leah Gerber co-authored two publications in the December 2017 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment aimed at cultivating a scientific community engaged in translational ecology. That is, as the authors define it, “a research approach that yields useful scientific outcomes through ongoing collaboration between scientists and stakeholders.”

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Bright spots among the world's coral reefs

Biodiversity News

December 7, 2017

Close-up view of colorful corals in reefASU-Conservation International Professor of Practice Jack Kittinger recently co-authored a journal publication titled “Bright spots among the world’s coral reefs” in Nature.

The paper presents compiled data and analysis from research conducted in more than 2,500 coral reefs around the world. This novel approach seeks to find solutions to reef degradation due to human activity by studying what the authors refer to as ‘outliers.’ These are identified coral reef areas that are either doing extremely well (bright spots) or very poorly (dark spots).

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New ASU center to offer nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems

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December 7, 2017

With the aim of finding better solutions to today's food-related challenges, Kelly and Brian Swette have made a major gift to establish the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University.

The new center, housed within the School of Sustainability, will tackle food systems from a holistic standpoint, taking into consideration water and energy use, carbon footprint and nutrition – all with an emphasis on efficiency across the global supply chain. It will also offer the nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems.

Explaining that the new center will accelerate and expand current efforts, Dean Christopher Boone said, "By combining ASU’s assets as a research powerhouse with the entrepreneurial spirit of our students and the expertise from external partners, these sustainable food systems solutions will have profound and positive implications for livelihoods, human health and ecosystem integrity."

Brian is a member of the Board of Directors of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, as well as an alumnus of the university. In 2012, he and Kelly launched Sweet Earth Natural Foods – a company that sells plant-based, natural and organic fare.

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A savvy solution to Mekong River's hydropower dilemma

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December 7, 2017

Nearly 100 hydropower dams are planned for construction along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. While they are expected to provide clean energy to countries in the region, the dams may also offset natural river patterns if not managed properly.

In a December 2017 issue of Science magazine, Senior Sustainability Scientist John Sabo and his collaborators propose a solution.

“We have figured out the relationship between river flows and fish catch, and we have developed an algorithm for dam operators to use that will increase fish harvests and still generate power,” Sabo says. “Dams are going to be built no matter how much fuss we make; our research shows how we can be more strategic about the buildout and operations of these dams in the Mekong.”

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Smithsonian exhibit to bring new understanding of water to Arizona

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December 6, 2017

ASU's Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives is among the groups working to expand research and resources for an exhibit called Water/Ways.

The exhibit is part of the Smithsonian’s Think Water Initiative, which raises awareness of water as a critical resource for life through exhibitions, educational resources and public programs. Through the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program, Water/Ways will be transported to 12 rural communities around Arizona starting in 2018.

“This is another opportunity to educate the public about the challenges we face, of the importance of water and to try and help make us more intelligent managers of the resources in our world that support our lives,” says Senior Sustainability Scholar Paul Hirt, state scholar for the project. “Just explaining to people that there is an imbalance between the supply and demand is an important first step in solving it.”

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Meeting purchasing needs the sustainable way

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December 5, 2017

To help organizations interested in eco-friendly purchasing, ASU's Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative is partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency on sustainablepurchasing.issuelab.org.

The website features a searchable database of research articles related to the concept of “servicizing,” which promotes a more environmentally responsible way for businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals to meet their purchasing needs.

"This new ‘servicizing’ approach offers and charges customers for the function of a product rather than the product itself,” explains Senior Sustainability Scientist Lily Hsueh. “Producers or vendors are the ‘owners’ of the products and consumers pay to be ‘users’ of the products.”

The website features a keyword search and provides crowd-sourced information, allowing anyone to share knowledge about servicizing or recommend other resources to be added to the database.

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Science-based approaches to soil health

Biodiversity News

December 5, 2017

View of rangeland surrounding Sawtooth MountainsManagement practices that promote soil health in croplands can deliver multiple benefits for nature and people, including cleaner air and water and greater crop yield stability.

In the United States alone, one or more of these practices – which include cover cropping, reduced tillage, nutrient management, and more – could potentially be implemented on nearly 400 million cropland acres. Yet, rangelands in the US occupy nearly twice the area that croplands do, and some rangelands have also experienced soil degradation issues, such as erosion.

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Sharing is not only caring, it's how we thrive

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November 27, 2017

Small acts of kindness – something as simple as lending a neighbor a cup of sugar – not only bind us together, but are critical to our survival as a species. That's according to Senior Sustainability Scientist Amber Wutich, an anthropology professor and director of ASU's Center for Global Health.

