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Humanity Will Continue to Live an Inferior Life Than What is Possible Until the Two Halves: All Individuals in Them: That Make It are Absolutely Fundamentally and Jubilantly Equal at Liberty
 

 

Year Gamma: London: Wednesday: October 18: 2017
The Arkive

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Ecology Arkive 2017: Q-Alpha || January ||  February ||  March ||

 

 
 

Ecology Arkive 2017: Q-Alpha || January ||  February ||  March ||

 

Explaining the Blooms of Phytoplankton Growing Under the Arctic Sea Ice

 

|| March 31: 2017: University of Reading News  || ά. In 2011, researchers observed something that should be impossible, a massive bloom of phytoplankton growing under Arctic sea ice in conditions that should have been far too dark for anything requiring photosynthesis to survive. So, how was this bloom possible? Using mathematical modelling, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences:SEAS found that thinning Arctic sea ice may be responsible for these blooms and that the conditions that cause phytoplankton blooms have become more common. This has the potential to cause significant disruption in the Arctic food chain.

The research has been published in Science Advances, and involved scientists from the University of Reading and the University of Oxford. Phytoplankton underpins the entire Arctic food web. Every summer, when the sea ice retreats, sunlight hitting the open water triggers a massive bloom of plankton. These attract fish, which attract larger predators and provides food for indigenous communities living in the Arctic. Phytoplankton shouldn’t be able to grow under the ice because ice reflects most sunlight light back into space, blocking it from reaching the water below.

But over the past decades, Arctic ice has gotten darker and thinner due to warming temperatures, allowing more and more sunlight to penetrate to the water beneath. Large, dark pools of water on the surface of the ice, known as melt ponds, have increased, lowering the reflectivity of the ice. The ice that remains frozen is thin and getting thinner.

"This study demonstrates that improving the sea ice model leads to a step forward in our understanding of how the Arctic is responding to climate change." said Dr David Schroeder, University of Reading

“Our big question was, how much sunlight gets transmitted through the sea ice, both as a function of thickness, which has been decreasing, and the melt pond percentage, which has been increasing.” said Chris Horvat, first author of the paper and graduate student in applied mathematics at SEAS. “What we found was that we went from a state where there wasn’t any potential for plankton blooms to massive regions of the Arctic being susceptible to these types of growth.”

The team’s mathematical modeling found that while the melt ponds contribute to conditions friendly to blooms, the biggest culprit is ice thickness. Twenty years ago, only about 03 to 04% of Arctic sea ice was thin enough to allow large colonies of plankton to bloom underneath. Today, the researchers found that nearly 30% of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean permits sub-ice blooms in summer months.

“The meter decline in sea ice thickness in the Arctic in the past 30 years has dramatically changed the ecology in that area.” said Horvat. “All of a sudden, our entire idea about how this ecosystem works is different. The foundation of the Arctic food web is now growing at a different time and in places, that are less accessible to animals, that need oxygen.”

The researchers hope their model will be helpful for planning future expeditions to observe these blooms and measuring the impact this shift will have on ecosystems. This research was co-authored by David Schroeder, Daniela Flocco and Danny Feltham, from the University of Reading and David Rees Jones and Sarah Iams, from the University of Oxford. It was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

Dr Schroeder said, "This study demonstrates that improving the sea ice model leads to a step forward in our understanding of how the Arctic is responding to climate change."
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Scientists Foresee Sharp Rise in Deadly Heat Stress as Global Temperatures Climb

2015 is the Hottest Year on Record:UN WMO: Cooling off on a waterfall. Image: UN Photo:Victoria Hazou
 


|| March 30: 2017: Maynooth University Ireland News  || ά.  In December 2015, the international community pledged to limit global warming to below 02°C to prevent dangerous climate change. However, new analysis suggests that even if this target is met, the dangers to society posed by heat stress are likely to escalate. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the scientists from Liverpool John Moores University and Loughborough University in the UK and Maynooth University in Ireland, examined data from recent projections of climate change and population growth.

They found that even if global warming is limited to as little as 01.5°C, relative to temperatures before the Industrial Revolution, in excess of 350 million more people living in megacities could be exposed to deadly heat episodes on an annual basis. With this level of warming, South Asian cities will likely remain the most heat stressed over the coming century but major world cities including Lagos, Nigeria and Shanghai, China may become newly heat stressed. For global warming of 02.7°C, which tallies with current commitments to greenhouse gas reduction, the largest city in the world at present, Tokyo, Japan is likely to be affected.

The researchers conclude that these large increases in global heat stress can be explained by two factors. First, the frequency of dangerously hot weather increases rapidly even for relatively modest rises in global average air temperature. Second, population is generally expected to grow fastest in low-latitude countries that experience relatively hot climates and temperatures already close to ‘dangerous’ thresholds.

The scientists undertook the analysis to explore the extent to which the ambitious climate change targets agreed in Paris, 2015, may avoid impacts that could be dangerous to society. Their findings highlight that even if these ambitious mitigation targets succeed, there is much left to do if society is to avoid the worst heat-stress impacts from rising temperatures.

Lead author Dr Tom Matthews, who is based at the LJMU School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, explains, “Limiting global warming to 02°C is considered a very stern challenge to global society. However, our analysis shows that even if we are successful, global heat stress is likely to climb as a societal hazard. During 2015, for example, the South Asian cities of Karachi and Kolkata experienced deadly heat that killed thousands, providing a timely reminder of human vulnerability even in those accustomed to hot weather.

Our results show that in a 02°C warmer climate, the likes of Karachi and Kolkata, could expect conditions equivalent to the deadly 2015 heat at least once per year. If we are to overshoot the Paris agreements, cities such as New York may experience heat stress in a 04°C warmer world.”

Co-author Conor Murphy, Maynooth University Department of Geography, said, “These findings highlight how sensitive heat stress is to climate change. We show that for even modest warming amounts, the global burden of heat stress will likely grow considerably.

Because the response is ‘non-linear’, for each fraction of a degree the climate warms, the increase in heat stress is ever greater. That translates into progressively heavier impacts globally if the Paris targets are missed.”

Rob Wilby, Loughborough University, said, “Given the scale of the challenge ahead, even if we limit temperatures from rising much further, there will still be need for practical interventions to help manage the impacts of dangerously hot weather. Improving early warning systems and support for those most at risk during heatwaves may help reduce the dangers faced by large city populations.”
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Seabed Conditions Key to Survival of Juvenile Cod, Haddock and Whiting

 

|| March 26: 2017: University of Glasgow News || ά. Links between seabed type and quality are closely related to the abundance and size of young commercially fished species, such as cod, haddock and whiting. A new study, led by the University of Glasgow and published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, examines the abundance and size of these three types of commercial fish over the course of two years in the South Arran Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area in the Firth of Clyde. The Firth of Clyde was once an important area for a variety of fish, such as haddock and cod and whiting. However, the populations of these fish have changed to the extent that they no longer support the fisheries they once did.

Previous studies have shown that there is a now a lower diversity of species and the current fish population in the Clyde, while remaining high in biomass, is dominated by small whiting below the minimum landing size. In this study researchers analysed factors, which could be affecting the species from recovering. They found that the biodiversity of the seabed affects the abundance and growth of juvenile demersal fish. The early stages of a fish’s life may depend on 'nursery' areas, where they can feed and shelter from predators. But until now we knew little about what makes a good nursery area for the most important commercial fish.

Cod were found to be most abundant in shallow, sheltered areas where the seabed was composed of gravels and pebbles, that contained maerl, a protected red algae, which supports a particularly high diversity of species. The study, also, reports that in 2014 while fewer cod were observed than in 2013, cod numbers remained fairly constant within gravel:pebble seabed types, whereas they reduced in other seabed types, such as sediment types with boulders and sand. Researchers believe that this hints at gravel:pebble seabed being important for the young of this species. However, this type of seabed could be more vulnerable to disturbance, such as by fishing by dredges, which can take place in these shallower areas.

In contrast, more haddock and whiting were observed over sheltered seabed made up of sand or mud. Interestingly, despite previous research, which suggested that whiting did not have a preference for any particular nursery habitat, this study did find that sandy seabeds were favoured by them. Sophie Elliott, from the University of Glasgow, said, “These results demonstrate that measures to protect juvenile fish should be tailored to the species and life stages and that there may not be general rules, which apply evenly within groups of closely-related fish.

The sustainability of the fishing industry depends on the supply of new fish into fishing grounds to replace those caught. In turn these fish depend on their environment for food and shelter. If we can identify which aspects of the environment are most important to fish these can be prioritised for protection for the benefit of fisheries and to aid the recovery of stocks.”

David Donnan, Scottish Natural Heritage, said, “Current fishery management measures tend to focus on controlling the amount of fish caught, by net mesh sizes and so on. While these measures remain important, there is increasing recognition that protecting habitats that are crucial to the life history of the target fish should be an important part of the overall management package.”

The study, also, found that fish changed their environment with increasing size, with cod moving to relatively more rugose seabed types as they increase in size within their first year of life. Biodiversity, also, affected cod growth rates. Haddock and whiting were observed to move to deeper waters as they grow.

Dr David Bailey, from the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, said: “We’ve shown that both the type and quality of the seabed have powerful effects on the numbers of juvenile fish they support. This is important information and should lead to measures to allow nursery areas to recover from past impacts so they can aid the recovery of fish stocks and the sustainability of fishing.”

The study took place between 2013 and 2014 and used stereo baited remote underwater video surveys. Three baited camera systems were used, each consisting of a pair of high definition video cameras in waterproof housings.
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The Paper: ‘Juvenile gadoid habitat and ontogenetic shift observations using stereo-video baited cameras’ is published in Marine Ecological Progress Series. The work was funded by Marine Scotland Clyde 2020, Scottish Natural Heritage, ClimateXChange and NERC NFSD.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Record-Breaking Weather in 2016 Pushes the World Into  Truly Uncharted Territory: WMO

A view of icebergs in Ilulissat Icefjord Greenland, where the melting of ice sheets is accelerating. Image: UN Photo:Mark Garten

|| March 21: 2017 || ά. Global temperatures set, yet another record last year and the world witnessed exceptionally low sea ice and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, the United Nations World Meteorological Organisation:WMO said today, warning that the extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017. According to the agency’s Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016, while global temperatures hit a remarkable 01.1 degree-Celsius above the pre-industrial period, global sea-level touch record highs and the planet’s sea-ice coverage dropped more than four million square kilometres below average in November, an unprecedented anomaly for that month. “This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system.” explained WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident.” Each of the year since 2001 has seen at least 0.4 degree-Celsius above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period, used by WMO as a reference for climate change monitoring. The 2016 heating was further boosted by the powerful 2015:16 El Niño weather system, during which, global sea-level, also, rose very strongly. Similarly, carbon dioxide:CO2 levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per millions in 2015, the latest year for which, WMO global figures are available and will not fall below that level for many generations to come because of the long-lasting nature of CO2.

The extreme climate conditions, also, added to human suffering: 2016 saw severe droughts, affecting millions in southern and eastern African and Central America. For example, in the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew, the first category four storm to make landfall since 1963, tore a path of destruction in Haiti and inflicted significant economic losses in the region.

In the midst of such challenges, Mr. Taalas, underlined the importance of implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which, also, entered into force last year. “The entry into force of the Paris Agreement on November 04, 2016 represents a historic landmark.” he said, adding that It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the Agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies.

He, also, called for continued investment in climate research and observations to allow scientific knowledge to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change. The extreme weather patterns are continuing in 2017 according to WMO. At least three times so far this winter, the Arctic saw what can be called the Polar equivalent of a heatwave, with powerful Atlantic storms driving an influx of warm, moist air, meaning that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days which were actually close to melting point.

Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years, and some areas, including Canada and much of the United States, were unusually balmy, whilst others, including parts of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa, were unusually cold in early 2017.

In thhe United States alone, 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied in February, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said WMO.

“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system.” said World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson. “We are now in truly uncharted territory.”
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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CuanTec: A New Business Force Equipped with Science in the Fight Against Food Waste in Support of the Environment

Image: University of Strathclyde

 

|| March 17: 2017: University of Strathclyde News || ά.  CuanTec is a start-up company with a positive and practical solution to the disposal of seafood waste, which exacts a heavy cost, both financially and environmentally. Food spoilage costs the seafood sector £60 million annually in Scotland alone, while food sent to landfill produces environmentally harmful gases such as methane and ammonia. CuanTec’s initial mission is to retrieve the inedible parts of shellfish and, specifically, a biopolymer they contain, known as chitosan and convert them into durable, antimicrobial, biodegradable food packaging for seafood.

It was the initial brainchild of Dr Ryan Taylor, an Analytical Chemist and alumnus of Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, who is now CuanTec’s Chief Operating Officer. He received support in establishing the company from his alma mater through the Strathclyde Entrepreneurs Fund, which invests in business ventures by the University community. He has been joined at CuanTec by Chief Executive Officer Dr Cait Murray-Green, who gained a PhD in Crystallography and has varied and extensive experience in molecular modelling, computational chemistry, product management, sales and business development.

The company is now rapidly developing after securing SMART feasibility study and SEED funding from the Scottish Investment Bank and the Strathclyde-hosted Gabriel Investments, via Scottish Enterprise. The funding has enabled the company to open its laboratory at MediCity in North Lanarkshire. Dr Murray-Green said, “Chitosan is the second most prolific biopolymer in the world and is known to have biodegradable and antimicrobial properties. It’s highly versatile and is used in a wide range of industries including herbicides and pesticides.

What we’re working on is preventing it going to landfill and putting it back into use. We see that as a real opportunity and a way of contributing to the circular economy. There’s enough chitosan in shellfish alone for the whole world to use chitosan-based food packaging, current petroleum based versions are not recyclable but a chitosan-based product will be biodegradable and can be disposed of, along with food scraps, into composting.

Scotland can be a leader in this area, with a large fishing industry and, for example, a high langoustine population in the North Atlantic - we are working with fisheries and seafood processors. We are also aware of allergies to seafood and our products will be tested to ensure no rogue allergen is present in them.”

The packaging developed by CuanTec will be made of starch-based biopolymers, and mixed with chitosan. Chitosan production at present is not commercially available in the UK and traditional chemical methods are energy intensive and not environmentally friendly.

The methods the company uses will eliminate costly production and waste management processes, which make it difficult for chitosan products to be manufactured in Europe with conventional systems. CuanTec aims to expand into packaging for other foodstuffs in the future and also has the potential to explore applications in medicine and healthcare. It intends to support the extension of its activities through the recruitment of sponsors and a crowdfunding campaign.

“Products based on chitosans could potentially be useful in dealing with oil spillages and other types of pollution.” said Dr Murray-Green. “We are looking to work with industry on this and are developing novel, useful, innovative products to create jobs and for a healthier environment.”
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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How Butterflies Benefit From Coffee Corridors: New Research Shows the Impact of Deforestation in Ethiopia

Image: ZSL



|| March 15: 2017: Anglia Ruskin University News || ά. New research shows that coffee and timber plantations are providing a safety net for butterfly species in Ethiopia, as the country’s tropical forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. The research, carried out by academics from Anglia Ruskin University, the University of York and Jimma University in Ethiopia, has been published in Biotropica, the journal of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation. Unlike in the UK, where butterflies are associated with open habitats, such as meadows and pasture, tropical butterflies have a much higher dependence on trees. Ethiopia has 376 species of tropical butterfly, many of which are endemic to the country.

Over a quarter of Ethiopia’s mountain forest has been lost since the turn of the millennium, with agriculture and logging the main driving forces. This new study is one of the first to look at how wildlife is faring across these human-altered landscapes in Ethiopia. The research found that butterfly communities in coffee and timber plantations were dominated by forest species, sharing 90% of their species with the natural forest. On average, there were 14 different species recorded per hectare in the forest compared to 10 in the coffee and timber plantations. This figure fell to three species per hectare in cropland. The average total number of butterflies recorded per hectare in cropland was only six, compared to 35 in timber plantations, 37 in natural forests and 41 in coffee plantations.

