wot’s different about the tropics? everything

map of tropical earth

Seems that Hawaii's selection of crops and changes in land use might benefit from better understanding of sustainability constraints that are unique to the tropics.

Hey, Toto, this ain't Kansas down here!

Wanna know how unique? See this science summary on tropical soils from the UN University.

If you're looking for a quick clue, here's a keyword for the tropics: fragile.

At the same time, architecture in these regions shares common problems, the most easily identifiable being the tropical conditions of climate and natural environment.

FYI, the tropical belt includes large areas of South East Asia and Australia (from Hongkong to Queensland), India (south of Bhopal), Africa (from southern Egypt to northern South Africa), and parts of the Americas (from Havana to Sao Paulo).

Fact is, 2 billion humans (or 1/3 of the planet) live in the Tropics, which forms the biggest landmass in the world and has one of the highest numbers of rapidly developing cities.

According to the Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture Research (T-STAR) Program at UH:

"Much of the research conducted in the temperate United States is not applicable to these areas due to the large differences in climate, soils, crops, insect and diseases, as well as socio-economic constraints."

Says T-STAR, "challenges include continuing plant disease pressure in the year-round growing season, control of alien pests and weeds in Caribbean and Pacific island agroecosystems and adjacent natural ecosystems, and post-harvest processing to extend shelf-life and preserve quality. Opportunities include new germplasm collection, maintenance, breeding, and genetic engineering for novel products, value-added processing and marketing of tropical crops, and restoration and maintenance of healthy agroecosystems."

Oh, and, according to the UN research:

"Tropical introduction of intensive agricultural systems can lead to problems of soil and environmental degradation. Principal soil degradative processes include soil erosion, leaching, fertility depletion and nutrient imbalance, decline in soil organic matter content and soil biodiversity, deterioration of soil structure, and disruption in mineral recycling mechanisms."

Surprisingly, much leading-edge research on tropical building and community systems is coming out of Queensland (the northern part of which is in the tropics), where the the Center for Excellence in Tropical Design (CETD) is leading the way.

CETD's director, Peter Ellyard, says "the tropics is a huge market that wants access to the know-how required for first-world prosperity in the tropics."

Guess where else the first-world coincides with the tropics? Right, Hawaii.

And, that's a sufficiently pregnant phrase to merit its own post...to follow.

Published by Ken on August 5th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Vulnerabilities


One Response to “wot’s different about the tropics? everything”

  1. heybrah Says:

    Thanks for the kind words about the TSTAR program. It's really challenging to convince those involved in funding mainland U.S. agricultural research of the importance to tropical and subtropical agricultural research. The year-round growing season has its advantages but the clear diadvantage is that the pests and diseases aren't killed off by the winter either. Your comment about this region being at greater risk is spot-on. Increased population growth; much greater impact of climate change all impact these regions heavily.