Earth Saving News > February 1, 2011

Greener acres: Put away the plow & leave it to the microbes.

Sustainable Farming"No-till farming," a technique that leaves fields unplowed between harvests, already has a couple of advantages: the efficient approach is known to reduce erosion and improve soil quality. Now new findings have added another perk to the list: no-till farming may provide a significant cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

While carbon dioxide is the most notorious of the greenhouse gases, it’s certainly not alone. Nitrous oxide, although less abundant than CO2, is about 310 times more effective at trapping heat. And with the majority of nitrous oxide emissions coming from U.S. agriculture, these recent findings from a study at Purdue University could lead to the adoption of greener farming practices and fewer polluting emissions.

While the Purdue analysis found that fields that weren't disrupted released 57% less of the potent gas, the real secret is in the soil. Researchers found that no-till farming releases more nitrous oxide than plowing when nitrogen-based fertilizers are applied to the surface. In other words, in order for the no-till approach to be effective, fertilizer has to be injected below the surface where bacteria can get to work on breaking down chemical compounds.

With nitrous oxide (and all greenhouse gas) emissions on the rise, there’s no better time than now to get behind sustainable farming practices. Our friends at American Farmland Trust are hard at work promoting low-carbon solutions and green technologies for farmers and ranchers. Learn more about their Climate Change Campaign and find out their three key tools to promote conservation practices that promote cleaner water, cleaner air and healthy natural habitats.


The bird’s the word.

This winter we’ve been flooded with news stories of massive bird die-offs across the country and overseas. After thousands of red-winged blackbirds were mysteriously found dead on the ground in Arkansas, scientists were quickly called in to provide reassurances that this kind of die-off is actually a fairly commonplace scenario.  And, boy, is it ever -- according to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, a minimum of 10 billion birds breed in the U.S. every year, and even without human interaction tens of millions of birds will die from natural occurrences, accidents, and predators.

But as our headlines continue to be cluttered with these stories of the “Aflockolypse,” it's important to remember that people do have an immense impact on many bird populations’ health and habitats. Pesticides alone kill around 72 million birds annually. And hundreds of millions more die from ingesting poisons and in collisions with cars, buildings and power lines. And as if this wasn't enough, the list of threats continues with widespread habitat destruction, climate change, and the continued influx of invasive species.

In a recent opinion piece responding to the massive die-offs, David Yarnold of the National Audubon Society reflected on last year’s devastating Gulf oil spill noting, “...much of the world despaired as brown pelicans, laughing gulls, and dozens of other species became mired in BP’s oil, and we were confronted with some of the costs of our way of living.”

Unfortunately, the costs are quickly adding up. Roughly a quarter of bird species in the United States have seen sharp population declines since the 1970s. Looking for a silver lining? The good news is that each year thousands of scientists and citizen scientists are working diligently to keep tabs on endangered bird populations in Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Click here to view results from this year’s count, learn how this vital data collection is helping to protect bird populations across North America, and find out how you can get involved!


Introducing EarthShare Mid-Atlantic!

EarthShare is thrilled to announce the launch of our newest regional chapter, EarthShare Mid-Atlantic. This new addition to the EarthShare network includes 34 of the region’s top conservation groups based in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and the District, all working to protect and preserve some of our nation’s most iconic and cherished landscapes, wildlife, and watersheds. EarthShare Mid-Atlantic is a brand new way for people like you to support local issues and special places that matter to you. Here are just a few highlights about our new benefiting member charities’ many critical projects and accomplishments.  Please support them in making the Mid-Atlantic region a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable place.

The National Aquarium Institute operates two world-class facilities in the Mid-Atlantic region, hosting and educating millions of visitors each year about the importance of conserving aquatic life and marine ecosystems. In September of 2010, the National Aquarium launched a new Conservation Center at their Baltimore venue. Projects already underway include initiatives to protect coral reefs and watershed health as well as a project designed to study mercury levels in wild and captive dolphins.

This past December, the National Aquarium also welcomed several cold-stunned sea turtles from New England as part of a collaborative long-term rehabilitation effort. An increasing number of endangered turtles are found each year stranded in the frigid waters of the Northeast before they are able to migrate. As the rescue program at the New England Aquarium exceeded capacity, the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program was there to answer the call.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is an innovative advocacy group working to find collaborative solutions to preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay and it’s unique natural resources. The Alliance’s recent 2010 Project Clean Stream event included a record 128 sites and more than 3,381 participating volunteers. A grand total of 119,321 pounds of trash and debris were removed from streams in Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. Find out how you can get involved in this year’s event here.

New EarthShare Mid-Atlantic member, the Oyster Recovery Partnership, works to engage the Chesapeake Bay community in restoring oyster populations for greater ecologic and economic vitality. In the last decade, ORP and its partners have produced and planted over 2.5 billion oysters in the region, and the majority of the new reefs are now permanently protected.

In 2010, the ORP launched the first Oyster Shell Recycling Alliance, an initiative that brings together restaurants, caterers, and seafood wholesalers to donate and collect their used oyster shells for use in restoring oyster habitats in the Chesapeake Bay. In the inaugural year of the Alliance, the ORP and more than 50 participating partners helped to collect nearly 4,000 bushels of recycled shell, which will be used to plant more than 20 million new oysters in the Bay.


 

Comments

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Isaiah Ayinuola

Whenever I look at these precious neighbors of humankind and think that we may one day be left all alone as a species without this beauty around us, I shiver to the marrow. But with organizations like EarthShare, there is hope for our dear Earth. I am really proud of EarthShare.

Jean

Millions of birds and animals are poisoned, gassed, shot to death by aphis wildlife services. This very very secret agency comes into an area secretly so nobody knows. One telephone call to them can doom 2million birds, as happened in the Dakotas a year or two back. Look into this. It is causing millions of deaths of animals/birds per year or billions.

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