Dr Olivia Norfolk, Lecturer in Animal and Environmental Biology at Anglia Ruskin University, said, “Ethiopia may conjure up images of barren savannah but in reality, much of the country consists of green highlands, that were once dominated by tropical forest. Ethiopian highlands are renowned for the production of coffee, which was traditionally harvested directly from the forests and is now cultivated in semi-managed coffee forests, that retain a thinned canopy. More recently, the region has experienced an expansion of timber plantations and intensive agricultural practices, such as croplands and pasture.

Our study shows that tropical butterflies are strongly influenced by agriculture; they exhibit extreme declines, when forest is converted into cropland and pasture, but are retained in relatively high numbers in coffee forests and timber plantations.

These wooded agricultural areas are used by a high diversity of forest butterflies but butterfly numbers decline with distance from natural forest, suggesting that agricultural land cannot support stable populations without the continued presence of forest.

Planting trees in agricultural landscapes and encouraging wooded agriculture, such as coffee forests may help to soften the impact and act as a corridor to allow movement of butterflies between isolated forest patches. However, protecting the remaining natural forest is essential for conserving Ethiopia’s diverse community of colourful butterflies.”

Dr Olivia Norfolk’s research focuses upon the impact that land-use change has upon biodiversity and ecosystems. Her postdoctoral research was based at the York Institute of Tropical Ecosystems and investigated the impact that agriculture and tropical deforestation have upon East African bird and butterfly communities. Prior to this she completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham which assessed the impact of traditional Bedouin orchards on biodiversity within South Sinai, Egypt. This work explored the dynamics of plant-pollinator interactions within these diverse cropping systems, and demonstrated that flowering minority crops enhance pollination of almond. Olivia specialises in pollinator conservation and is particularly interested in the ecological value of traditional agricultural systems.

About Anglia Ruskin University: Anglia Ruskin is an innovative global university, brimming with ambition. Students from 177 countries gain qualifications with us in four continents. Students, academics, businesses and partners all benefit from our outstanding facilities; we’ve invested £100 million over the last five years and plan to invest a further £91 million over the next five years. Anglia Ruskin’s Research Institutes and five faculties bridge scientific, technical and creative fields. We deliver impactful research which tackles pressing issues and makes a real difference, from saving lives to conserving water. Our academic excellence has been recognised by the UK’s Higher Education funding bodies, with 12 areas classed as generating world-leading research. In 2016 we were ranked in the top 350 institutions in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, featured in a list of the 20 “rising stars” in global Higher Education compiled by strategy consultants Firetail and were named as one of the top 20 UK universities for teaching quality in The Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide.
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Forests Worldwide are Threatened by Drought

Image: University of Stirling

|| March 14: 2017: University of Stirling News || ά. Forests around the world are at risk of death due to widespread drought, University of Stirling researchers have found. An analysis, published in the journal Ecology Letters, suggests that forests are at risk globally from the increased frequency and severity of droughts. The study found a similar response in trees across the world, where death increases consistently with increases in drought severity.

Dr Sarah Greenwood, Postdoctoral Researcher in Stirling’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, said, “We can see that the death of trees caused by drought is consistent across different environments around the world. So, a thirsty tree growing in a tropical forest and one in a temperate forest, such as those we find throughout Europe, will have largely the same response to drought and will inevitably suffer as a result of rising temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns on Earth.”

The biological and environmental scientists did find specific, varying features in different tree types can alter their resistance to drought. Species with denser wood and smaller, thicker leaves tend to fare better during prolonged, unusually-dry periods.

Stirling co-author and Professor of Ecology, Alastair Jump, said, “By pinpointing specific traits in trees that determine how at risk they are from drought, we can better understand global patterns of tree mortality and how the world’s forests are reacting to rising temperatures and reduced rainfall.

As the temperature of the planet continues to climb, mass tree mortality will hit more forests than ever before. Forests store a substantial amount of the world’s carbon and increased tree death will only propel future global warming.

This has very significant implications for fully understanding the impact of climate change on our planet.” The study was supported by The Leverhulme Trust.
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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St Andrews Researchers Help Secure Survival of the Baltic Sea Harbour Porpoise

Image: University of St Andrews

 

|| March 12: 2017: University of St Andrews News || ά. Scientists, including researchers, from the University of St Andrews, have spent two years deploying acoustic detectors throughout the Baltic Sea, even through solid ice, in a bid to protect one of the world’s most endangered populations of porpoise. Their efforts have resulted in the world’s largest ever acoustic wildlife survey and persuaded the Swedish government to create a huge marine conservation area in the Baltic Proper for the harbour porpoise, the largest marine conservation area ever proposed by Sweden. This represents an important step towards securing the long-term survival of the Baltic Sea harbour porpoise.

The Baltic Sea harbour porpoise has a remaining population of around 500, a figure established by the University’s Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling:CREEM, working as part of an international team of scientists from all the Baltic States, except Russia, on the project, called, Static Acoustic Monitoring of the Baltic Sea Harbour Porpoise:SAMBAH. The harbour porpoise is the only cetacean species resident in the Baltic Sea. There are three separate harbour porpoise populations in the Baltic Sea Region but the one in the Baltic Proper has seen its population decrease dramatically since the mid-1900s.

Since porpoises in the Baltic Sea are now extremely scarce, they are virtually impossible to survey by traditional visual methods so the team of researchers used 300 fixed echolocation click detectors, spread in a systematic grid over the entire Baltic Sea. They collected data for two years, making this the largest acoustic survey of wildlife ever undertaken.

CREEM then used advanced statistical algorithms to convert the click data into numbers of porpoises, and worked with the research team to create distribution maps identifying where different parts of the populations live. Dr Len Thomas of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University and Director of CREEM, said, “This is the first survey designed from the ground up to estimate population size from acoustics. I pay tribute to the field teams, who went out in all conditions year-round, even drilling through sea ice, to deploy and service the acoustic detectors.

Our analysis shows that a small population of ‘true’ Baltic porpoise remain, and it is pleasing to see the Swedish government take positive steps to protect them.” As a result, the project concluded that there were only around 500 of the Baltic Proper porpoises, those living in the Baltic Sea Proper, remaining and, in consequence, the Swedish government has designated a large marine Natura 2000 area in the central Baltic for them.

Pending final approval by an EU expert forum, this area will provide urgently needed protection for the porpoises. Covering more than one million hectares, this is the largest marine area ever proposed by Sweden as a Natura 2000 area and includes the major part of the most important breeding ground of the endangered population.

SAMBAH was an international project, funded under the EU LIFE programme, with the ultimate aim of securing conservation of the critically-endangered Baltic population. Natura 2000 is a network of protected nature reserves in the EU.
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Food and Agriculture Organisation  Warns of Water Scarcity in North Africa and Near East

 

|| March 09: 2017|| ά. ''Accessible fresh water in North Africa and the Middle East has fallen by two-thirds over the past 40 years, posing a huge challenge requiring an urgent and massive response.'' Mr Jose Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation:FAO, said today. ''Access to water is a fundamental need for food security, human health and agriculture, and sustainable water use for agriculture requires transforming food systems and diets.'' said Mr Jose Graziano da Silva in a news release on his visit to Egypt.

He said that per capita availability of fresh water in the region was now 10 times less than the world average as he underscoring the need for a significant overhaul of farming systems. A recent FAO study showed that higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century. The rising sea level in the Nile Delta is exposing Egypt to the danger of losing substantial parts of the most productive agriculture land due to salinisation. ''Moreover, competition between water-usage sectors will only intensify in the future between agriculture, energy, industrial production and household needs.” he said.

Mr. Graziano da Silva attended a high-level meeting on FAO's collaboration with Egypt on the feddan initiative, the Government's plan to reclaim eventually up to two million hectares of desert land for agricultural and other uses.

Policy advice and best practice ideas on the governance of irrigation schemes is a key offering in FAO's Near East and North Africa Water Scarcity Initiative, backed now by a network of more than 30 national and international organizations.

The initiative has gained momentum, buoyed by its endorsement by the League of Arab States as well as donor support, Mr. Graziano da Silva said, noting that urgent actions supporting it include measures aimed at reducing food loss and waste and bolstering the resilience of smallholders and family farmers.
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New Study Sheds Light on How Species Extinction Affects Complex Ecosystems

Blue and Brown Spiny Brittle Star. Image: University of Southampton

 

|| March 07: 2017: University of Southampton News || ά. Research by the University of Southampton has found that methods used to predict the effect of species extinction on ecosystems could be producing inaccurate results. This is because current thinking assumes that when a species vanishes, its role within an environment is lost, too. However, scientists working on a new study have found that when a species, for example a group of sea creatures, is wiped out by a catastrophic event, other species can change their behaviour to compensate, exploiting the vacant role left behind.

This leads to positive or negative effects on ecosystems and in turn, either better or worse outcomes than current estimates would suggest. At present, predictions assume that any contribution is completely lost at the point of extinction, leading to a decline in ecosystem performance. The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports. Lead Author Matthias Schmidt Thomsen, of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton, says, “We have known for some time that a reduction in biodiversity has negative ecological consequences but predictions of what happens to an ecosystem have not accounted for the occurrence of compensatory responses.

Our study provides evidence that the response of surviving species to novel circumstances can, at least partially, offset or indeed, exacerbate, changes in an ecosystem that are associated with species removal.” The researchers based their findings on the interaction of species in a community of invertebrates, such as clams, shrimps and worms, obtained from marine seabed samples collected in Galway Bay, Ireland.

Bottom dwelling marine organisms are particularly, vulnerable to extinction because they are often unable to avoid disturbance. These organisms are important because they churn up sediments from the bottom of the ocean, a process known as ‘bioturbation’, playing a vital role in returning nutrients to surrounding water as food for other creatures.

Using mathematical simulations, the team were able to explore what happens to the bioturbation process as species are removed from the system under different extinction scenarios. The simulations also accounted for the nuances of how other creatures would react as circumstances change. The direction and strength of response depends on the type of compensation and the extinction scenario.

Co-author, Dr Clement Garcia, an Ecologist from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in Lowestoft, said, “There have been concerns over the gradual erosion of our natural habitat for some time. These findings will help resolve some of the detail that has previously been unavailable, allowing us to better identify both vulnerabilities and opportunities that coincide with environmental change and human endeavour.”

The team’s findings have important implications for the conservation of biological resources and habitat, and will support the refinement of models that are used to predict the consequences of human activity and environmental change.
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Conserving Wildlife and Tropical Habitats in Indonesia

Image: Bournemouth University

|| March 04: 2017: Bournemouth University News || ά. In rainforests and tropical forests all across the world, deforestation, human activities and climate change are having a huge impact on both vulnerable eco-systems and the wildlife that depend on them for survival. For the last few years, researchers and students at Bournemouth University have been working in the remote forests of North Sumatra to find out what these changes mean on the ground. Landscape Ecology and Primatology:LEAP is led by Associate Professor Amanda Korstjens and Professor Ross Hill from the University's Department of Life and Environmental Sciences:LES. They are supported by a number of postgraduate students.

In the tropical forests of northern Indonesia lies the Sikundur monitoring site, run by the Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Programme:SOCP, which for several months of the year, is home to the Bournemouth University staff and students. From here, the team carry out research to understand changes in the forest and how this affects species, such as, orang-utans, siamangs, gibbons, Thomas’s langur monkeys and elephants. Dr Amanda Korstjens explains the project, “It’s all about disturbances to the forest, both from humans and climate change and how that affects the forest structure and carbon stock. We’re also exploring how different primates and elephants use the forest, depending on its structure and vegetation and how they respond to changes in their habitat.

“For example, if humans cut down hard wood trees, which are often the taller trees, that siamangs, gibbons and Thomas’s langurs prefer for safe sleeping places, how does this affect their chances of survival? How does the extraction of mature fruiting trees affect primate densities? We’re looking at endangered primates that tend to live in very specific areas. They’re likely to be disproportionately affected by changes to their environment.”

Professor Ross Hill says: “We’re working in an amazing area of Indonesia, the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, which is the last place, where you can still find Sumatran orang-utans, rhinos, elephants and tigers together. Changes to the environment and human activity, such as road building or the development of palm oil plantations, can have a huge effect on declining species.”

The project site is set up as a student learning platform, where PhD and Master’s research students spend several months carrying out their fieldwork. Some undergraduate students have had the opportunity to spend a short amount of time in the region, giving them an insight into future conservation careers. The elephant project has also included project work by three Indonesian Master’s students.

“It’s great for our undergraduates to get their first experiences of living and working in the tropics. It can be quite a daunting prospect to go alone, so travelling together as a group makes it much more manageable.” explains Dr Korstjens. “Our PhD students and postdoctoral researcher work on a variety of projects, using cutting edge technology including airborne laser scanning to assess the forest structure, as well as photography from drones.

These data sets are very important as they enable us to see how the forest and vegetation are changing. One of the aims of our project is to find ways of gathering these data at a much lower cost, which is made easier by rapid changes in technology. As an example, we hope to be able to use photographic data from drones to measure carbon stocks rather than having to send people out into the forest to measure trees individually; the latter can be hugely expensive.”

These developments in technology are not only helping the advancement of science and research methods, but are also being used by local organisations in the area to monitor poachers and forest loss. Several now have their own drones, which enable them to keep watch over vast areas of forest and mean that eventually they may also be able to use the methods being developed by the LEAP team, especially by the University's postdoctoral researcher Dr Cici Alexander, as part of her European funded Marie Sklodowska-Curie project.

The data gathered by Bournemouth University’s researchers is being fed back to local conservation organisations, such as the Leuser Conservation Forum:FKL, HAkA and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme of the YEL-PanEco consortium, BKSDA, and activists, including Rudi Putra, and Dr Nursahara, from the University of North Sumatra and Dr Abdullah, from the Syiah Kuala University in Aceh. They are then able to use the results to change the way that conservation takes place in the area. It’s an ideal partnership as research teams are able to contribute their knowledge, while local people are able to make a difference in practice.

“We provide them with the data they need to be able to properly and effectively protect the forest and the animals.” explains Dr Korstjens, “They are involved in the management of the site and of the parks. They talk to the government and other local organisations in a way that we simply wouldn’t be able to.

As an example, we’ve shown that there is a link between primate densities and forest structure. Old growth forests are likely to have a higher proportion of gibbons and siamang. We are measuring differences in temperature at different heights in trees located in more open and more dense forests and will be linking this to the behaviour and movement of orang-utans, gibbons and siamangs.”

One of the PhD students involved in the study, Chris Marsh, has shown that temperatures can differ by up to 10 C between locations. An increase in temperature is particularly, noticeable, when trees have been cut down, as the remaining trees are more exposed and become hotter. By demonstrating the link between the two, the team hope that local organisations will be able to make a difference to conservation and logging practices. ω.

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Iron Dissolved by Air Pollution May Increase Ocean Potential to Trap Carbon: Yet How Does the Increase of This Iron Effect Marine Life and Ecosystem, the Weather and Water Cycle and Sun Light and How Does the Increased Level of Take up of the Green House Gases by the Oceans Impact on the Entirety of the Marine Ecology and Life are the Next Sets of Questions That Require Urgent Investigation

Image: University of Birmingham

|| March 03: 2017: University of Birmingham News || ά. Iron particles generated by cities and industry are being dissolved by human-made air pollution and washed into the sea, potentially increasing the amount of greenhouse gases that the world’s oceans can absorb, a new study suggests. Scientists have long believed that acids formed from human-generated pollution and natural emissions dissolve iron in airborne particles, increasing the amount of iron to the ocean but have lacked direct evidence to prove this theory. Now, iron-rich particles from steel manufacturing and coal burning, collected in the East China Sea, have been found to have a thick sulphate coating, containing soluble iron that provides the evidence to prove the theory of acid iron dissolution.  And here, The Humanion cautions against over simplification. This may be true, yet how does the increase of this iron effect marine life and ecosystem , the weather and water cycle and with the vary many sun rays and the way they interact with the ocean and support life and the ecosystem of the oceans and and how does increased level of take up of the green house gases by the oceans impact on the entirety of the marine ecology and life are the next sets of questions that require urgent investigation.

