Changing Food Systems

Branch TA, DeJoseph BM, Ray LJ, Wagner CA. Impacts of ocean acidification on marine seafood. Trends in Ecology and Evolution [Internet]. 2013;28 (3) :178-186. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Ocean acidification is a series of chemical reactions due to increased CO2 emissions. The resulting lower pH impairs the senses of reef fishes and reduces their survival, and might similarly impact commercially targeted fishes that produce most of the seafood eaten by humans. Shelled molluscs will also be negatively affected, whereas cephalopods and crustaceans will remain largely unscathed. Habitat changes will reduce seafood production from coral reefs, but increase production from seagrass and seaweed. Overall effects of ocean acidification on primary productivity and, hence, on food webs will result in hard-to-predict winners and losers. Although adaptation, parental effects, and evolution can mitigate some effects of ocean acidification, future seafood platters will look rather different unless CO2 emissions are curbed.


Beman MJ, Arrigo KR, Matson PA. Agricultural runoff fuels large phytoplankton blooms in vulnerable areas of the ocean. Nature [Internet]. 2005;434 :211-214. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Biological productivity in most of the world's oceans is controlled by the supply of nutrients to surface waters. The relative balance between supply and removal of nutrients—including nitrogen, iron and phosphorus—determines which nutrient limits phytoplankton growth. Although nitrogen limits productivity in much of the ocean1, 2, large portions of the tropics and subtropics are defined by extreme nitrogen depletion. In these regions, microbial denitrification removes biologically available forms of nitrogen from the water column, producing substantial deficits relative to other nutrients3, 4, 5. Here we demonstrate that nitrogen-deficient areas of the tropical and subtropical oceans are acutely vulnerable to nitrogen pollution. Despite naturally high nutrient concentrations and productivity6, 7, 8, nitrogen-rich agricultural runoff fuels large (54–577km2) phytoplankton blooms in the Gulf of California. Runoff exerts a strong and consistent influence on biological processes, in 80% of cases stimulating blooms within days of fertilization and irrigation of agricultural fields. We project that by the year 2050, 27–59% of all nitrogen fertilizer will be applied in developing regions located upstream of nitrogen-deficient marine ecosystems. Our findings highlight the present and future vulnerability of these ecosystems to agricultural runoff.

Fernando N, Panozzo J, Tausz M, Norton RM, Fitzgerald GJ, Myers S, Walker C, Stangoulis J, Seneweera S. Wheat grain quality under increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations in a semi-arid cropping system. Journal of Cereal Science [Internet]. 2012;56 :684-690. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We investigated wheat (Triticum aestivum) grain quality under Free Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) of 550 ± 10% CO2 μmol mol−1. In each of two full growing seasons (2008 and 2009), two times of sowing were compared, with late sowing designed to mimic high temperature during grain filling. Grain samples were subjected to a range of physical, nutritional and rheological quality assessments. Elevated CO2 increased thousand grain weight (8%) and grain diameter (5%). Flour protein concentration was reduced by 11% at e[CO2], with the highest reduction being observed at the late time of sowing in 2009, (15%). Most of the grain mineral concentrations decreased under e[CO2] - Ca (11%), Mg (7%), P (11%) and S (7%), Fe (10%), Zn (17%), Na (19%), while total uptake of these nutrients per unit ground area increased. Rheological properties of the flour were altered by e[CO2] and bread volume reduced by 7%. Phytate concentration in grains tended to decrease (17%) at e[CO2] while grain fructan concentration remained unchanged. The data suggest that rising atmospheric [CO2] will reduce the nutritional and rheological quality of wheat grain, but at high temperature, e[CO2] effects may be moderated. Reduced phytate concentrations at e[CO2] may improve bioavailability of Fe and Zn in wheat grain.

Lobell DB, Field CB. Estimation of the carbon dioxide (CO2) fertilization effect using growth rate anomalies of CO2 and crop yields since 1961. Global Change Biology [Internet]. 2008;14 :39-45. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The effect of elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) on crop yields is one of the most uncertain and influential parameters in models used to assess climate change impacts and adaptations. A primary reason for this uncertainty is the limited availability of experimental data on CO2 responses for crops grown under typical field conditions. However, because of historical variations in CO2, each year farmers throughout the world perform uncontrolled yield ‘experiments’ under different levels of CO2. In this study, measurements of atmospheric CO2 growth rates and crop yields for individual countries since 1961 were compared with empirically determine the average effect of a 1 ppm increase of CO2 on yields of rice, wheat, and maize. Because the gradual increase in CO2 is highly correlated with major changes in technology, management, and other yield controlling factors, we focused on first differences of CO2 and yield time series. Estimates of CO2 responses obtained from this approach were highly uncertain, reflecting the relatively small importance of year-to-year CO2 changes for yield variability. Combining estimates from the top 20 countries for each crop resulted in estimates with substantially less uncertainty than from any individual country. The results indicate that while current datasets cannot reliably constrain estimates beyond previous experimental studies, an empirical approach supported by large amounts of data may provide a potentially valuable and independent assessment of this critical model parameter. For example, analysis of reliable yield records from hundreds of individual, independent locations (as opposed to national scale yield records with poorly defined errors) may result in empirical estimates with useful levels of uncertainty to complement estimates from experimental studies. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]Copyright of Global Change Biology is the property of Blackwell Publishing Limited and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts)

Schneider SH, Semenov S, Patwardhan A. Assessing key vulnerabilities and the risk from climate change. In: Parry, M L, Canziani, O F, Palutikof, J P, Van der Linden, P J, Hanson, C E Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press ; 2007. Publisher's Version
De Temmerman L, Hacour A, Guns M. Changing climate and potential impacts on potato yields and quality ‘CHIP’: introduction, aims and methodology. European Journal of Agronomy [Internet]. 2002;17 :233-242. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Climate change effects caused by an increasing concentration of CO2 and ozone represent an issue of major concern both for scientists and policy-makers. In a concerted program funded by the Commission of the European Union, a European network of experiments (in open-top chambers (OTC), and free air carbon dioxide enrichment systems (FACE)) and modelling was carried out to investigate the effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 and ozone concentrations, under different climatic conditions, on potato (Solanum tuberosum L. cv. Bintje). This contribution describes the experimental network and the standard protocol set-up for the assessments that served to improve and to validate process oriented potato growth simulation models leading to scenarios of future productivity of potato in Europe.