Biodiversity

Conversion of land for food production is a major threat to biodiversity, while much biodiversity exists on agricultural land. The conservation of wildlife and the maintenance of ecosystem services can be separated from issues of food security.

Fertilisation of grasslands significantly reduces their ability to cope with changing conditions even when they contain a diverse mix of plants, finds a global study involving Oxford University. The research, published this week in Nature, showed that diverse grasslands were more stable over time but that this effect was weakened when the plots were artificially fertilised.

"More diverse areas are generally more stable because different plants will benefit from different things at different times," said Professor Andrew Hector of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, senior author of the study. "To take a simple example, if you have plants that thrive in heavy rain and plants that prefer lighter rain in the same field, then the total amount of plant matter in the field in a given year will be less dependent on rainfall as both types will balance each other out."

Fertilisers are known to drive down grassland diversity over time, but this study found that fertilised plots were less stable even before their diversity decreased. This effect was not expected based on previous results. As fertilisation boosts total yields, it was expected to increase short-term stability by making small variations less significant. However, the study found that fertilisation disproportionately increased yearly variations in yield, particularly in the most diverse grasslands.

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An international research collaboration has shed light on the impact that grass-fed animals have on climate change. Its new study adds clarity to the debate around livestock farming and meat and dairy consumption.

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Employing unit: Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning

Start date: As soon as possible

Closing date: 19 June 2015

Reference number: SF07948

Post type: Full-time, Fixed-term until 30 September 2018

Payscale: £28,695 to £38,511 per annum – please note salary is dependent on location/institution. Please consult the salary range in the local job advert for each institution.

Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning

IFSTAL seeks to recruit a team of five full-time Coordinators for the ‘Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning’ (IFSTAL) Programme, one to be based in each of the consortium institutions. The positions are fixed-term contracts from mid-2015 until 30 September 2018.

The University of Reading is collecting applications for all five institutions, so to formally apply, please visit Jobs at the University of Reading – University of Reading or contact Human Resources, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 217, Reading RG6 6AH. Telephone +44(0)118 378 6771 (voicemail)

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Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP)

Call for job applicants

May 2017

Supported by the Wellcome Trust Our Planet Our Health Programme.

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As part of an ongoing monographic study of the genus Ipomoea (morning glories) that contains the domesticated sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) Robert Scotland and John Wood from the Department of Plant Sciences have recently described 18 new species of morning glory from Bolivia with one species, Ipomoea lactifera, identified as a close wild-relative of sweet potato.

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The Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food is pleased to announce a new Exchange Fellowship Programme in collaboration with the Florida Climate Insitute for faculty members at these two universities to forge new partnerships and foster the development of innovative, interdisciplinary research projects in the area of food systems, climate and biodiversity.

We will be selecting two fellows for the academic year 2015/16 to visit the University of Florida, and two to visit Oxford.

The Fellowship will cover travel and subsistence expenses for these exchange visit up to a maximum of £5,000 per Fellowship. Applicants must be currently employed by either the University of Florida or the University of Oxford.

Application deadline: Friday 31st July, 2015

For more information and details of how to apply, please read the Florida Oxford Exchange Fellowship Details Document.

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A new paper by Lindsay Turnbull shows that organic farming increases species richness by about 30%.

The study was a meta-analysis that compared biodiversity under organic and conventional farming methods, mainly in Europe and North America. The authors note that more studies need to be carried in the Developing World to see if the same results would apply.

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Earlier this year, the Environmental Change Institute’s (ECI’s) food systems group held the First Oxford Meeting on Food System Impact Valuation. The Meeting, on the 11 and 12 of April 2017, brought together representatives from some of the world’s largest food companies, civil society, and academia, to discuss standardised and pre-competitive measurement and monetary valuation of environmental, social and health impacts from food systems.
 
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By Thomas White, University of Cambridge

 

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By Lindsay Turnbull, University of Oxford

Organic farming is a trade off: it prohibits the use of certain chemicals and inorganic fertilisers, which usually results in lower yields, and hence higher prices. With arguments about health benefits inconclusive, one might ask what reasons there are to pay the organic premium.

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