The Humanion invites these wonderful institutions to invest further into this research to seek to answer these important questions for, too start with, having an over increased level of iron in drinking water is detrimental to human health and well being, despite iron being a fundamental necessity for human health, too much is not good, and therefore, the question is, if the oceans' iron level is increased how does that impact on, particularly, the marine life that provides humans with food? Would this increase in iron 'inflict' damages to the 'food stalk' of the oceans that will end up on human food plates? And this is why, The Humanion puts out this caution against over simplification for there are so many variables involves in this vast arena of life's sustaining-belt and it is simply not feasible nor wise to simply accept that this increase in iron and the consequential increase in the oceans' ability take up more green house gases is a good thing. Because the increase in iron level makes oceans take up more green house gases question, with absolute urgency, stares at our faces: if the oceans were taking in these additional amounts of green house gases how does that change and affect the very variables we have mentioned. Thus, with urgency, The Humanion invites, for more research into this field.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham, UK and Shandong University, China led an international research partnership with counterparts from universities in the US and Japan. The work was funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China and the UK’s Natural Environmental Research Council. The team published their findings in Science Advances. Dr Zongbo Shi, the corresponding Author of this work, at the University of Birmingham said, “Air pollution dissolves iron in aerosols, which may help to fertilise the oceans. We know that air pollution seriously damages human health and terrestrial ecosystems but this ‘new’ source of soluble iron can potentially increase the amount of carbon dioxide stored in the oceans and thus, inadvertently offset global warming.”

Professor Weijun Li, the Lead Author of this work, at Shandong University added, “The detection of iron sulphate mixed within the sulphate coatings, which we analysed provides the ‘smoking gun’ for acid dissolution because there is no other atmospheric source or process that leads to its formation.” Scientists collected three types of iron-bearing particles from the Yellow Sea, the northern part of the East China Sea located between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula. Sophisticated microscopic instruments were used to look for iron-containing nanoscale particles, specifically locating them from thousands of aerosol particles.

Researchers showed that iron-rich, fly ash and mineral dust particles had travelled from the Asian continent. Most of the iron-rich and fly ash particles contained a significant amount of sulphate containing soluble iron. Most atmospheric sulphur dioxide in East Asia is emitted from coal combustion and industry, whilst the bulk of sulphate particles in the Northern Hemisphere are formed from sulphur dioxide caused by human activities.

The research team, thus, confirmed that the iron rich sulphate particles found in the Yellow Sea are formed by contact with human-made sulphur dioxide. The research shows that the airborne particles became acidic after being transported to the Yellow Sea.

“Human activities may have led to an increase of atmospherically soluble iron in the oceans by several times since the Industrial Revolution, which could have a major impact on how effective our oceans are regulating our climate.” added Dr Shi.

“Controlling air pollution will bring huge benefits to human welfare but it may reduce the amount of nutrients to the surface ocean and, thus, the ocean carbon uptake rate. More work needs to be done to quantify the impact of anthropogenic soluble iron on ocean ecosystems and climate.”
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Forests to Play Major Role in Meeting Paris Climate Targets: But a Consistent Approach in Measuring Their Contributions to Green House Gas Emissions Required

 

|| February 28: 2017: University of Bristol: England: United Kingdom News || ά. Forests are set to play a major role in meeting the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement, however, accurately monitoring progress toward the 'below 02°C' target requires a consistent approach to measuring the impact of forests on greenhouse gas:GHG emissions. In a paper published in the journal, Nature Climate Change: Key role of forests in meeting climate targets but science needed for credible mitigation, scientists are calling for robust, transparent and credible data to track the real mitigation potential of forests.

Dr Joanna House from the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute is a Co-author of the paper, said: "There is no doubt forests have enormous potential to mitigate against climate change, primarily through reducing deforestation, planting new forests and managing existing forests. Forests play a major role in in the pledges made by countries towards meeting the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, meeting up to a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions reductions up to 2030. This is a huge contribution, considering they only contribute 10 per cent of emissions, while fossil fuels contribute 90 per cent."

In December 2015, 195 countries adopted the Paris Climate Agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties:COP-21 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:UNFCCC. As part of the process, 187 countries, representing more than 96% of global net emissions, submitted their Intended National Determined Contributions:INDCs, which form the basis for implementing mitigation actions under the climate agreement. The INDCs pledged ahead of the Paris meeting only limit global average temperatures to around 03.5 degrees C, not 'well below' 02 degrees as required in the Paris Agreement.

"Most countries include the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry:LULUCF sector in their INDCs, with a clear focus on forests. However, countries use different ways of calculating the land sector emissions reductions it in their national targets. Consequently, evaluating the expected effect of the land sector on the INDC mitigation targets is very complex." said Dr House.

The EU’s Joint Research Centre and a team of international collaborators, led by Dr Giacomo Grassi and including Dr House, carried out the first and most thorough quantification and interpretation of country mitigation plans in the LULUCF sector. Using information and data reported by countries under the UNFCCC process, backed up with country data reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, they compared it with independent estimates in the scientific literature.

Dr House added, "Comparing the overall mitigation contribution of the land sector to all other sectors such as energy, we found that globally it contributes to about 25% of the total INDC emissions reduction. The INDC commitments still fall short of meeting the Paris Targets, and despite the role of forests, there will need to be further drastic reductions in fossil fuel emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Climate impacts are already being felt throughout the world as 2014, 2015 and 2016 were each consecutively the warmest years on record. Forests play an important role, not least because of the co-benefits of biodiversity, rainfall recycling, and protection from flooding and erosion. However our land resource is limited, so there is no getting away from the need to also switch to low carbon energy as many countries are doing with great success while their economies continue to flourish."

Tracking the mitigation potential of forests requires more confidence in numbers, including reconciling estimates between country reports and scientific studies. However, the credibility of land-based mitigation may be hampered by large uncertainties in the way countries consider mitigation and their GHG estimates. National GHG inventories must be improved in terms of transparency, accuracy, including information on uncertainties, consistency, completeness and comparability, especially in developing countries.” said lead author, Giacomo Grassi from the EU’s Joint Research Centre.

"There is also an urgency to reconcile the currently relevant differences between the GHG estimates provided in the country reports and those based on scientific assessments. Progress toward achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement will be based on both country reports and scientific assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:IPCC. Without speaking a common language, conflicting numbers may undermine confidence in reaching targets, and progress toward the 'below 2°C' target cannot be properly assessed." said Dr House.

Paper: 'Key role of forests in meeting climate targets but science needed for credible mitigation', by G. Grassi, J. House et al., in Nature Climate Change. ω.

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Lorries Communicating Together to Bring Smart Transport Into Everyday Life

Image: VRTrasnpoint


|| February 28: 2017 || ά. Over the coming year, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and VR Transpoint, together with Boliden's Kevitsa mine, will be testing how
traffic safety can be improved by transmitting local weather information directly from one vehicle to another. The tests will be carried out on the section of road between Sodankylä and Kemi. During the spring of 2017, the Finnish Meteorological Institute's Intelligent Arctic Lorries Research Project, funded by the ERDF, will fit several of VR Transpoint's lorries with friction measurement devices.

The lorries will collect measurement data about road and weather conditions in real time using the friction measurement devices as well as the vehicles'  own telemetry equipment. The main route for the lorries is the section of road between Boliden Kevitsa Mining Oy's mine at Petkula, in the municipality of Sodankylä, and the port of Kemi. The measurements will continue during the vehicles' operations at least until September 2018 and after that for as long as the traffic continues along that route and the measurement equipment remains in working order. The Lapland University of Applied Sciences is also involved in the project. The project funding is being managed by the Regional Council of Lapland.

The system also utilises an experimental road weather station. The road weather station is situated next to the E75 road, south of the centre of Sodankylä. "This is not an ordinary road weather station; the whole station is constructed with an eye to intelligent road projects. As well as more ordinary road weather station measurement devices and road condition cameras, the research station is also equipped with versatile, wireless communication systems which enable communication between cars and the station.

Data is collected from cars on such factors as the road surface, friction and temperature to supports the road weather station's measurements." explains Dr Timo Sukuvaara, Senior Research Scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The objective of the tests is to use the observations to construct a more advanced road weather service where road weather data is transmitted directly to drivers from one car to another.

"In the longer term, the aim is to create completely new services and service concepts utilising similar mobile measurement instrumentation and other data generated by vehicles which today is not used at all." says Timo Sukuvaara. Vehicles already produce a lot of observation material which could be used to create new weather, safety and comfort services for road users.

"Intelligent transport has been a topic of discussion for a long time, but the progress of adopting intelligent transport services in everyday use has been slow. The aim of this test is to investigate how individualised services for vehicles could be produced in real time on specific sections of road. For example, a warning could be given about a slippery, icy corner half a kilometre ahead on a road where conditions are otherwise good." summarises Dr Sukuvaara.

"Since friction measurement equipment is comparatively large and expensive, it is sensible to install the equipment on vehicles that travel along a section of road that is being researched a lot. In addition, measurement equipment on large lorries does not disturb the view. On top of that, telemetry data today is best available precisely from heavy goods vehicles, there is significantly less information from private cars openly available." explains Time Sukuvaara.

"The lorries that carry concentrate from the Kevitsa mine drive every working day along the Petkula-Kemi section of road, practically the whole time, with only a few hours break. The weather conditions on this section of almost 300 kilometres are really demanding and changeable, the lorries are heavy, especially when loaded, and it has not been possible to avoid accidents completely.

When we were offered to opportunity to take part in this kind of experiment, which as well as improving general road safety could also improve the safety of our heavy goods vehicles, of course we seized the chance. Through joint development of new, more environmentally-friendly vehicles and intelligent transport services, we hope to create a safer environment also for the people who live alongside the routes our lorries follow; our children also cross the Number Four road on  their way to school." says Krista, the newly appointed Logistics Manager at Kevitsa.

More information: FMI: Timo Sukuvaara: tel. +358 40 529 4977: timo.sukuvaara at fmi.fi
VR Transpoint: Juha Haapanen: tel. +358 40 595 3977: juha.haapanen at vrtranspoint.fi
Boliden: Logistiikkavastaava Krista Stauffer, tel. +358 40 669 3051: krista.stauffer at boliden.com:
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Look, What Valter and Ilari Have Found: Some New Species of Animals

Images: Ilari E. Sääksjärvi and Valter Weijola


|| February 28: 2017: University of Turku News || ά. The new animal species discovered by the researchers of the Biodiversity Unit at the University of Turku have attracted worldwide attention and interest. In 2015 and 2016, the researchers formally described, for example, the Rattus detentus rat, the Clistopyga caramba wasp, the Varanus semotus monitor lizard and a wasp that felts spider silk. The new and unique species have quickly become some of the most discussed new animal discoveries in international media and popular blogs.  The variety of life on earth is poorly known. Animal and plant species unknown to science are discovered especially from the oceans and in the rainforests near the Equator. Each year, scientists describe approximately 18,000 new species. However, most of the discoveries are known only by the academic community.

The researchers of the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku study the variety of life in the tropics and describe even tens of new species each year. Most of them do not receive a great deal of attention. However, the Rattus dentus rat and the Varanus semotus monitor lizard discovered on a remote island in Papua New Guinea as well as the Clistopyga caramba wasp living in the Peruvian Amazon are exceptions. The identification of the new rat species was chosen among the 100 top science stories of 2016 by the American Discover magazine. In addition to several blogs, the new wasp species was featured by The Daily Mail. The discovery of the monitor lizard and rat were covered by several news media, including the Washington Post, The Guardian, The Telegraph and El Mundo.

''Discovering and describing a new species is a long process. Behind the discoveries might be, for example, extended periods of field work when researchers look for new species far away from their home country. After the field work, the other research work begins: the species is examined in a laboratory, described, named, and classified and then the research article is published in an international journal. Despite the hard work, many species descriptions only reach the academia.'' say researchers Valter Weijola and Ilari E. Sääksjärvi from the University of Turku, who made the discoveries.

Every now and again, new species become popular. Often, a peculiar appearance, interesting behaviour or significance for humans are behind their popularity.
Traditionally, species that have become popular are extinct human or dinosaur species. Species that are named after presidents, singers or athletes have also received a great deal of attention.

Unique species can also be found in Finland. Last year, Niclas Fritzén and Sääksjärvi from the Biodiversity Unit studied a Finnish wasp species and discovered that it felts spider silk with its felting needle-like egg-laying organ called ovipositor. The extraordinary find was quickly reported by international media and covered on the webpages of the Science journal and BBC as well as by The Scientist and The Atlantic magazines.

''It is great that new species still inspire the public. It can focus the readers' attention on the fact that we still know fairly little of our planet. At the same time, more and more species become extinct as a direct result of human actions. We hope that the new, exceptional discoveries would increase people's enthusiasm to protect endangered ecosystems and their inhabitants. This is probably the biggest hope for us scientists after a long research process.'' say Weijola and Sääksjärvi.

Rattus dentus lives only on the remote Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. The isolated rat has evolved into a larger species than its relatives living in New Guinea and Australia, and it is one of the largest Rattus species in the world. Very little is known of its behaviour. The rare species can only be found in the rainforests of the Manus Island.

The tip of the caramba wasp's abdomen, Clistopyga caramba, mimics an ant, in a way, it has two heads. Most likely, the wasp uses it to frighten off spiders protecting their eggs. The white base of its posterior visually separates the ant-like part from the rest of the wasp. When the spider flees, the parasitoid caramba wasp nests in the spider's eggs. The species is only found in the tropical Andean-Amazonian interface in Peru. The name of the species, caramba, refers to the Spanish exclamation ”¡Ay, caramba!”. It describes the researchers' feeling of astonishment when they discovered the wasp.

The Varanus semotus monitor lizard endemic to the Mussau Island is a large, intelligent and active lizard that is the apex predator of the Island. It belongs to the monitor lizard species in the Pacific area which are the least known of the large terrestrial vertebrates. Most of the species are very mysterious and live in places that are hard to reach in New Guinea, the Maluku Islands and the Solomon Islands.

: This text, of University of Turku is  Licensed under Creative Commons  and it is free to use:
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Each Year More Than Eight Million Metric Tonnes of Plastic End up in the Oceans: By 2050 the World's Oceans Will Have More Plastic Than Fish If Current Trends Continue: And Will the World Wake up

|| February 24: 2017 || ά. Launching an unprecedented global campaign, the United Nations Environment Programme:UNEP is urging everyone to eliminate the use of microplastics and stop the excessive, wasteful use of single-use plastic to save the world’s seas and oceans from irreversible damage before it’s too late. “Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables.” Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of UNEP, said in a news release announcing the campaign. ''We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.” he added.

Through its Clean Seas campaign, the agency has urged countries and businesses to take ambitious measures to eliminate microplastics from personal-care products, ban or tax single-use plastic bags and dramatically reduce other disposable plastic items by 2022. Ten countries have already joined the initiative with far-reaching pledges: Indonesia has committed to slash its marine litter by 70 per cent by 2025; Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags later this year and Costa Rica will take measures to dramatically reduce single-use plastic through better waste management and education, according to UNEP. These initiatives could not come sooner as up to 80 per cent of all litter in the oceans are made of plastic.


