With almost a third of arable land classified as degraded, what can we do to reverse the rapid pace of degradation and can we do it in a way that benefits us?
Weeds are the bane of life for gardeners, farmers and conservationists, but they may have some previously unrecognised benefits in highly degraded landscapes.
Feral honey bees – European bees which have escaped from hives into the wild – are surprisingly useful in Australia. They pollinate over 70% of crops that require pollination, like apples, pears, lucerne, melons, berries, canola. But with Varroa mite, a blood-sucking pest of bees, decimating the feral honey bee population globally, and set to invade Australia in the near future, what can be done to maintain pollination services?
Biosprospecting is the process of discovering and commercialising new products derived from nature. The process of discovery often uses indigenous or traditional knowledge, but has, more often than not, been more of a scatter gun approach to surveying and testing the bioactivity of a range of products from all plants and animals in a region.
Rewilding is the concept of reintroducing native animals and plants to an area where they have declined or gone extinct.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve eaten some pretty strange things in my time:
- Australian animals and ferals – camel, crocodile, kangaroo – but then who hasn’t
- Big game in East Africa – giraffe, zebra, gazelle, eland
- Guinea Pigs in South America
- The eggs of the horseshoe crab in Thailand
- A range of fungus, lichen, moss, ferns and conifers in China
- And even part of a human placenta – although I didn’t realise it at the time – during a tribal ritual in Tanzania
Leaf size and shape is incredibly important to plants, as it helps them cope with the environments in which they live. We’ve long known that plants in the tropics have larger leaves than those in cooler climes (see image above of one of the world’s biggest leaves from tropical Borneo – the Giant elephant ear plant), but the reason for this has been hotly debated. We now think we know why…