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Ecologists Look to Ancient Farming Methods to Curb Extinctions

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Ancient Farming MethodsThe Earth is experiencing the largest number of wildlife extinctions since the dinosaurs vanished 65 million years ago. At a conference in Turkey on December 9-14, a 115 nation group is working to find ancient farming solutions to protect the diversity of wildlife.

Zakri Abdul Hamid, the founding chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) stated that “Indigenous and local knowledge … has played a key role in arresting biodiversity loss and conserving biodiversity.” Ancient farmers developed many ways to maintain soils, ward off frost and freeze cycles, and protect their crops from animals.

At the December conference in Turkey, experts will compare ancient farming methods around the world to determine if ancient practices can be adopted in other nations. For example, the Chinese have been raising fish in the waters of rice paddies for over 1,200 years. This practice reduces pets and reduces the need for pesticides by 68% and the need for chemical fertilizer by 24%. Fish are not raised in most modern rice paddies.

Traditional farming knowledge also includes digging pits to collect rainfall during the rainy season to limit erosion (as ancient farmers did on Tanzanian hillsides), or weather observations by Inuit people in the Arctic to complement satellite data about melting ice.

Some Pacific island communities safeguard fish stocks around coral reefs declaring some areas sacred sites that are inaccessible to fishers.

Other efforts to slow extinctions include creating more protected areas and enforcing laws on wildlife protection.

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