According to estimates, by 2050, 99 per cent of earth’s seabirds will have ingested plastic. An illustration of the sheer magnitude of the problem is that as much as 51 trillion microplastic particles, 500 times more than stars in our galaxy, litter the seas. Each year, more than eight million metric tonnes of plastic end up in oceans, wreaking havoc on marine wildlife, fisheries and tourism and cost at least $08 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. According to estimates, by 2050, oceans will have more plastic than fish if present trends are not arrested.

According to UNEP actions to stem the growing tide of maritime litter could include reducing the use of single-use plastics at the individual level such as by using reusable shopping bags and water bottles, choosing products without microbeads and plastic packaging, and not using straws to drink. “Whether we choose to use plastic bags at the grocery store or sip through a plastic straw, our seemingly small daily decisions to use plastics are having a dramatic effect on our oceans.” said film actor and founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation, Adrian Grenier.

Image: C-Jason Childs:Jimbaran Bay
 

Similarly, on larger and commercial scale, supply chains can be modified. One such example is the technology company DELL Computers: which has announced that it will use recovered ocean plastic in its product packaging. “DELL is committed to putting technology and expertise to work for a plastic-free ocean.” said its Vice President for Global Operations, Piyush Bhargava. “Our new supply chain brings us one step closer to UNEP’s vision of Clean Seas by proving that recycled ocean plastic can be commercially reused.”

According to UNEP, major announcements are also expected at the upcoming conference on The Ocean at the UN Headquarters in New York June 05-09 and UN the Environment Assembly to be held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in December.

“The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet, yet we are poisoning it with millions of tonnes of plastic every year.” expressed Peter Thomson, the President of the UN General Assembly, highlighting the upcoming conference and urging for ambitious pledges to reduce single-use plastic. “Be it a tax on plastic bags or a ban on microbeads in cosmetics, each country can do their bit to maintain the integrity of life in the Ocean.”
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Dolphin Population Will Take 40 Years to Recover From the Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Image: University of Bangor: Wales: United Kingdom


|| February 22: 2017: University of St Andrew News || ά. Dolphins are struggling to survive in the Gulf of Mexico, seven years after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, an international study involving researchers at the University of St Andrews has concluded. In April 2010 a blowout on the drilling rig resulted in the release of 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over an 87-day period, killing thousands of marine mammals including bottlenose dolphins. A new study coordinated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:NOAA documents the unprecedented mortality rate and long-term environmental impacts of the oil’s exposure and represents a synthesis of more than five years’ worth of data collection, analysis and interpretation.

Scientists from the St Andrews-based Sea Mammal Research Unit:SMRU and the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling:CREEM played a key role in the study. The study found that the dolphin population in the Barataria Bay area of the Gulf of Mexico will have reduced by 50% within the decade following the spill and that full population recovery will take 40 years. In addition, the scientists found that 25% of the current population are underweight and 17% are in a poor or grave condition. Professor Ailsa Hall of the School of Biology at St Andrews and Director of SMRU was an expert advisor on the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment:NRDA.

Professor Hall said, “My assistance was required to provide advice in relation to how assessing the damage to the bottlenose dolphins and large whales that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico and that were exposed to the oil should be tackled. My research expertise as a marine mammal epidemiologist and toxicologist was sought to provide independent critical review of the proposed work.

I was therefore able to provide analytical input into the scientific approach taken by the NOAA scientists, to overview their research plans and to assist in interpreting their findings. The challenges faced by the NOAA scientists in determining whether the oil had caused significant effects on the health and survival of the dolphins and whales in the Gulf of Mexico was immense.”

Dr Len Thomas, of the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University and Director of CREEM said, “CREEM worked as part of a large team to predict the long-term damage to marine mammal populations from the oil spill. Our first challenge was to integrate multiple sources of information from the relatively well-studied dolphin populations around the Mississippi delta to assess the current population health and predict how this might change in the future.

The second challenge was how to deal with the many other dolphin populations, and other species in the Gulf, about which much less is known. CREEM specialises in the development and application of statistical methods for complex ecological datasets, and this certainly fit the bill.

Despite all the uncertainties, it is clear that many populations of marine mammal were badly affected by the oil spill, and that these negative effects will persist for many years into the future.”
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Birmingham Vision for Future Cities: That They are for Children, Young People and Families Who Seek Connections, Relationships and Links to the Land,  to the Place They Call Home and to Their Cultural Memories and Heritage

Image: University of Birmingham


|| February 21: 2017: University of Birmingham News || ά. Researchers at the University of Birmingham worked with children, young people and their families living in a new urban development in India to understand the everyday experiences of urban transformation, with the results informing the future development of Indian cities. Their research with 350 participants has led to findings, which are intended to help make other cities across India, indeed, any other cities undergoing change, citizen-friendly and sustainable.

The researchers spent almost a year living in Lavasa, a new private sector-led urban development initiative in the Indian state of Maharashtra, currently under construction. It is planned that the development will be home to some 300,000 people. Researchers gathered evidence from families across a diverse range of social backgrounds, investigating their experiences of living, playing, working and learning. This is the first in-depth ethnographic research to explore the lived realities of new, large-scale, city-building projects in India.

Dr. Sophie Hadfield-Hill and Dr. Cristiana Zara conducted interviews, guided walks, workshops and used a mobile app ‘Map My Community’ to gather data on children, young people, aged five-23 and their family experiences of everyday life, particularly, in terms of sustainable design, mobility and access to nature and green space. A series of core themes emerged, associated with education provision, infrastructures, nature and green space in the city, deepening inequalities and the hopes and aspirations of urban change.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council:ESRC the ‘New Urbanisms in India: Urban Living, Sustainability and Everyday Life Project' sets out 10 recommendations across the core project findings that apply to any new site of urban transformation, as well as future phases of the Lavasa development. These recommendations include: New urban spaces, whether they be entirely new cities or sites of urban change should not be visioned, designed and built without considering the everyday lives, needs and desires of diverse groups of children, young people and families; Seek opportunities to utilise local resources, skills, labour and knowledge in urban development.

Place schools at the heart of urban planning, they are essential to creating strong community relationships and enable families to commit to urban change; When planning, building and transforming urban spaces, developers and policies need to be sympathetic to the landscape of memories and ancestral land connections which families and communities hold; Play spaces are important for young people’s lives and careful consideration needs to be given to their safe location, walkability and accessibility for all young people.

Create shared spaces where people can meet, eat, walk and play to help foster a sense of community belonging; Connect all areas of a new development to services, electricity, water and transport must be a priority; Build and maintain road and footpath connections between different urban spaces, this is vital for social and economic prosperity; and Ensure people have good access to natural spaces and water for recreation.

Dr. Sophie Hadfield-Hill, Lecturer in Human Geography, said, “Children and families are hugely affected by urban change and have much to offer in terms of their vision for urban living. This research has provided space for detailed ethnographic insights into the everyday experiences of urban transformation. With the Indian Government putting plans in motion for a portfolio of Smart City initiatives, the recommendations proposed by the project are timely.”

As part of the project, 130 young people worked with the researchers and city planners to build a model, using recycled materials, to reflect findings from the research and influence the future development of Lavasa.

The researchers also, designed and implemented an innovative ‘Map My Community’ smartphone app to gather information about mobility and experiences of place. The app is now being used in Delhi to map informal settlements and advocate for improved living conditions for children and their families.

Lavasa is located in the western Ghats, approximately 130 miles from Mumbai and 40 miles from Pune. This is a site of urban transformation, one fifth the size of greater Mumbai, 10,000 hectares of land. Conceived by the Hindustan Construction Company:HCC and managed by Lavasa Corporation, a subsidiary, this is a private sector urban development initiative.

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries. The Economic and Social Research Council:ESRC is the UK’s largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK’s future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective.

The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government. The ESRC is funded this project through the Future Research Leaders grant. The report ‘New Urbanisms in India: Urban Living, Sustainability and Everyday Life’ can be read here. ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Contradictions Explained: New Zealand’s Unusual Growing Glaciers: Yet, Try to Imagine a World Without Glaciers

Franz Josef Glacier, 2005. Image: Andrew Mackintosh: Victoria University of Wellington

 

|| February 20: 2017: Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand News || ά. Newly published research shows regional climate variability caused an 'unusual' period in which some of New Zealand's glaciers grew bigger, while glaciers worldwide were shrinking. The research, carried out by scientists from Victoria University of Wellington and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research:NIWA, was published in scientific journal Nature Communications. At least 58 New Zealand glaciers advanced between 1983 and 2008, with Franz Josef Glacier, Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere, advancing nearly continuously during this time.

“Glaciers advancing is very unusual, especially in this period when the vast majority of glaciers worldwide shrank in size as a result of our warming world.” says Lead-Author Associate Professor Andrew Mackintosh from Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre. “This anomaly hadn’t been satisfactorily explained, so this physics-based study used computer models for the first time to look into it in detail. “We found that lower temperature caused the glaciers to advance, rather than increased precipitation as previously thought. These periods of reduced temperature affected the entire New Zealand region and they were significant enough for the glaciers to re-advance in spite of human-induced climate change.”

Associate Professor Mackintosh says that the climate variability, which includes the cooler years, still reflects a climate that’s been modified by humans. “It may seem unusual, this regional cooling during a period of overall global warming but it’s still consistent with human-induced climate change. The temperature changes were a result of variability in the climate system that’s specific to New Zealand.

“New Zealand sits in a region where there’s significant variability in the oceans and the atmosphere, much more than many parts of the world. The climate variability that we identified was also responsible for changes in the Antarctic ice sheet and sea ice during this period." Associate Professor Mackintosh says that they have found New Zealand glaciers that advanced had certain characteristics, including specific elevation and geometry.

“Franz Josef Glacier actually regained almost half of the total length it had lost in the twentieth century. However, Haupapa:Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s largest glacier, which has about a third of all of New Zealand’s ice volume, continued to retreat. Because of that, New Zealand glaciers lost mass overall over this period.”

The study, funded by a core NIWA project ‘Climate Present and Past’, used computer modelling to understand the drivers of glaciers. The model was tested using more than a decade of field observations of glaciers in the Southern Alps, and a 30-year record of glacier photographs from the NIWA ‘End of Summer Snowline’ programme.

Victoria University’s Dr Brian Anderson and NIWA’s Dr Andrew Lorrey were also Lead Authors on the study. Other authors include Professor James Renwick from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Dr Sam Dean, Chief Scientist for NIWA’s Climate Atmosphere and Hazards Centre, and visiting student Prisco Frei from ETH Zurich.

Dr Lorrey says that the long-term observations that NIWA maintain, which document New Zealand glacier snow line changes and high elevation climate variability, were critical to achieving the aims of the study.

Associate Professor Mackintosh says that although, glaciers advancing sounds promising, the future 'doesn’t look good' for New Zealand’s glaciers. “Franz Josef Glacier has already retreated more than 01.5 kilometres since the end of the advance in 2008.

“New Zealand’s glaciers are very sensitive to temperature change. If we get the two to four degrees of warming expected by the end of the century, our glaciers are going to mostly disappear. Some may experience small-scale advance over that time due to the regional climate variability, but overall they will retreat.”
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Harvesting Cyprinid Fish Helps Mitigating Eutrophication


|| February 19: 2017: Natural Resources Institute Finland:Luke News || ά. Targeting long-lasting fishing efforts to species with low market value might prove cost-effective in combatting eutrophication of surface waters. This is suggested by researchers of Natural Resources Institute Finland, Finnish Environment Institute, University of Helsinki and VATT Institute for Economic Research. Eutrophication and warming of surface waters favor cyprinid species such as bream and roach. Commercial fisheries targeting these species decreased substantially in the last decades of the 21st century. The annual commercial landings of bream from the Finnish marine area, for instance, were sixfold in 1950’s compared to the average between 1980 and 2010.

Harvesting cyprinids removes nutrients from waters under stress by nutrient flows from municipal waste waters and agricultural runoff among other sources. “High cyprinid fish stocks maintain, even accelerate eutrophication. They feed on zooplankton and recycle nutrients back to the water column by reworking bottom sediments. Targeting fishing on these species would initially decrease, and later retain lower cyprinid fish stocks, thus improving water quality.” said Principal Research Scientist Heikki Peltonen from the Finnish Environment Institute.

Promoting harvesting of low market value species has a long history in the eutrophication management toolbox, but with mixed results. Good results call for long-term fishing activities and deep understanding of the role of the targeted fish stocks in the water ecosystem. However, fishing efforts fade away quickly if market appreciation or permanent economic support is lacking.

“What is needed is steady action, ''Heikki Peltonen thus reminded. “Extensive one-shot removal of cyprinid fish does not yield the desired result. When it comes to eutrophication management, we should look at annual sustainable yields, just like in commercial fisheries management. This also prevents unintentional detrimental ecosystem effects brought by abrupt changes in species composition.”
Abundant fish stocks

Since 2010, first supported by the government and currently by the John Nurminen Foundation, the commercial landings of, for instance, bream are back in the levels of 1960’s. The existing stocks would likely allow for markedly higher, yet sustainable catch rates. Should we then maintain intensive cyprinid fishing efforts, and will the ongoing commercialisation efforts bring bream and roach back to Finns’ dining tables? Does fishing non-commercial species have a role in cost-effective eutrophication management mix of measures?

“To answer these questions we developed a dynamic, bio-economic optimization model which allocates scarce resource to two alternative measures: reducing external loading from agriculture and fishing cyprinid fish. The effects of fisheries are twofold – fishing removes nutrients from water and the subsequent changes in long-term stock sizes have a further positive effect on water quality.” said Principal Research Scientist Antti Iho from the Natural Resources Institute Finland.

“Our research shows that should the stock size alone affect water quality negatively, we should keep the cyprinid fish stock on a low level. If the cyprinid stock has no detrimental effect on water quality, setting cyprinid harvest close to maximum sustainable yield would provide the most efficient nutrient reduction.”

The model was applied on Mynälahti bay, South-West Finland and the results indicated that permanent harvesting of cyprinid fish does have a role to play in cost-effective water protection. Due to complexities of water ecosystems the results should not be carelessly extended to other areas without careful considerations.

“On the other hand, restoring coastal fisheries to a state they have been for a very long time can’t be very hazardous.” noted Iho. “Ideally, cyprinid fisheries could be based on actual market demand, once a well operating supply chain is in place.” The publication 'The Role of Fisheries in Optimal Eutrophication Management' was published in Water Economics and Policy. The research got financing from the AKVA programme of the Finnish Academy.

Fisheries alone are not sufficient to restore the Baltic Sea or even the Finnish coastal waters. “It is unlikely that an individual measure would be enough to improve the quality of any large water body. It is thus crucial to be able to define the set of measures that does the trick with the least cost. Our framework helps pinpointing the cost-effective measures, including fisheries.” said Antti Iho. Iho also reminded that individuals can affect the state of the Baltic Sea with their own choices.

“How about taking a smoked bream, deboning nice chunks of it and putting it on top of a nice, roasted rye bread with mayonnaise; sprinkle chives on the top, a delicious starter!” ω.

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Alien Species on the Rise Globally

Image: Professor Tim Blackburn


|| February 15: 2017: UCL News || ά. The number of alien species is increasing globally and does not show any sign of saturation, finds an international team involving UCL researchers. Led by scientists from Senckenberg, Germany and the University of Vienna, Austria, the team found that during the last 200 years, the number of new established alien species has grown continuously worldwide, with more than a third of all first introductions recorded between 1970 and 2014. The study, published today in Nature Communications, shows that individual trends differ among taxonomic groups, which can be attributed to human activities but overall, alien species numbers are increasing for all groups of organisms.

