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February 22, 2010

Agricultural Potential of Haiti

In a bid to increase food stability and employment among the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who have fled to the countryside following last month’s devastating earthquake, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is calling for international donors to invest $700 million in Haiti's struggling agriculture sector.

The program, designed by Haiti's Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, is scheduled to last 18 months. It is already racing against the clock as the planting season that yields 60 percent of the country's crops begins in March.

Deforestation, erosion and failure to rotate crops have also degraded much of Haiti's agricultural land over generations. Farmers make up about 60 percent of Haiti's population, but agriculture accounts for just 27 percent of the poor nation's GDP, according to the most recent State Department data. Even before the quake, more than 75 percent of the country's food was imported.

"Haiti will never be food self sufficient and there is no point in trying to make it so,” said Alain de Janvry, a professor of agriculture and resource economics at the University of California, Berkley. “But agriculture should provide more income for many more people.”

"[Haiti's] agriculture has the potential to produce high-value crops for the U.S. market -- tropical fruits, vegetables. That potential has not been captured," said de Janvry, who advised the country to produce some staples for national consumption, while growing cash crops to help finance importation of land-heavy crops, such as rice.

Read More at PBS

Prof. Todd Dawson and Postdoctoral Fellow James A. Johnstone find that Less Fog puts Redwood Trees at Risk


A gradual decrease in summer fog along the California coast over the past century may be endangering the region's giant redwoods and affecting the ecology of the area surrounding the trees, according to a study by UC Berkeley scientists.

The redwoods along our coast are highly dependent on fog as a source of water during the summer when water in the ground is scarce," Todd E. Dawson, one of the study's two authors, said in an interview. "Foggy nights are needed to rehydrate the trees that can't tolerate long droughts."

Mature redwoods are unlikely to die if the decrease in fog persists, he said. But fewer seeds are likely to sprout, take root and grow to maturity.

A report is being published today in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dawson and James A. Johnstone, both of Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, analyzed 110 years of temperature records gathered by 114 weather stations along the Pacific Coast, and studied fog levels recorded hourly since 1951 at eight local airports from Oregon to the Mexican border.

Using that information, Johnstone calculated that early in the 20th century the frequency of summer fog was 33 percent greater than it has been in recent decades - which could be enough to pose a significant threat of drought stress, particularly to younger trees.

Redwoods are dependent on cool, humid summers, and without enough days of fog the heat becomes too intense for growth, Johnstone said.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle

February 16, 2010

ESPM Professor receives prestigious Miller Professorship


Professor Allen Goldstein, currently chair of the department of environmental science, policy, and management, has been selected to receive a 2010-2011 professorship by the Miller Institute for Basic Research in the Sciences. Faculty who receive this professorship are released from teaching and administrative duties during their Miller appointments, allowing them to pursue their research, full-time, following promising leads as they develop.

The Goldstein group research themes include atmospheric chemistry and biogeochemistry. They investigate anthropogenic and natural contributions to the chemical composition of the troposphere, interactions of air pollution with ecosystems, aerosol composition and chemistry, and the biogeochemistry of greenhouse gases and stratospheric ozone depleting gases.

For a glance at Professor Goldstein's work, please see Nose in the Air: Professor Allen Goldstein's mechanical nose analyzes compounds in the atmosphere's soup in Breakthroughs Magazine.

"The Climate Gap:" Why Climate Change Disproportionately Affects the Poor and People of Color

The climate change summit in Copenhagen brought together leaders from all over the world to make the point that when polar ice caps melt and sea levels rise, everyone is affected. But a recent report suggests that climate change hits people of color and the poor much harder than others. For example, African Americans in Los Angeles are nearly twice as likely to die from a heat wave than other city residents. Associate Professor Rachel Morello-Frosch is one of the authors of "The Climate Gap" report. She spoke with Sandip Roy on New America Now radio.

Professor Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Bird Conservation Biology


The American Orinthologists' Union has awarded Professor of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Steven R. Beissinger the 2009 William Brewster Memorial Award for his innovative contributions, outstanding research productivity, and long-standing dedication to conservation biology of birds in the Western Hemisphere.

Beissinger is an active research scientist who continues to make important and novel contributions to understanding the ecology, behavior and conservation of birds in the Western Hemisphere. His most recent work illustrates the depth of his scope, ranging from the impacts of microbes and ambient conditions on egg viability and avian life histories, to the effects of biased sex ratios on population dynamics.

Beissinger has had a long-standing commitment to the development of resources for conservation of birds in the Western Hemisphere. His field projects have provided training opportunities for >60 undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Beissinger has been a superb research advisor, giving the members of his lab the necessary mentorship, training and encouragement for professional careers in ecology. He has provided opportunities for students in Latin America by teaching workshops in conservation biology and by organizing symposia at international meetings in Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

Continue reading "Professor Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Bird Conservation Biology" »

Climate change: 'Berkeley has a special obligation'

David Roland-Holst uses bubbles, big and small, on a chart to demonstrate a fundamental truth behind the near-crash-and-burn of global climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

The chart maps energy use against per capita income; the bubbles represent countries by population. Floating high on both axes are the medium-to-small bubbles of the United States and the rest of the industrialized world, rich countries that use a lot of energy. Hanging near the bottom are two giant bubbles, China and India, where both energy use and income are low — and rising.

ARE economist David Roland-Holst's chart — which one of his graduate students calls his 'demonic bubble bath' — shows the tight relationship between energy use and prosperity, a key climate change issue. Based on World Bank and International Energy Agency data, the vertical axis plots per capita energy use in terajoules/year; the horizontal is per capita income as measured by the GDP. Bubble sizes represent population.

The relationship between income and energy use is no coincidence, and recognizing that simple fact is an essential part of getting past the current stalemate and finding answers to climate change, Roland-Holst, an adjunct professor in Berkeley's Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, told the 100 or so climate-change experts gathered at Berkeley Thursday for "Beyond Copenhagen: Forging a Global Response to Climate Change." The conference reviewed what happened at Copenhagen and looked at the future of ongoing negotiations over global warming.

Roland-Holst's remarks were at the heart of a main point to surface at the conference — that climate change is a monumentally complicated problem whose solutions transcend science and politics and require sophisticated understandings of hugely disparate points of view and creative, innovative ways of thinking.

Read More at Berkeley News

February 15, 2010

Prof. O'Hara wins 2009 Forestry Achievement Award


Professor Kevin O'Hara received the 2009 Forestry Achievement Award from the Northern California Society of American Foresters for his work with the College's Forestry Club and Society of American Foresters Student Chapter.

For over 10 years, Professor O'Hara has served as the faculty adviser to the Forestry Club, and he has provided mentorship and guidance to hundreds of students. He also helped the student group more effectively organize and as a result students from the Forestry program are now participating in the Society for American Foresters at both the National and local levels, and have increased the visibility of our campus and the UC Berkeley community. This has played a key role in the forestry program's efforts to recruit stellar students for the undergraduate major in forestry and natural resources. It has also lead to expanded professional and career opportunities in the forestry industry.

2011 will mark the Forestry Club's Forestry Club's Centennial.

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Recent Posts

Agricultural Potential of Haiti
Prof. Todd Dawson and Postdoctoral Fellow James A. Johnstone find that Less Fog puts Redwood Trees at Risk
ESPM Professor receives prestigious Miller Professorship
"The Climate Gap:" Why Climate Change Disproportionately Affects the Poor and People of Color
Professor Honored for Outstanding Contributions to Bird Conservation Biology
Climate change: 'Berkeley has a special obligation'
Prof. O'Hara wins 2009 Forestry Achievement Award

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