Evolving life sciences and agricultural research approaches may have a decreasing need to access physical resources in future, such as plant seeds or viral material. Information and genetic data may be all that is required for commercial exploitation of biological resources. This POSTnote summarises the challenge this creates for international discussions on the governance of genetic resources and the possible options for addressing these.

The effect of consumers stockpiling certain goods and the slow reaction of retailers to ration them exposed the limitations of cost-efficient and streamlined supply chains to be agile and adapt to unforeseen shocks. This suggests that changes may be needed to make the supply chain more resilient. Specific problems arose from the closure of parts of the catering sector and the lack of agility in redistributing supplies from this sector to retail outlets or the food donation/charity sector. This was due to challenges in packaging availability, logistics and labelling requirements; leading to an increase in food loss. Agricultural food producers and the wider supply chain may have incurred significant losses from the impacts of COVID-19. Food processing facilities have been responsible for a number of localised COVID-19 outbreaks. This may be influenced by a range of factors, including the proximity of workers for prolonged periods, the need to speak loudly to communicate over the noise of the machines or the shared welfare spaces external to the factory setting. The immediate effects of COVID-19 on the food supply system are the current policy concern, but the longer-term food system issues highlighted as a result of the pandemic will have to be addressed by considering how to build resilience to possible future shocks.

There is increasing interest in using machine learning to automatically analyse remote sensing data and increase our understanding of complex environmental systems. While there are benefits from this approach, there are also some barriers to its use. This POSTnote examines the value of these approaches, and the technical and ethical challenges for wider implementation.

  • POSTnote

    The UK’s flood risk from rivers, surface water and ground-water is projected to increase with climate change. Natural flood management (NFM) can be described as using the natural features of the land to store and slow down the flow of water. NFM is being piloted across the UK and its expansion is an objective of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. This POSTnote examines the evidence for the effectiveness of NFM at reducing flood risk, and successful governance approaches to implementing NFM measures.

  • POSTbrief

    This POSTbrief provides further information on the data limitations for understanding insect declines and emerging methods to address these limitations. Further detail is also given on the evidence for drivers of insect declines, such as disease or artificial light at night, which are summarised in POSTnote 619. The POSTbrief also highlights areas where evidence is established or where there are gaps in knowledge, such as insect abundance data.

  • POSTnote

    Insects provide vital goods and services for wildlife, food production and human health, and their decline threatens important natural processes. Despite some insects being in long-term decline, a few species are showing stable or increasing trends. Insects can respond to interventions quickly. This POSTnote summarises the evidence for insect declines in the UK, the drivers of trends, and interventions to support the recovery of insect populations.

  • POSTnote

    According to global climate and economic models, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere will be necessary to limit global warming to 1.5˚C. Among Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) techniques, these models assume that Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) could play a prominent role. This POSTnote summarises why BECCS has been included in the models, outlines the challenges and trade-offs of deploying at scale, and considers policy options for supporting its development.

  • POSTnote

    There is increasing consensus among scientists and commentators for addressing conservation and climate change issues together, particularly through the development of intergovernmental agreements and targets. This POSTnote summarises the links between biodiversity loss and climate change, and outlines options for jointly addressing their drivers and effects on a global scale.

  • POSTbrief

    Under the July 2018 revision of the National Planning Policy Framework, the government requires local authorities in England to embed relevant strategies into local plans to deliver a net environmental gain over possible reductions caused by developments and infrastructure. The initial objective of this requirement will be to deliver gains in levels of biodiversity – short for biological diversity, the abundance and variety of species and their physical habitats – at the landscape level. In December 2018, Defra launched a consultation on implementing a mandatory biodiversity net gain requirement for development in England.

  • POSTbrief

    This document builds on POST's previous publication, Topics of Interest 2018 (POSTbrief 27). The subjects are listed under under six category headings based on the drivers of change identified in POSTnote 500: demographic change and healthcare; social and cultural trends; geopolitical and governance challenges; environmental pressures and climate change; resource security and sustainability; and technological advance.

  • POSTnote

    Fishing is dependent on marine food webs that are sensitive to overexploitation and climate change. This POSTnote focuses on marine fisheries, including wild capture and farming (aquaculture) of fin- and shellfish, and their processing. It summarises impacts on oceans and fisheries of changes including ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation and storms, and explores how fisheries may adapt.

  • POSTnote

    Wildfire is any uncontrolled vegetation fire that requires a decision, or action, to suppress it. This POSTnote summarises management of wildfires in the UK, how projected climate changes may affect UK wildfire behaviour, and the environmental, economic, and health impacts of this. It also outlines policy options for increasing the UK’s resilience to wildfires.

  • POSTnote

    The soil microbiome, communities of microorganisms in soils, underpin natural processes in soil habitats and are affected by environmental and land use change. This POSTnote gives an overview of the benefits provided by the soil microbiome, ways of assessing the soil microbiome, and measures to improve its condition.

  • POSTnote

    Agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, which has implications for food security. This POSTnote examines measures to reduce the impacts of food production and agricultural land use on climate change (mitigation) and to adapt agricultural land use to that change (adaptation).