“We observe distinct increases in first record rates of vascular plants, birds and mammals in the 19th century, probably as a result of the spread of horticulture and attempts at supposedly beneficial introductions during the period of European colonial expansion. The rates of new introductions of other organisms such as algae, molluscs or insects increased steeply after 1950, most likely because of the ongoing globalisation of trade.” explained study Co-author Professor Tim Blackburn, UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment. Although it was already known that the number of alien species has increased during the last 50 years, it remained unclear whether or not the accumulation of alien species has already reached a point of slow-down.

Dr Hanno Seebens, Senckenberg, Germany, First Author of the study, said, “For all groups of organisms on all continents, the number of alien species has increased continuously during the last 200 years. For most groups, the rate of introduction is highest in recent years. Barring mammals and fishes, there are no signs of a slow-down in the arrival of aliens and we have to expect more new invasions in the near future.”

This conclusion results from of a large collaborative effort by 45 scientists from all over the world, who established a database of the date an alien species was first detected in a region outside the species’ native range. Using more than 45,000 of these first records of more than 16,000 alien species, they analysed the accumulation of alien species over the last few centuries.

The scientists found that 37% of all recorded alien species were introduced between 1970 and 2014 and thus recently. The peak came in 1996, when 585 new alien species were recorded worldwide or more than 01.5 new alien species per day. “As the date of first record is not available for most alien species, these numbers are clearly underestimating the full extent of alien species introductions.” said Senior Study Suthor Dr Franz Essl, University of Vienna, Austria.

The team say that the unprecedented increase in alien species numbers can lead to an increase in regional species richness but also lead to a variety of negative impacts on native ecosystems, including the global homogenisation of floras and faunas and the global extinction of native species.

For this reason, various laws are currently in force globally attempting to mitigate the introduction of new alien species. “However, our results show that the past efforts have not been effective enough to keep up with ongoing globalisation. There is an urgent need to implement more effective prevention policies at all scales.” concluded Dr Essl.  ω.

Professor Tim Blackburn's academic profile

UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment

The Humanion Calls on the Word Universities to Unite  Into a Universal United Nations of Universities: For Acting as the Universal Human Bank of Learning, Knowledge, Research, Innovations and Investments: To Begin with to Advance Non-Profit Drug Development


|| February 14: 2017: The Institute of Cancer Research London: England: United Kingdom News || ά. As we report this news from The Institute of Cancer Research London, England, United Kingdom, The Humanion calls on the word universities to unite into a Universal United Nations of Universities or for short, UUNU: One for Many Many as One for the Light: for acting as the Universal Human Bank of Learning, Knowledge, Research, Innovations and Investments. To begin with to advance non-profit drug development. This is not envisioned as anything that exists at the moment. This, if constituted properly and with proper commitment, can become the 'richest' universal body because it will receive, in addition to an opening fund and through all existing means and modes of fund generation, philanthropic direct donations from across the globe, which it will raise every day through all possible existing channels, and added, all the world universities' individual assets together, which is going to be 'colossal' if added together, can work as the largest guarantee to raise as much funding from 'financial bodies' for anything it would like to invest in. And it will have an opening investment from all the participating universities of the world and every single university must must must be inspired to join in. This can and will be the 'Revolution' of this Century if we can inspire the visionaries of the world to put their thinking caps on.

And here is the news. Universities should work with new forms of commercial partner to take their own cancer drugs to market and drive down the ‘spiralling’ cost of new medicines, leading experts propose. A high-profile commentary warns that the price of cancer drugs is now rising so fast it threatens the whole financial viability of cancer treatment, particularly as the increased use of drug combinations multiplies costs. The authors propose that expert drug discovery teams in academia could develop cancer drugs more cheaply by working with new forms of private enterprise as an alternative to the traditional pharmaceutical industry model. The commentary, How much longer will we put up with $100,000 cancer drugs?, puts forward a series of radical solutions to disrupt the drug discovery and development system and provide real competition for the conventional pharmaceutical industry approach. Readmore

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Increasing Water Table in Agricultural Peatland Could Cut UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions


|| February 06: 2017: University of Exeter News || ά. Increasing the water table could help to slow down global warming, boost crop yields and preserve peat soils, according to a new study. The research, by a group of universities including Exeter, found that raising the level below which the ground is saturated with water, known as the water table – in radish fields by 20cm not only reduced soil CO2 emissions but also improved crop growth. Importantly, the study also showed a reduction in the rate of loss of peat soils converted into agricultural fields.

About a third of greenhouse gases released by humans are caused by agriculture. Reducing this is critical in order to slow down climate change – but the world is facing a global shortage of food and agricultural land is a precious resource, adding to the challenge of food security. A significant proportion of the UK’s farming takes place on drained peatlands, which are some of the most productive soils for commercial agriculture. Draining naturally flooded peatlands, which are organically rich, triggers the carbon to oxidise and release CO2 into the atmosphere.

Professor Walter Oechel, of the University of Exeter, said: “This is very important in a time of global warming, when reducing greenhouse emissions is a global priority. “The UK is the 111th country to ratify the Paris climate agreement, which aims to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions including CO2 and CH4.

Reducing CO2 emissions from peatland soils will not only help the UK to reach the targets set for the Paris climate agreement, but will also help protect and extend the life of the UK’s agricultural peatland soils. Without careful management, agricultural peatland soils can be ‘mined’ or consumed in the production of agricultural crops, leaving the UK with less productive lands in their place.”

Dr Donatella Zona, from the University of Sheffield, said, “It is estimated that in 30 years’ time the world’s population will reach 10 billion so it is vital that any means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions do not impact negatively on global food security.

We are losing our peat soils in the UK at a fast rate, and we need to find solutions to decrease this loss if we want to preserve our food security. In this study, we investigated the effects of water table levels, elevated CO2 and agricultural production on greenhouse gas fluctuations and the crop productivity of radishes which are one of the most economically important fenland crops.”

The international team of researchers from the universities of Sheffield, Exeter, Leicester and San Diego, raised the water table from 30cm to 50cm in agricultural peat soil collected from the Norfolk Fens, one of the UK’s largest lowland peatlands under intensive cultivation.

Dr Zona added, “Flooding peatland would be too extreme and damage crops, but increasing the water level by just 20cm maintains current food production – or as shown in our study even increases it – while at the same time reducing carbon oxidation and emissions.”

The findings, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, showed elevating the water table increased the average uptake of CO2. The study, led by University of Sheffield students Charlotte Atherton and Samuel Musarika, will now analyse other crops, including celery, and look into the impact of fertiliser use on greenhouse gas emissions and productivity. ω.

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The Role of Terrestrial Biosphere in Counteracting Climate Change May Have Been Underestimated

Image: University of Birmingham

|| February 06: 2017: University of Birmingham News || ά. New research suggests that the capacity of the terrestrial biosphere to absorb carbon dioxide:CO2 may have been underestimated in past calculations due to certain land-use changes not being fully taken into account. It is widely known that the terrestrial biosphere, the collective term for all the world’s land vegetation, soil, etc. is an important factor in mitigating climate change, as it absorbs around 20% of all fossil fuel CO2 emissions. However, its role as a net carbon sink is affected by land-use changes such as deforestation and expanded agricultural practice.

A new study, conducted by an international collaboration of scientists and published in the journal Nature Geoscience, has analysed the extent to which these changing land-use practices affect carbon emissions, allowing the levels of CO2 uptake by the terrestrial biosphere to be more accurately predicted. The results not only show that CO2 emissions from changing land-use practices are likely to be significantly higher than previously thought, but also imply that these emissions are compensated for by a higher rate of carbon uptake among terrestrial ecosystems.

Co-author of the study, Dr Tom Pugh from the University of Birmingham, says, ''Our work shows that the terrestrial biosphere might have greater potential than previously thought to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon emissions from fossil fuels. However, to fully realise this potential we will have to ensure that the significant emissions resulting from land-use changes are reduced as much as possible.''

Co-Cuthor Professor Stephen Sitch from the University of Exeter adds, ‘The results imply that reforestation projects and efforts to avoid further deforestation are of the utmost importance in our pursuit to limit global warming to below 02 C, as stated in the Paris climate agreement.’

Arneth et al. 2017 'Historical carbon dioxide emissions caused by land-use changes are possibly larger than assumed' Nature Geoscience DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2882
In addition to the researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Exeter, this paper is co-authored by researchers affiliated with the following institutions: Department of Atmospheric Environmental Research, Germany, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany, Imperial College London, UK, ETH Zürich, Switzerland, LSCE, France, NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, US, Aix-Marseille Université, France, University of Maryland, US, German Federal Institute of Hydrology, Germany, The Institute of Applied Energy, Japan, Lund University, Sweden, Met Office Hadley Centre, UK, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany. ω.

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Manhadun zai nar: I Beg Your Pardon

Mongoose group foraging. Image: Hayley Muir:University of Bristol

|| February 05: 2017: University of Bristol News || ά. Research by scientists at the University of Bristol has found that man-made noise can hinder the response of animals to the warning signals given by other species, putting them at greater risk of death from predators. Many animals are known to eavesdrop on the alarm calls of other species, effectively translating a foreign language to gather valuable information about the presence of predators. Using field-based experiments in South Africa, the researchers from the University's School of Biological Sciences, demonstrated that traffic noise reduces the likelihood of dwarf mongoose fleeing to the warning signals uttered by tree squirrels.

Lead author Amy Morris-Drake said, "The lack of an appropriate escape response could result from noise-induced distraction or stress. Alternatively, noisy conditions could partially mask the tree squirrel vocalisations, making it harder for the dwarf mongooses to extract the relevant information." Co-Lead Author Anna Bracken added, "While lots of work has focussed on whether animals can adjust their vocalisations to avoid the effects of masking, it is often difficult to determine what that might mean for survival. By looking at responses to alarm calls, there is a direct link to survival; a lack of response could result in death."

The Bristol team studied the behaviour of wild dwarf mongoose groups who were so familiar with the researchers’ presence that they could walk within a few feet of them. Co-author Dr Julie Kern explained, “This habituation allows us to conduct ecologically relevant experiments in the mongooses’ natural habitat while collecting detailed and accurate information.”

Professor Andy Radford said, "We've known for a long time that noise from urbanisation, traffic and airports can detrimentally affect humans by causing stress, sleep deprivation, cardiac problems and slower learning. What’s becoming increasingly clear is that a lot of other species – mammals, birds, fish, insects and amphibians – are also impacted in all sorts of ways by man-made noise."

Amy Morris-Drake concluded, "Our study indicates the importance of considering the whole information network of a species when assessing impacts of noise pollution. By interfering with information-transfer between different species, as well as within the same species, man-made noise is likely to be a more extensive issue than previously thought." ω.

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Climate Change Could Dramatically Alter Fragile Mountain Habitats: New Study

Austrian mountains: An Austrian alpine scene that would typically be at risk. Image: Professor Richard Bardgett: University of Manchester

|| February 04: 2017: University of Manchester News || ά. Mountain regions of the world are under direct threat from human-induced climate change which could radically alter these fragile habitats, warn an international team of researchers, including an expert from The University of Manchester. Manchester ecologist Professor Richard Bardgett, who was part of the international team that initiated and designed the study, said, ”A clear message from our findings is that climate warming could change the functional properties of mountain ecosystems and potentially create a disequilibrium or mismatch, between plants and soils in high mountain areas.

Not only could this have far reaching consequences for biogeochemical cycles but it could also affect mountain biodiversity.” The international study, which spanned seven major mountain regions of the world, showed that decreasing elevation, descending a mountainside to warmer levels, provided a ‘surrogate’ indicator of climate warming and consistently increased the availability of nitrogen from the soil for plant growth, meaning that future climate warming could disrupt the way that fragile mountain ecosystems function.

The researchers also found that plant phosphorus availability was not controlled by elevation in the same way, and as a result, the balance of nitrogen to phosphorus availability in plant leaves was very similar across the seven regions at high elevations but diverged greatly across the regions at lower elevation. This means that as temperatures become warmer with climate change, the crucial balance between these nutrients that sustain plant growth could be radically altered in higher mountain areas.

They also found that increasing temperature and its consequences for plant nutrition were linked to other changes in the soil, including amounts of organic matter and the make-up of the soil microbial community. These changes were partly independent of any effect of the alpine tree line, meaning that effects of warming on ecosystem properties will occur irrespective of whatever shifts occur in the migration of trees up-slope due to higher temperatures.“  said Professor Richard Bardgett.

Professor Bardgett, based in Mancheser’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, added, "Mountain areas cover a large part of the Earth's land surface and are very vulnerable to climate change. Our results, which come from an extensive study of elevation gradients across seven mountain regions of the world - including Japan, British Columbia, New Zealand, Patagonia, Colorado, Australia, and Europe, suggest that future climate warming will substantially alter the way that these sensitive ecosystems function.”

Rather than use short-term experiments, the research team used gradients of elevation in each mountain region spanning both above and below the alpine tree line. Professor Bardgett said that elevation was used as a surrogate for climate warming and this helped to make predictions about the potential effects of climate warming. This is because any particular elevation is expected to experience the same temperature as that of an elevation that is 300 meters lower in 80 years’ time due to climate warming. To test for the generality of their findings, the team used elevational gradients in seven distinct mountain regions of the world.

What we found was remarkably consistent across the different mountain regions of the world. Our results not only suggest that warming could impact the way that plants grow in mountain ecosystems but also that these changes are linked to effects of warming on soils, especially the cycling of key nutrients that sustain the growth of plants.”

The findings are published in the prestigious international journal Nature in a paper entitled ‘Elevation alters ecosystem properties across temperate tree lines globally’. doi:10.1038/nature21027

The study was co-ordinated by Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences:SLU postdoctoral researcher Jordan Mayor and Professor David Wardle, both based in the university’s Department of Forest Ecology and Management, and co-authored by researchers in nine other institutions including the Universities of Manchester, Vermont, Innsbruck, and Grenoble. ω.

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Climate Models May Underestimate Future Warming on Tropical Mountains

Mount Kenya: Image: Hilde Eggermont

|| February 02: 2017: Swansea University News || ά. A new study that has reconstructed past temperature changes on Mount Kenya in East Africa, suggests that climate models may underestimate future temperature changes on tropical mountains. ‌An international research team featuring Swansea University Emeritus Professor Alayne Street-Perrott, has studied tropical mountains like Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, where the effects of climate change are particularly pronounced and the centuries-old glaciers have all but melted completely away. Now, new research, published in Science Advances suggests that future warming on these peaks could be even greater than climate models currently predict.

Professor Street-Perrott, of the College of Science, provided sediment samples from cores collected from two high-altitude lakes on Mt Kenya, Sacred Lake and Lake Rutundu, to the collaborative team, which was led by Dr James Russell, a Fellow at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. From these samples, the study reconstructed temperatures over the past 25,000 years on Mount Kenya, Africa’s second-highest peak after Kilimanjaro. The work shows that as the world began to warm rapidly after the end of the last ice age around 18,000 years ago, average annual temperatures high on the mountain increased much more quickly than in surrounding areas closer to sea level.

At an elevation of 3000 metres, around 10,000 feet, the average annual temperature rose 05.5 degrees Celsius from the ice age to the pre-industrial period about 150 years ago, the study discovered, compared to warming of only about 02 degrees at sea level during the same period. The researchers found that when they ran advanced climate models over the same time period, these underestimated the temperature changes at high elevations, which implied that these models could also underestimate future warming on tropical mountains.

Discrepancies between temperature changes at sea level and at high altitudes have been the subject of debate for more than 30 years. Hence, it was thought that there must be something wrong with the geological evidence. More recently, novel geochemical methods have been developed by Dr Russell and his team to track temperature through time by studying the remains of ancient microbes extracted from lake sediments, in particular, organic compounds known as GDGTs. These methods have proved accurate when tested on a large array of modern East African lakes.

