Paying countries for carbon protects forests, but only if payments continue

Fires ravaging the Amazon rainforests and global climate strikes have highlighted the need for global action to mitigate climate change and conserve forests. Though the situation can seem dire at times, there is good news from a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Carbon payments do protect forests and represent one solution to reversing the trend of global deforestation.

Climate change could double greenhouse gas emissions from freshwater lakes

Every drop of fresh water contains thousands of different organic molecules that have previously gone unnoticed. By measuring the diversity of these molecules and how they interact with the environment around them, research has revealed an invisible world that affects the functioning of freshwater ecosystems and can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Switching to renewable energy could save thousands of lives in Africa

With economies and populations surging, an industrial revolution is inevitable on the African continent. The question is, what’s going to power it? With renewable energy cheaper and more efficient than ever, countries in Africa have the unique opportunity to harness abundant renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal to leapfrog the dependence on fossil fuels that has poisoned the air and environment in Europe, the U.S., India and China.

Nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, is on the rise: study

Most of us know nitrous oxide as “laughing gas,” used for its anaesthetic effects. But nitrous oxide (N2O) is actually the third most important long-lived greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Nitrous oxide is also one of the main stratospheric ozone depleting substances— and we are releasing more of it into the atmosphere than previously thought, according to a new study published this week in Nature Climate Change.

Study shows some aquatic plants depend on the landscape for photosynthesis

ASU researchers found that not only are freshwater aquatic plants affected by climate, they are also shaped by the surrounding landscape. When in an environment where CO2 is limited, aquatic plants use strategies to extract carbon from bicarbonate. Scientists identified patterns across ecoregions around the globe and discovered a direct link between the availability of catchment bicarbonate and the ability of aquatic plants to extract carbon from that bicarbonate.

How multiple factors of climate change affect soil

A team of ecologists at Freie Universität Berlin studied soil and how it was affected by multiple factors of climate change. The team, led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Rillig, experimentally examined effects of up to 10 factors of climate change by randomly adding an increasing number of such factors. Results on soil functions and biodiversity showed consistent trends with increasing number of factors added, irrespective of what the factors were. The results give a rare glimpse into what might happen under climate change when considering a wide range of factors simultaneously: there were ecological “surprises,” and it was quite difficult to accurately predict effects when many factors were involved. The study highlights the urgent need to focus on multifactor studies and appears in the current issue of Science.

Rubber in the environment: Where the tread from our tires ‘disappears’ to

The tread on the tire is worn out, new tires are needed. Everyday life for many drivers. But where do these lost centimeters of tire tread “disappear” to? As micro-rubbers, they mainly end up in soil and water and, to a small extent, in the air. And the amount of these particles in our environment is anything but small, as Empa researchers have now calculated.

Something old, something new in the ocean’s blue

Charles Darwin suspected something in the “clear blue water” of the ocean that was even smaller than the protozoa he could see under the microscope. “Today we know that every liter of ocean water is swarming with hundreds of millions of microorganisms,” explains marine researcher Rudolf Amann, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen. His colleague Tobias Erb from the sister institute of terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg adds: “Although only micrometers in size, the microorganisms with their sheer number and high rate of metabolism have a strong impact on energy flow and biomass turnover in the oceans.”

Satellite data shows loss of snow cover, not soot to blame for rapid temperature rise in the Arctic

A team of researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found evidence that shows the rapid rise of temperatures in the Arctic is caused by the loss of snow and ice cover, and not soot. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes studying satellite data for the region over a 32-year period, and what it showed them about surface temperatures.

Nitrous oxide emissions set to rise in the Pacific Ocean

The acidification of the Pacific Ocean in northern Japan is increasing the natural production rate of N2O, an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas. That’s the finding of a study carried out jointly by scientists at EPFL, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and appearing recently in Nature Climate Change.

Gold mining critically impairs water quality in rivers across Peruvian biodiversity hotspot

A Dartmouth study finds that artisanal-scale gold mining is altering water clarity and dynamics in the Madre de Dios River watershed in Peru, a tropical biodiversity hotspot. Higher levels of suspended sediment were found in rivers near the mining sites, with increasing impacts as mining has become more widespread in the past two decades. The elevated sediment levels contain mercury and other contaminants, which can pose health risks to humans and have a detrimental impact on fish populations and other aquatic life. The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Hurricanes have become bigger and more destructive for the U.S., study finds

A new study by researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Aslak Grinsted, Peter Ditlevsen and Jens Hesselbjerg shows that hurricanes have become more destructive since 1900, and the worst of them are more than three times as frequent now than 100 years ago. A new way of calculating the destruction, compensating for the societal change in wealth, unequivocally shows a climatic increase in the frequency of the most destructive hurricanes that routinely raise havoc on the North American southern and east coasts. The study is now published in PNAS.