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300 Years of Growth

Sustaining World Population

The issue:

World population currently stands at 6.8 billion and is expected to increase to over 9 billion by the year 2050. This growing population places an increasing demand on natural resources, including those derived from biological organisms and their processes. As well as an increased demand for food for the growing human population, people in general are shifting their diets to higher (grain fed) meat consumption, meaning we also need to produce more fodder crops for livestock. Add to this the potential increase in demand for biofuels, timber, fibres (such as cotton), and this could all place huge pressure on land and the ability of ecosystems to deliver the services that agriculture requires. Meeting the growing demands for food, clean water, fuel and other commodities can only be achieved though sustainable development.

The role of plant scientists:

Plant scientists have an important role to play in developing sustainable methods of crop production, which deliver high quality food and fuel, whilst maintaining healthy ecosystems. This is all the more challenging given that the global environment is experiencing widespread human-induced change, including climate change. And it’s not just agriculture which needs plant science for sustainability: a large proportion of the worlds pharmaceutical products are derived directly from plants and are impossible to artificially synthesise. By understanding the evolutionary relationships between plants, new drugs can be identified, and so the discovery, naming and classification of plants into groups can help to identify where novel pharmaceuticals may be found. 

Current relevant research in the Botany Department:

Legume Futures is an international research project in the EU Framework Programme 7. The aim is to develop and assess legume-supported cropping systems that raise the economic and environmental performance of European agriculture:

SIMBIOSYS: Sectoral IMmpacts on BIOdiversity and ecoSYSem services: This project is quantifying impacts of key sectoral activities in Ireland on biodiversity and ecosystem services, including pollination, biological pest control, carbon sequestration and resistance to alien species invasion. In addition, the project is testing methods for mitigating impacts, carrying out reviews to inform national policy decisions, and making recommendations for future strategic research and management:

Agricultural impacts on pollinators and pollination services and valuing pollination services Pollination services are economically valuable in agriculture, and in natural ecosystems. Research has found that bees which pollinate strawberries contribute more than €10.5 million per year to the horticultural industry in Ireland alone.  Various projects in the Plant-Animal Interactions research group investigate how land use affects pollinator biodiversity and subsequent pollination services .

Relevant undergraduate and masters modules taught in the Botany Department:

BY2210 Plant & Animal Bioresources
BO3100  Plant Physiology
BO4101  Environmental Physiology
BO4107 Plant-Animal Interactions
ES4020 Water Technology
ES 7044 Hydrobiology and wastewater treatment
ES 7049 Practical Environmental Skills
ES 7027 Environmental Polices

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Last updated 24 February 2011 by