‌The study presents new data from sediment cores taken from the bed of Lake Rutundu, an extinct volcanic crater lake on Mount Kenya, situated at an elevation of around 10,000 feet, which preserve the signature of GDGT chemistry dating back to the last ice age, more than 25,000 years ago. These cores have been carefully curated in cold storage at Swansea University.

The sediment analyses suggested that the average annual air temperature at Lake Rutundu has increased by about 05.5 degrees Celsius since the last ice age, a figure consistent with previous evidence from mountain glaciers and vegetation changes. However, the temperature reconstructions from two lakes closer to sea level, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi, suggest much more modest temperature changes of about 03.3 degrees and 02 degrees, respectively.

The team found that while global climate models are able to reproduce the temperature changes at low altitudes, they underestimate high-elevation changes by 40 percent, which suggests there’s something amiss in the way the models simulate past changes in the atmospheric lapse rate, which is the rate at which air temperature decreases with altitude.

Dr Russell said, “All climate models calculate a lapse rate, it’s integral to the output of the model. What this work shows is that there’s a problem in the way the models make that calculation.”

The research team says that while it is difficult to diagnose exactly what that problem is, it probably has something to do with the way models treat atmospheric water-vapour content. Water-vapour content is the strongest controlling factor governing the lapse rate, as moist air cools more slowly with altitude.

According to Emeritus Professor Alayne Street-Perrott, whose team took the original sediment-core samples from Mount Kenya, other potential issues with global climate models involve the simulation of cloud cover, cloud physical properties, and vertical exchanges of heat and radiation.

She said, ''Whatever the source of the mismatch between the geological evidence and model simulations, the ramifications for tropical mountains may be significant. If the models miss almost half the temperature change at high elevations in the past, they may be underestimating future warming as well. Accelerated glacier melting may have serious implications for water resources and natural hazards in populated regions that are highly dependent on seasonal runoff from mountain ranges such as the Himalayas and the tropical Andes.”

Dr Russell said, “These are very fragile ecosystems that house extraordinary biodiversity and unique features such as tropical glaciers. Our results suggest that future warming in these environments could be more extreme than climate models currently predict.”

This project was supported by the US National Science Foundation. Dr Russell’s co-authors were Shannon Loomis, Brown, Dirk Verschuren, Ghent University, Carrie Morrill, University of Colorado, Boulder, Gijs De Cort, Ghent, Jaap S. Sinninghe Damsté, University of Utrecht, Daniel Olago, University of Nairobi, Hilde Eggermont, Ghent, F. Alayne Street-Perrott, Swansea University and Meredith A. Kelly, Dartmouth. ω.

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Water Water Not Everywhere: Why are You There in the Ocean's Depths

|| February 01: 2017: University of Southampton News || ά. An international team of researchers has discovered why fresh water, melted from Antarctic ice sheets, is often detected below the surface of the ocean, rather than rising to the top above denser seawater. The research, led by the University of Southampton, is published this week in the journal Nature in association with colleagues at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, University of East Anglia, UEA, British Antarctic Survey and Stockholm University. The team found that the Earth’s rotation influences the way meltwater behaves, keeping it at depths of several hundred metres.

Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato, of Ocean and Earth Science at the University of Southampton and lead author of the study, says, “We believe our study is an important step in understanding how the meltwater mixes in the ocean and will help with the design of climate models, which largely assume meltwater is only present on the surface of oceans. Our research emphasises its detection at greater depths and explains why it is found there.” The researchers made their discovery during an expedition in the Southern Ocean, led by Professor Karen Heywood of UEA, on British Antarctic Survey’s Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross. The trip was undertaken in 2014 as part of the NERC-funded iSTAR programme.

The team measured turbulence experienced by meltwater as it flowed out of a cave beneath the Pine Island Glacier – one of the fastest melting glaciers in Antarctica. They used a VMP23, Vertical Microstructure Profiler to detect subtle fluctuations in the water. The scientists discovered the meltwater ends up settling hundreds of metres down, because as it tries to rise above the surrounding denser seawater, it is affected by the Earth’s rotation. This makes it spin very quickly around its vertical axis, resulting in the ejection of meltwater filaments in a sideways motion into the surrounding sea, preventing the water from rising to the surface.

Scientists are interested in the depth at which water from Antarctic ice sheets enters the ocean because it has differing effects on global ocean circulation and climate. Surface meltwater makes the upper layers of the Southern Ocean lighter. This is thought to slow down the sinking of those waters in the region, and to favour the expansion of Antarctic sea ice. Injecting the same meltwater at depth is believed to have the opposite effect, favouring sinking of surface waters and the retreat of Antarctic sea ice.

Dr Alexander Forryan, also of the University of Southampton, comments, “The effect of meltwater on climate was taken to the extreme and popularised in the Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. While no one expects our climate to change in the space of a few days, like the movie – we do know that fresh water flowing into our seas could dramatically affect sea levels and ocean circulation. As such, it is vital our models take into account the presence of both surface and deep meltwater to maximise their accuracy.”

The team now hope to develop a way to represent the process in climate models, so that climate modellers can reliably investigate the impact of the melting of Antarctica on our changing climate. ω.

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New Five-Day Weather and Flood Warnings Service From FMI

Image: FMI


|| February 01: 2017 || ά. The Finnish Meteorological Institute FMI provides a larger amount of more accurate information in its warnings by introducing five-day warning maps. The longer warning period makes better preparation for dangerous weather situations possible and increases the safety of citizens. Flood warnings
from the Finnish Environment Institute SYKE have been added to the service as a new warning type. FMI's previous warning period of 24 hours is extended to five days. The validity period of the warning is now more accurately visible for each warning type. "Traffic light" colour codes are used in the warnings throughout the warning period. Green means that there are no warnings in effect and red indicates a very dangerous phenomenon.

With this reform, separate advance warnings for the next 02–05 days ahead are discontinued. "I believe these changes will increase safety as citizens will be able to anticipate dangerous or harmful phenomena more accurately than before." says Anssi Vähämäki, Head of Unit of the Weather and Safety Centre of the FMI. The service now also includes the watershed and flood warnings from SYKE. With the help of the warning service, it is now possible to also follow the watershed and flood warnings produced by SYKE. The only flood warnings shown on the warning map are dangerous and very dangerous flood situations, in other words the orange and red warning levels. "Watershed and flood warnings are based on the real-time water situation service of SYKE." explains Markku Maunula, Head of Expert Services at the Freshwater Centre of SYKE.

In the warning service on the website, the user can examine the warnings on the selected day one by one. In addition, it is possible to choose which warning types to examine on the warning map. The map can also be zoomed. The central parts and features of the service are available on all terminal devices from smartphones to desktop computers.

The new warning service issues warnings in text form for each region. In addition, information about the possible impacts of the phenomenon in the warning are also provided in the warning service. "For instance, if a wind warning at a yellow level is issued for Satakunta, information will also be also provided on the common impacts of this kind of wind. It may be forecast that the wind will cause individual trees to fall in widespread areas and cause brief electricity outages." says Ari-Juhani Punkka, Head of Group of Safety Weather Services of the FMI.

The redesigned warning service will first be introduced on the FMI's website and in the FMI's services tailored to customers. The new warning map will also be added to the FMI's Weather application during the spring. Additionally, Flood Centre, a joint service of the FMI and SYKE, will provide its own version of the warning service on the tulvakeskus.fi website, which will only show the flood-related warnings.

More information: Head of Group of Safety Weather Services Ari-Juhani Punkka tel. +358 29 539: 3630 ari-juhani.punkka at fmi.fi: Head of Expert Services at SYKE Markku Maunula tel. +358 29 525 1420: markku.maunula at ymparisto.fi. ω.

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Recycling Technologies Endorses New Plan to Recycle 70 Per Cent of Plastic Packaging Globally

The Team of Humanity at Recycling Technologies Swindon: It is not about plastic; it is much more than plastic. It is about humanity, about people, about communities and the environment and ecology that support and nurture all. And when we look at the work , the task at hand that we need to do and think like this the inspiration that this viewpoint offers us is unstoppable for it is about the future of the earth, about the future of our children, their children and their children's children and now all the work that needs to be done has faces: of your children, of your grandchildren and the children and grandchildren of your other extended family members, your friends, colleagues and fellow humans and now you see why we must not fail for our failure fails all of them. And if we let ourselves fail then the question is: why have we existed, for what purpose, for what point? Image: Recycling Technologies in Swindon:191116

 

|| Repost || ά. Recycling Technologies has announced today its support for a new action plan, laid out in a new report, The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action, which was launched by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation at Davos. The report presents a pathway to increasing global recycling rates for plastic packaging from just 14% today to 70%.  Recycling Technologies along with thirty-nine businesses and government leaders have endorsed the new action plan to tackle global plastics issues, and together are working to create a more effective global system for plastics.

The report provides a clear transition strategy for the industry to design better packaging, increase recycling rates and introduce new models for making better use of packaging. The action plan was produced as part of the New Plastics Economy initiative, which was launched in May 2016 as a direct result of Project MainStream, a multi-industry, CEO-led collaboration led by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Recycling Technologies’ ambition is to provide a scalable solution to boost global recycling rates for plastics.

The company has designed the RT7000, a machine incorporating a chemical recycling process, which will be assembled on production lines then installed at Material Recovery Facilities:MRFs around the world. Adrian Griffiths, CEO at Recycling Technologies commented, “The issue of waste plastic is clearly a growing concern within the industry and to the wider public.

This report outlines a clear strategy for the industry to provide better recycling rates by turning waste plastic into a resource that can be re-used. At Recycling Technologies we have designed and developed a chemical process that can contribute to creating a better system for plastics”.

Through this innovative solution to boosting plastics recycling, Recycling Technologies will contribute to creating a circular economy for plastics, which will ultimately dramatically reduce the negative impacts of plastic waste.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation commented, "Acting on the findings of the report published just a year ago, here in Davos, the New Plastics Economy initiative has attracted widespread support and provides a clear plan for redesigning the global plastics system. We now see strong initial momentum and alignment around the direction to take, paving the way for concerted action."

The focus of the New Plastics Economy over the next year will be on bringing about wide scale innovation. The initiative will launch two global innovation challenges to start the redesign of materials and packaging formats, and begin building a set of global common standards for packaging design, concentrating initially on the most impactful changes. It will also improve recycling systems by delivering collaborative projects between participant companies and cities.

The New Plastics Economy: The New Plastics Economy is an ambitious, three-year, $10 million, initiative to build momentum towards a plastics system that works. Launched in May 2016, the New Plastics Economy is supported by Wendy Schmidt, through The Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fund for Strategic Innovation, as Lead Philanthropic Partner, and MAVA Foundation, Oak Foundation, and players of People’s Postcode Lottery:GB, as Philanthropic Funders. Amcor, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone, MARS, Novamont, Unilever, and Veolia are the initiative’s Core Partners. Applying the principles of the circular economy, the New Plastics Economy brings together over 40 key stakeholders across the value chain to re-think and re-design the future of plastics, starting with packaging.

The initiative is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with a broad group of leading companies, cities, philanthropists, policymakers, academics, students, NGOs, and citizens. The New Plastics Economy initiative focuses on five interlinked and mutually reinforcing building blocks: 01. Dialogue Mechanism: Bringing together for the first time a group of leading companies and cities across the global value chain to complete collaborative demonstration projects and inform the other building blocks. 02. Global Plastics Protocol: Re-thinking plastic packaging materials, formats and after-use systems and standards to provide an economically and environmentally attractive target state to innovate towards. 03. Innovation Moonshots: Mobilising targeted innovation ‘moon-shots’ focused on system wide solutions that have the potential to scale globally 04. Evidence Base: Closing critical knowledge gaps by building an economic and scientific evidence base from which to draw insights. An initial study with Plymouth Marine Laboratory examines the socio-economic impact of plastics in marine environments. 05. Stakeholder Engagement: Engaging a broad set of stakeholders, including academics, students, policymakers, NGOs, and industry associations in the redesign of a better system. Through these actions, the New Plastics Economy initiative aims to set direction, inspire innovation and build momentum towards the vision of a plastics system that works, moving the plastics industry into a positive spiral of value capture, stronger economics and better environmental outcomes.

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was created in 2010 to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The Foundation works across five areas: insight and analysis, business and government, education and training, systemic initiatives, and communication. With its Knowledge Partners, Arup, IDEO, McKinsey and Co., and SYSTEMIQ, and supported by Core Philanthropic Funder:SUN, the Foundation works to quantify the economic opportunity of a more circular model and to develop approaches for capturing its value. The Foundation collaborates with its Global Partners.

About Recycling Technologies: Recycling Technologies Ltd was founded in 2011 with the strategic goal of enabling the recycling of residual plastic waste. Recycling Technologies has since then produced one of the most significant developments in the world of plastics recycling by creating a unique chemical process which can help to solve the huge global environmental problem around disposing of plastic waste. Building on research initially from Warwick University the process expanded and enhanced so it could accept and recycle the bulk of municipal and commercial plastic waste streams directly and chemically turn it into a clean monomer feedstock, Plaxx. As Recycling Technologies develops it is looking to work more with the plastics industry to ensure the future for plastics as a very valuable material whilst reducing the use of virgin fossil fuel stocks and preventing the current issues surrounding plastic waste streams. ω.

Read the Report

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The Earth May Be Closer to Breaching Global Warming Targets Than Previously Thought

Image: Maynooth University: Ireland

|| January 29: 2017: Maynooth University: Ireland News || ά. Global temperature rise may be closer to the limit recently imposed by world leaders than previously thought, new research has revealed. The major study, which brought together top international climate scientist including researchers from Maynooth University, aimed to provide an improved definition of the ‘pre-industrial’ period to put the temperature rise targets set at the UN Paris Agreement into context. Global leaders agreed to avoid a temperature rise of more than 02°C, and ideally no more than 01.5°C, as they debated climate change measures in Paris. However, the ‘pre-industrial’ starting point from which to measure the rise has never been clearly defined.

The new study, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society:BAMS, has concluded that global temperatures were more than 01°C warmer than pre-industrial times in both 2015 and 2016, and that limits on future emissions may have to be tightened slightly to avoid breaching the agreed temperature targets. Professor Peter Thorne, Maynooth University Department of Geography, said, “Surprisingly, given their use as a basis for internationally binding climate treaty targets, pre-industrial temperatures have been at best poorly defined to date. If we are going to know whether treaty targets are met we need to much better know the baseline against which we are measuring progress. This work suggests that although overall a reasonable basis, using late 19th Century records instead of true pre-industrial' may somewhat under-estimate the impacts humans have had on the climate system to date.”

Dr Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading’s Department of Meteorology, said, “Setting greenhouse gas emission targets was a crucial step towards halting the temperature rise seen in recent decades. However, a specific ‘starting line’ for the temperature rise is needed to better track progress and define how future emissions would need to change to avoid breaching the agreed temperature limits. By the second half of the 19th century, the period currently used as a starting point, there had likely already been some temperature rise, meaning that emissions targets may need to be refined if we are to stay below the 01.5°C or 02°C thresholds.”

Since the invention of an efficient steam engine in 1784, humans have been using fossil fuels to power industrial processes, which also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. But to better understand the Paris Agreement targets, a suitable starting point for when humans began to influence global temperatures needs to be selected.

However, choosing this starting point is complicated by climatic changes due to natural factors such as the sun and volcanic activity. The authors argue that the years 1720-1800 are a better ‘pre-industrial’ period than the currently used 1850-1900 period.