"Sharing is so important, that in most cultures it has its own special vocabulary and rituals," Wutich explains in a November 2017 KEDtalk. "Sharing helps families survive, and it's a core part of people's identity that defines their place in their communities. That's why anthropologists like me have studied how humans share in cultures in every part of the world."

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Shrinking ozone hole a beacon of hope for climate change reversal

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November 20, 2017

The risk of things like skin cancer, extinction of sensitive amphibians and degradation of outdoor buildings is now lower, thanks to the fact that the hole in our ozone layer – which protects Earth from the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation – has shrunk.

Satellite measurements indicate that the ozone hole is about 1 million miles smaller than when measured a year ago, a positive trend that NASA says can be explained by an unstable and warmer Antarctic vortex. Senior Sustainability Scientist Kevin Gurney is heartened by this news, which suggests that other negative trends can also be reversed.

With regard to influencing the direction of climate change, Gurney says, "It suggests more than a possibility — it suggests that we can achieve the solution to a large global environmental problem."

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Small donations helped save an endangered species

Biodiversity News

November 16, 2017

Atelopus varius frog on grassy rockASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes Faculty Affiliate Jan Schipper led an online PitchFunder campaign to save the Atelopus varius last year. Through this successful initiative and philanthropic support, these harlequin frogs continue to breed.

“The ethics of saving a species is a new one for humanity,” Schipper said. “We have a moral imperative to not let any species go extinct due to our reckless nature and heavy footprint on Earth, but we are also finding the value of the species is far more than just intrinsic.”

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US still part of the Paris agreement, for now

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November 9, 2017

At the first U.N. climate meeting since President Trump announced the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement, countries came together to iron out some details – like rules for how carbon emissions will be measured and how to pay for these efforts.

Called COP23, the meeting took place in Bonn, Germany in November 2017, and School of Sustainability Professor Sonja Klinsky provided advance insight.

“We are still part of the Paris agreement. If the United States wants to pull out of the accord, it will have to file this in writing in November 2019,” Klinsky told ASU Now. "Other countries’ perceptions of the willingness of the U.S. to be a cooperative global actor generally may change how effective it is at promoting its own interests. It is a distinct possibility that the U.S. will have less influence in this arena than it had previously; however, it is too early to say whether or not this has happened."

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Military training promotes serving country and planet

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November 8, 2017

During an inaugural Army Reserve Mission Resilience and Sustainability conference hosted by ASU, over 150 military personnel, Department of the Army civilians and contractors were given the mandate to change the “sustainability DNA” of their organizations. The conference – which took place in November 2017 – brought together experts in the areas of energy security, water security, solid waste diversion and environmental quality from across the Army Reserve, encouraging collaboration and fostering innovation.

Joe Knott, an ASU doctoral candidate in the School of Sustainability and retired Army lieutenant colonel, helped to facilitate the partnership between ASU and ARMRS. He points out that today's young people are better versed in subjects like sustainability and climate change. In that sense, if the Army does not develop a strong sustainability culture, it may have trouble with retention.

“They expect sustainability and doing the right thing in addition to serving their country,” Knott says. “They say ‘what are you as a military organization going to allow me to do to make this earth sustainable for my kids and grandkids?’”

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Alliance makes strides toward phosphorus sustainability

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November 2, 2017

Lake overgrown with algaePhosphorus is a basic element found in all living things and is a key component of most fertilizers – enabling modern agriculture. On the flip side, phosphorus runoff contaminates rivers, lakes and streams, providing an overabundance of nutrients that leads to toxic algal blooms.

That's why the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, a unit of the ASU Wrigley Institute, continues to grow – to take on the phosphorus problem in the global food system. Following a five-year National Science Foundation grant, the alliance received a second round of funding from the OCP Group – a Moroccan mining company that owns the largest deposits of phosphate rock in the world.

The alliance grew out of industry interest in phosphorus sustainability and recycling during the original NSF grant period, which brought together dozens of researchers from around the world. In 2017, the alliance grew to nine member organizations representing different stages of the phosphorus value chain.

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New certificate, Environmental Communication and Leadership

Biodiversity News

October 27, 2017

Illustration of river stream in grassland with colorful treesThe ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes recently launched a new graduate certificate titled “Environmental Communication and Leadership” to help conservation students develop important leadership and communication skills needed to increase their influence and reach above and beyond academia.

The certificate is designed to train students in environmental disciplines how to go beyond scientific journal publications to communicate relevant discoveries to society, including the press, the public, policy makers and other key stakeholders.

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