They studied existing long-term temperature records for central England, the Netherlands and Europe, as well as changes in other factors such as greenhouse gases and concluded that temperatures likely increased by more than 0.6°C from pre-industrial up until the 1986-2005 period. Further warming since then took global temperatures to at least 01°C above the pre-industrial era for the first time in 2015, with the global temperature in 2016 being more than 01.1°C above pre-industrial levels.

Professor Tim Osborn, from the University of East Anglia and a co-author of the study, said, “The international community have agreed to policies measured against a poorly defined and poorly known ‘pre-industrial’ climate. We have used current scientific understanding and data to get a better handle on what this baseline climate was, and an improved estimate of how much warming has already occurred since the ‘pre-industrial’ period.

Nevertheless, the uncertainties in our estimate could be reduced by more efforts to digitise weather observations recorded in ship logbooks in the 18th and early 19th centuries.” ω.
 
Full reference: E. Hawkins, P. Ortega, E. Suckling, A. Schurer, G. Hegerl, P. Jones, M. Joshi, T. Osborn, V. Masson-Delmotte, J. Mignot, P. Thorne, G.J van Oldenborgh 2017. ‘Estimating changes in global temperature since the pre-industrial period’. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0007.1

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Forests: Breathe in and Breathe out: But Mark the Rate of Both Flows

|| January 27: 2017: University of Exeter News || ά. Global forest ecosystems, widely considered to act as the lungs of the planet, ‘held their breath’ during the most recent occurrence of a warming hiatus, new research has shown. The international study examined the full extent to which these vital ecosystems performed as a carbon sink from 1998-2012, the most recent recorded period of global warming slowdown. The researchers, including Professor Pierre Friedlingstein from the University of Exeter, demonstrated that the global carbon sink, where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the natural environment, was particularly robust during this 14-year period.

The study shows that, during extended periods of slower warming, worldwide forests ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, but reduced the rate at which they ‘breathe out’ or release the gas back to the atmosphere. The team believes the crucial study offers a significant breakthrough for future climate modelling, which is used to predict just how different ecosystems will respond to rising global temperatures. The study is published in leading science journal, Nature Climate Change, on Monday, January 23.

Professor Friedlingstein, Chair of the Mathematical Modelling of Climate Systems research group at the University of Exeter said: “ Disentangling the feedback between global warming and the carbon cycle is critical for us to anticipate future climate change. In this study, we analysed what happened during the recent period of reduced warming, the so-called hiatus, highlighting the importance of ecosystem respiration as a key control of land carbon sinks.” The Earth’s vast ecosystems, such as forests and oceans, are known to counteract the adverse climate impacts of fossil fuel consumption by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by acting as a carbon sink.

However, uncertainties remain about how these ecosystems will respond to future climate change, whether by consuming more carbon or, conversely, releasing greater volumes of carbon back into the atmosphere. The study focused on how Earth’s natural carbon cycle responded during both periods of rapid, and less rapid, warming that would normally be expected.

It revealed that the total amount of carbon taken up by land ecosystems slowed during periods of rapid warming, and sped up during periods of slower warming.

More significantly, the team demonstrated that while rates of photosynthesis remained constant during the periods of slower warming, the forests released less carbon back into the atmosphere, meaning the Earth is storing much more carbon during these warming hiatuses.

“The global carbon sink has been surprisingly strong during the period from 1998 to 2012 and we now begin to understand the causal mechanisms.” says Ashley Ballantyne of University of Montana, Lead Author of the new research. Pekka Kauppi, a Forest Ecologist from Helsinki University and Co-Author, added by saying that these results were 'as if forests have been holding their breath.' ω.

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Climate Change Poses Increasingly Severe Risks for Ecosystems, Human Health and the Economy in Europe

|| January 25: 2017 || ά. Europe’s regions are facing rising sea levels and more extreme weather, such as more frequent and more intense heatwaves, flooding, droughts and storms due to climate change, according to a European Environment Agency report published today. The report assesses the latest trends and projections on climate change and its impacts across Europe and finds that better and more flexible adaptation strategies, policies and measures will be crucial to lessen these impacts. The observed changes in climate are already having wide-ranging impacts on ecosystems, the economy and on human health and well-being in Europe, according to the report ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016’.

New records continue to be set on global and European temperatures, sea levels and reduced sea ice in the Arctic. Precipitation patterns are changing, generally making wet regions in Europe wetter and dry regions drier. Glacier volume and snow cover are decreasing. At the same time, climate-related extremes such as heat waves, heavy precipitation and droughts, are increasing in frequency and intensity in many regions. Improved climate projections provide further evidence that climate-related extremes will increase in many European regions. ''Climate change will continue for many decades to come. The scale of future climate change and its impacts will depend on the effectiveness of implementing our global agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but also ensuring that we have the right adaptation strategies and policies in place to reduce the risks from current and projected climate extremes.’ said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.

Climate Change Hotspots

All European regions are vulnerable to climate change, but some regions will experience more negative impacts than others. Southern and south-eastern Europe is projected to be a climate change hotspot, as it is expected to face the highest number of adverse impacts. This region is already experiencing large increases in heat extremes and decreases in precipitation and river flows, which have heightened the risk of more severe droughts, lower crop yields, biodiversity loss and forest fires. More frequent heat waves and changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive infectious diseases are expected to increase risks to human health and well-being.

Coastal areas and floodplains in western parts of Europe are also seen as hotspots as they face an increased risk of flooding from rising sea levels and a possible increase in storm surges. Climate change is also leading to major changes in marine ecosystems as a result of ocean acidification, warming and the expansion of oxygen-depleted dead zones.

Ecosystems and human activities in the Arctic will also be strongly affected owing to the particularly rapid increase in air and sea temperatures and the associated melting of land and sea ice.Although some regions may also experience some positive impacts, such as improving conditions for agriculture in parts of northern Europe, most regions and sectors will be negatively affected.

Ecosystems, Human Health and Economy

Ecosystems and protected areas across Europe are under pressure from climate change and other stressors, such as land use change. The report highlights that the impacts of climate change are a threat to biodiversity at land and in the seas. Many animal and plant species are experiencing changes to their life cycles and are migrating northwards and to higher altitudes, while various invasive species have established themselves or have expanded their range. Marine species, including commercially important fish stocks, are also migrating northwards. These changes affect various ecosystem services and economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

The main health effects of climate change are linked to extreme weather events, changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive diseases, and changes in environmental and social conditions. River and coastal flooding has affected millions of people in Europe in the last decade. The health effects include injuries, infections, exposure to chemical hazards and mental health consequences. Heatwaves have become more frequent and intense, leading to tens of thousands of premature deaths in Europe. This trend is projected to increase and to intensify, unless appropriate adaptation measures are taken. The spread of tick species, the Asian tiger mosquito and other disease carriers increases the risk of Lyme disease, tick-borne encephalitis, West Nile fever, dengue, chikungunya and leishmaniasis.

The economic costs of climate change can be very high. Climate-related extreme events in EEA member countries account for more than EUR 400 billion of economic losses since 1980. Available estimates of the future costs of climate change in Europe consider only some sectors and show considerable uncertainty. Still, the projected damage costs from climate change are highest in the Mediterranean region. Europe is also affected by climate change impacts occurring outside Europe through trade effects, infrastructure, geopolitical and security risks, and migration.
Enhancing adaptation and knowledge

Mainstreaming of climate change adaptation into other policies is progressing but can be further enhanced. Other possible further actions include improving policy coherence across different policy areas and governance levels, EU, transnational, national and subnational, more flexible adaptive management approaches, and the combination of technological solutions, ecosystem-based approaches and ‘soft’ measures.

The development and use of climate and adaptation services are increasing in Europe. Improved knowledge would be useful in various areas, for example, on vulnerability and risk assessments at various scales and on monitoring, reporting and evaluation of adaptation actions, their costs and benefits, and synergies and trade-offs with other policies.

Background

The report is an indicator-based assessment of past and projected climate change and its impacts on ecosystems and society. It also looks at society’s vulnerability to these impacts and at the development of adaptation policies and the underlying knowledge base.

The report was developed by the EEA in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe and three European Topic Centres, ETC-CCA, ETC-BD, ETC-ICM. This is the fourth ‘Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe’ report, which is published every four years. This edition aims to support the implementation and review process of the 2013 EU Adaptation Strategy, which is foreseen for 2018, and the development of national and transnational adaptation strategies and plans. ω.

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New INTAROS-Project Develops Future Observation System to the Arctic


|| January 24: 2017 || ά. The environment in the Arctic region is now changing because of climate change. The objective of the newly established INTAROS-project is to implement an integrated sustainable Arctic Observation System for future generations. The environmental effects of human activities are most pronounced in the polar regions. The environment in the Arctic is now changing significantly due to increased temperature, thinning and decrease of the sea ice, melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, thawing permafrost and changes in atmospheric and ocean circulation.

Such changes have both global and regional implications, among others severe impacts on people's living conditions in the Arctic. Furthermore, exploitation of natural resources, marine transportation and other human activities are expected to increase with additional impact on the vulnerable environment. In order to ensure sustainable development of the Arctic it is necessary to collect more data and build up more knowledge on climate and environment in this region. INTAROS will accordingly develop an efficient integrated Arctic Observation System by extending, improving and unifying existing and evolving systems in the different parts of the Arctic.

The project will capitalize on existing observing systems and databases of atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and terrestrial data as the backbone of the INTAROS Integrated Arctic Observation System. The project will combine existing distributed data repositories with the new observations gathered, and provide tools for data discovery, aggregation, analysis and visualisation.

FMI has a prominent role in the project. FMI is responsible for assessing the quality, usability, and critical gaps in the in situ atmospheric observational network and the in situ and satellite snow observations. FMI is also involved in the enhancement of the Arctic in situ observing systems: the FMI observatory of Sodankylä-Pallas is the main European Arctic supersite, and its observational capacity will be enhanced through INTAROS.

In collaboration with the INTAROS partners, FMI will increase snow and sea ice observations in the central Arctic through e.g. deployment of sea-ice mass balance buoys, and will collect observations of snow properties and atmospheric near-surface variables and vertical profiles from ship-based sea ice stations.


At the start of the project, INTAROS brings together expertise from 49 partner organizations in 20 different countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

More information: Researcher Roberta Pirazzini, tel. 050 380 2653 , Roberta.pirazzini at fmi.fi

INTAROS coordinator: Prof. Stein Sandven, cell: +47 993 68 440, stein.sandven at nersc.no
Media contact: Lasse Pettersson, cell +47 932 23 563. lasse.pettersson at nersc.no:
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Climate Policies Alone Will Not Save Earth's Most Diverse Tropical Forests

|| January 23: 2017: University of Leeds News|| ά.  A focus on policies to conserve tropical forests for their carbon storage value may imperil some of the world’s most biologically rich tropical forests. Many countries have climate-protection policies designed to conserve tropical forests to keep their carbon locked up in trees. But a new study suggests these policies could miss some of the most diverse forests because there is no clear connection between the number of tree species in a forest and how much carbon that forest stores.

Lead author Dr Martin Sullivan, from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds, said, “International programmes often encourage the conservation of forests with high carbon stocks, because their focus is to try to slow climate change. Until now, we didn’t know whether these programmes would also automatically protect the most biodiverse forests. It turns out they probably won’t. A team of scientists from 22 countries measured both tree diversity and the amount of carbon stored in 360 locations across the lowland rainforests of the Amazon, Africa and Asia.

In each plot the carbon stored was calculated using the diameter and identity of every tree within a given hectare, 02.5 acres. In total 200,000 trees were measured in the study. The results, published in Scientific Reports, show that African tropical forests, spanning the Congo and West Africa store high levels of carbon, but are the least species rich.

Forests in the Amazon and Asia, mostly in Borneo, have the greatest diversity of tree species, yet the Amazon tends to store less carbon per hectare than forests in Africa and Asia. Co-author, Dr Joey Talbot, also from the University of Leeds, explained, “In many ecosystems, sites with more species tend to lock up more carbon. But this doesn’t work for tropical forests.

Most tropical forests already have many species, and it may be that beyond a certain point adding even more species makes no difference to carbon stocks.” The study examined remaining intact tropical forests, the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, home to half of all species.  These forests also play a critical role in the global carbon cycle, storing 250 billion tonnes of carbon. Protecting them is essential, both to secure a future for millions of species and to meet the global commitment of keeping temperature increases well below two degrees C.

Although biodiversity did not boost carbon storage, it could still be important in the long run. Co-author Professor Oliver Phillips, from the School of Geography at Leeds and leader of the RAINFOR forest monitoring network in the Amazon said, “We found some forests with fewer tree species storing a lot of carbon, while other very diverse forests had remarkably little.

Yet the wonderful diversity of tropical forests, with millions of plant and animal species, is something we rightly celebrate. And now forests face rapidly changing climates, so conserving the full variety of life present could make a critical difference in allowing them to adapt.” Dr Sullivan believes that careful consideration of biodiversity and carbon stocks can identify win-win scenarios.

“Borneo, for example, is under extreme pressure from deforestation, but it’s also a place where extremely high tree diversity and carbon stocks often coincide.” he said. “A focus on protecting forests in Borneo would help both biodiversity and climate protection goals. Elsewhere, achieving both requires very careful planning.” 

Co-author Professor Simon Lewis, also from the School of Geography at Leeds and founder of the AfriTRON forest monitoring network in Africa, added, “It’s critically important to keep this carbon out of the atmosphere. But we need to remember that forests are more than just sticks of carbon. Local community uses, species diversity and the many other values of forests should be taken into account to plan adequate conservation strategies for the 21st century. A simple focus on carbon is never enough.”

The research paper “Diversity and carbon storage across the tropical forest biome” is published in Scientific Reports January 17, 2017. Funding was provided by Natural Environment Research Council and European Research Council.

Images:  Images of the French Guiana rainforest by Dr Sophie Fauset, University of Leeds: ω.

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2016 was the Hottest Year Ever Recorded: And Will the World and World Humanity Wake Up

A fallen tree in Namibia's Namib desert. Image: World Bank:Philip Schuler

 

|| January 18: 2017 || ά. The world has just witnessed the hottest year on record, surpassing the exceptionally high temperatures of 2015, the the World Meteorological Organisation:WMO reported today, highlighting new records in indicators of human-caused climate change, as well as loss of Arctic sea ice. The globally averaged temperature in 2016 was about 01.1 degree Celsius higher than the pre-industrial period, according to a consolidated analysis by WMO, continuing the trend in which 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have been during this century, 1998 is the outlier.

“2016 was an extreme year for the global climate and stands out as the hottest year on record.” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, stressing that 'temperatures only tell part of the story'. In a news release, he emphasises that 'long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached new heights in 2016, as carbon dioxide and methane concentrations surged to new records', adding that carbon dioxide, as well as methane concentrations contribute to climate change. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years, trapping heat and causing the earth to warm further.

The lifespan of carbon dioxide in the oceans is even longer. It is also the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. According to the WMO, carbon dioxide is responsible for 85 per cent of the warming effect on the Earth’s climate over the past decade. Rising temperatures and concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are not the only record-breaking indicators of climate change, also Arctic sea ice remains at very low levels.

“We have also broken sea ice minimum records in the Arctic and Antarctic.” Mr. Taalas noted. “Greenland glacier melt, one of the contributors to sea level rise, started early and fast. Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record both at the start of the melt season in March and at the height of the normal refreezing period in October and November.” he explained.

Based on WMO consolidated analyses Mr. Taalas also concludes that the “Arctic is warming twice as fast the global average,” and adds “the persistent loss of sea ice is driving weather, climate and ocean circulation patterns in other parts of the world.” Throughout 2016, there were many extreme weather events which caused huge socio-economic disruption and losses.

“The one degree change means that the amount of disasters related to weather and hydrology have been increasing.” said Mr Taalas recently in an interview with UN News, adding that “it will have a negative impact on the economies of the countries, and it will also impact the lives and wellbeing of all humans.”

WMO has linked weather-related events to conclusions by the International Organization for Migration:IOM and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees:UNHCR, which recently reported 19.2 million new displacements due to weather, water, climate and geophysical hazards in 113 countries in 2015. That number is more than twice the number of people displaced due to human-related conflict and violence.

Record ocean heat contributed to widespread coral reef bleaching, including in the Great Barrier Reef, which has seen up to 50 per cent of its coral die in certain parts. ω.

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New Research Shows Driving Factors Behind Changes Between Local and Global Carbon Cycles

A wheat field in Eastern India near Murshidabad. Image: Nupur Das Gupta:Creative Commons License

|| January 19: 2017: University of Exeter News|| ά. New research has provided a fascinating new insight in the quest to determine whether temperature or water availability is the most influential factor in determining the success of global, land-based carbon sinks. The research, carried out by an international team of climate scientists including Professors Pierre Friedlingstein and Stephen Sitch from the University of Exeter, has revealed new clues on how land carbon sinks are regulated on both local and global scales.

The study revealed that, globally, the year-to-year variability of the land carbon balance, the exchange of carbon that takes place between the land biosphere and the atmosphere, responds most significantly to changes in temperature. On a more localised level, however, the study suggests that water availability is the dominant factor in determining how successfully carbon sinks are performing. Professor Friedlingstein, Chair of Mathematical Modelling of Climate Systems at the University of Exeter said, “The strong response of the land carbon cycle to climate variability such as El Niño events has always been on our radar as a test-bed for the carbon cycle response to future climate change.

Our study highlights the importance of changes in soil water availability to plants as a key element. It’s not just about global temperature”. At present, land-based ecosystems absorb around one quarter of all man-made carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Current climate change is characterized by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide:CO2 concentrations and associated warming. However, the annual growth rate of CO2, which has been measured in the atmosphere for several decades, varies largely from year to year.

These variations originate primarily from fluctuations in carbon uptake by land ecosystems driven by the natural variability of the climate system, rather than by oceans or from changes in the levels of man-made carbon emissions. Discussions on whether temperature or water availability is driving the strength of these variations in the land carbon sink have been highly contested with these year-to-year changes of the carbon balance seemingly related to global or tropical temperatures. However, other studies find that the largest carbon balance variability is seen in wide-spread water-limited regions.

In this latest study, the team of researchers applied empirical and process-based models, to analyze local areas, as well as the global surface, and the effect of temperature and water availability variations on carbon exchange between the atmosphere and the terrestrial biosphere. The team found that, locally, water availability provides the most dominant cause of the year-to-year variability of both CO2 uptake in plants by photosynthesis, and CO2 release from plants and microbes respiration.

However, on a global scale variability is mostly driven by temperature fluctuations, the research showed. “What looks quite paradox at a first view, can be illustrated by looking close at the different spatial and temporal variations of the biosphere-atmosphere interactions.”, explains Dr. Martin Jung, lead author of the Nature publication. “There are two compensatory effects of water availability: first, at the local scale, temporal water-driven photosynthesis and respiration variations compensate each other.

In addition, on a global scale, anomalies of water availability also compensate in space” adds Jung. “If it is very dry in one part of the world, it is often very wet in another region, thus globally water-controlled anomalies in net carbon exchange outweigh in space.”

Besides shedding light on previously contradictory findings, the outcome also points to the need for a research focus on how climate variables change while scanning across different scales and under global warming conditions.

“The simple relationship between the temperature and the global land carbon sink should be treated with caution, and not be used to infer ecological processes and long-term predictions” adds Dr Reichstein, head of the Department. With continuous global warming, the scientists expect the changing water cycle to become the critical factor for the variability in the global land carbon sink.

Reference: Compensatory water effects link yearly global land CO2 sink changes to temperature is published in Nature. ω.

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How Climate Change Impacts on Insects

Image: University of Sheffield


|| January 15: 2017: University of Sheffield News|| ά. With 2016 reportedly the warmest year on record, scientists have discovered insects are already feeling the effects of climate change, as a rise in temperature is shown to damage their ability to reproduce. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Sheffield, found that being exposed to mild heat as a juvenile negatively affects their chances of producing offspring as an adult.

The research also revealed the extent of the negative effects varied depending on where the insect population is based. Insects which evolve in countries at low latitudes, such as Spain, cope better with above average temperature rises compared to those living at high latitudes, such as Sweden. This means insects in high latitude countries are more vulnerable to climate change, which could lead to a decline in population.

Dr Rhonda Snook, Lead Investigator of the study from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, said, “We already knew that insects are feeling the effect of climate change but we now know they are felt at much lower temperatures.

Our study is unique as we only exposed the insects to mild heat but tested the long-term impact this had on them as both juveniles and when they reached adulthood. The results show that even small increases in temperature may still cause populations to decline because, while these insects don’t die because of the mild heat, they produce fewer offspring.

She added, “Juvenile insects are extremely susceptible to environmental changes as they don’t move around much because they are either larvae, like butterfly caterpillars or they don’t yet have wings to fly away.”

The study, published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, was carried out on fruit flies and researchers strongly suspect the findings will be the same for other insects.

Dr Snook, who is a Royal Society Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellow, added, “We are now interested in finding out what genes differ between Spanish and Swedish populations that allow the Spanish flies to cope better.

Identifying genes that are linked to increased and decreased reproduction is something which may be very useful not only in understanding how insects will cope with climate change but from the perspective of controlling insect pests.”

The University of Sheffield: With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities. A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2016 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields. Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
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Birds and Butterflies Struggling to Cope with Climate Change Under Intensive Land Use

Image: ZSL www.zsl.org

|| January 14: 2017: University of Reading News|| ά. Some of Britain’s much-loved birds and butterflies could be wiped out in certain areas if they do not have sufficient natural habitat to allow them to adapt to warming temperatures, a new study shows. Scientists looked at more than four decades’ worth of bird and butterfly records from more than 600 monitoring sites around England and found that cold-associated birds like the meadow pipit, willow tit and willow warbler have already been lost from many bird communities.

We have known for some time that climate change affects individual species differently, with those associated with colder regions impacted most severely. This research, a collaboration between the University of Reading, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the British Trust for Ornithology, Butterfly Conservation and Natural England, shows for the first time how habitat loss combines with climate change pressures to drive the loss of species from local areas.

Dr Tom Oliver, Associate Professor of Landscape Ecology at the University of Reading, who led the study, said, “There is a clear signature of climate change on our country’s wildlife, and for many species the situation is worse where the landscape is dominated by arable land and intensively managed grasslands. Bird communities are struggling to successfully adapt to the warming we’ve had over recent decades.

Although butterflies are coping much better, in both cases a lack of natural habitat in our landscapes is putting cold-associated species between a rock and a hard place by limiting their ability to find resources and survive.” The study, published in Global Change Biology, shows numbers of both cold-associated and warm-associated birds have dropped over time, but cold-associated species have declined more so as temperatures have risen and, on balance, communities are now more dominated by warm-loving species.

Dr Simon Gillings head of population monitoring at the British Trust for Ornithology, said, “Loss and degradation of habitats, whether in farmland, grasslands or uplands are primary factors in reducing key resources for birds, leading to population declines. Intensive management is making it harder for cold-associated birds to find cool corners of sites, or to disperse away from warming regions, thereby exacerbating the effects of climate warming.”

Butterfly communities in northern England are gaining new warm-associated species, like the speckled wood butterfly. However, cold-associated species such as the small pearl-bordered fritillary and northern brown argus are not faring as well, and numbers are dropping in areas where natural habitat has been destroyed.

Dr Tom Brereton, head of population monitoring at Butterfly Conservation, said, “Intensive land use means fewer resources and microclimates that allow species to persist in unfavourable weather conditions. For example, warmer winters can have a negative effect on butterflies, especially those which thrive in cooler conditions.”

Researchers used bird and butterfly count data collected by trained volunteers on set recording routes from between 1964 and 2009 to paint a picture of how they have reorganised themselves in response to climate change. The study concluded that lack of habitat has exacerbated the effects of climate change on bird and butterfly communities in parts of England. It was found to cause larger declines in birds and butterflies that are used to cold temperatures, and prevent increases in birds adapted to warm weather.

Dr Mike Morecroft, principal climate change specialist at Natural England, said, ''Climate change is with us, here and now, and its effects on wildlife are increasingly well documented. This study shows that the way we manage the land can affect the resilience of our wildlife; working together to create larger natural areas in strategic places will help species to cope with a changing climate.”

The study used Species Temperature Indices, which allow scientists to order species according to whether they like cold or warm conditions, based on the locations they are found across Europe. Bird data covered 1964-2000 and butterfly data 1976-2009. Trends at different sites were compared to see how neighbouring land use affected the results.

Types of high intensity land uses investigated were arable/horticulture, improved grassland and urban:suburban land use.

Full reference: Oliver, T.H., Gillings, S., Pearce-Higgins, J.W., Brereton, T., Crick, H.Q.P., Duffield, S., Morecroft, M.D., Roy, D.B:2016. ‘Large extents of intensive land use limit community reorganisation during climate warming’. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13587:
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Earth on the Edge: Record Breaking 2016 was Close to 01.5°C Warming


 

|| January 05: 2017: Reading: England: United Kingdom || ά. The first global analysis of the whole of 2016 has confirmed last year as the warmest on record and saw the planet near a 01.5°C warming, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service:C3S. The latest figures from C3S, part of the EU's Copernicus earth observation programme, show that 2016's global temperature exceeded 14.8°C, and was around 01.3°C higher than typical for the middle years of the 18th century. 2016 was close to 0.2°C warmer than 2015, which was previously the warmest year on record.

Countries agreed in Paris in 2015 to holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 02°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 01.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. Global warming increases the likelihood of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts and floods. Future warming could cause billions of euro of damage each year and affect the availability of fresh water and crop yields in the most vulnerable countries.

Director of ECMWF's Copernicus Services Juan Garcés de Marcilla said, "We are already seeing around the globe the impacts of a changing climate. Land and sea temperatures are rising along with sea-levels, while the world's sea-ice extent, glacier volume and snow cover are decreasing; rainfall patterns are changing and climate-related extremes such as heatwaves, floods and droughts are increasing in frequency and intensity for many regions. The future impact of climate change will depend on the effort we make now, in part achieved by better sharing of climate knowledge and information.


 

To help decision-makers develop effective adaptation and mitigation solutions we make the data from Copernicus Climate Change Service:C3S and the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service:CAMS freely and openly available. By mainstreaming the information that the Copernicus Services hold into climate policy and strategy, governments, the private sector and society can identify and unite around opportunities to tackle further climate change and reduce vulnerability where its effects are unavoidable."

C3S found that global temperatures in February 2016 already touched the 01.5°C limit, though under the influence of a strong El Niño, an intermittent event involving a period of warming. Global temperatures still remained well above average in the second half of 2016, associated partly with exceptionally low sea-ice cover in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

C3S found that most regions around the world experienced above-average temperatures during 2016. The largest differences in regional average temperatures were found in the Arctic but conditions were also extreme over southern Africa early in the year, over southern and south-eastern Asia prior to the summer monsoon, over the Middle East later in summer, and over parts of North America in summer and autumn.

In addition to record temperatures, ECMWF's Copernicus Services monitored other extremes occurring in 2016, including significant global wildfires and the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere. Destructive fires were observed around Fort McMurray, Canada in May and then extensive wildfires across Siberia, associated with the year's high surface temperatures, during June and July.

For the first year CO2 levels did not return below 400 ppm as summer turned to autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. In previous years, take-up of CO2 by vegetation during the summer growing season has typically seen September mark the lowest point for CO2 levels.

About the data: Copernicus temperature data are based on millions of diverse daily measurements analysed by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts:ECMWF using methods developed for weather forecasting. Annual global temperature variations derived from Copernicus data and from other widely used sets of data typically agree to better than 0.1°C for recent years. The spread in values is likely to be larger than 0.1°C for 2016 due to differences in the extent to which datasets represent the warm conditions associated with exceptionally low sea-ice cover. The estimate used here is that the climatological average temperature around the start of the Industrial Revolution is estimated to have been 0.7°C lower than that for 1981-2010.

About Copernicus: Copernicus is the European Commission's flagship earth observation programme that delivers freely accessible operational data and information services. It provides users with reliable and up-to-date information through a set of services related to environmental and security issues. C3S is run by ECMWF on behalf of the European Commission. ECMWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its 34 member and co-operating states. Academic and environmental institutions from across Europe, including the National Meteorological Services, play an integral role in making Copernicus a success.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service https://climate.copernicus.eu

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service:
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Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Will You Be Rich: Will You Be Tall: In as Little Time as a Century-Short: Suomi Still I Be: Yet Less Cold and More Hot Depending on What Season  Rhymes with Your Reason


|| January 03: 2017 || ά. Estimates of changes to the Finnish climate over the last century have been updated to correspond with the results of the latest generation of climate change models. According to the 28 models examined, Finland's average annual temperature will rise nearly twice as fast as the average temperature for the whole globe. Compared to the results from the previous generation of models, the largest difference is that the new models predict a somewhat stronger rise in summer temperatures. Forecasts for changes in precipitation levels, however, have remained around the same.

The warming effect is strongest for winter. If greenhouse gas emissions rise unchecked, referred to as the RCP8.5 scenario, Central Finland could have by the end of the century a climate with temperatures similar to the current Hungarian climate. Compared to figures for the end of the 20th century, winter temperatures would rise by between 04 and 10°C and summer temperatures by between 02 and 07°C. If, however, emissions would be cut with
moderate efficiency, RCP4.5 scenario, we could expect temperatures similar to those in Poland: around 02 to 07°C warmer in winter and 01 to 04°C warmer in summer.

Precipitation levels would probably increase during all seasons, with the highest percentage increases seen in winter. The approximate 20% increase in annual precipitation forecast by the RCP8.5 scenario would mean that we would receive as much rainfall in a year as is currently experienced in many parts of England.

Our winters would probably become more cloudy and dim than at present. According to the models' gloomiest forecasts, the amount of solar radiation
reaching the earth's surface in Finland could fall by over 20%. Wind strength, however, would not necessarily change much, although the forecasts given by different models vary significantly.

At the European level, winter temperatures will rise most in northern regions and summer temperatures will rise most in southern areas. In Northern Europe precipitation levels will rise, while in the continent's southern regions they will decrease. In Central Europe, winters will see higher levels of precipitation and summers will become dryer. In Mediterranean countries, drought problems will increase due to reductions in rainfall for the summer months in particular, a strong rise in temperatures and a reduction in the protection from sun provided by clouds.

Although from a narrow Finnish perspective, the warming climate could be seen to bring benefits, the effects are nevertheless harmful at the global level. Climate warming can lead to widespread and possibly irreversible worldwide adverse effects, such as destructive weather phenomena and a loss
of biodiversity.

Further information: Kimmo Ruosteenoja, tel: +358 (0)50 380 2775, kimmo.ruosteenoja at fmi.fi
Ruosteenoja, K., K. Jylhä and M. Kämäräinen, 2016: Climate forecasts for Finland under the RCP forcing scenarios. Geophysica, 51, 17-50:
ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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The
Earth

 

  The
Moon

 

The Lake Eden Eye

 

 

 

 

The Window of the Heavens Always Open and Calling: All We Have to Do Is: To Choose to Be Open, Listen and Respond

 

 

 

Imagine a Rose-Boat

Imagine a rose floating like a tiny little boat on this ocean of infinity
And raise your soul-sail on this wee-little boat and go seeking out
All along feed on nothing but the light that you gather only light
Fear shall never fathom you nor greed can tempt nor illusion divert
For Love you are by name by deeds you are love's working-map

 

 

Only in the transparent pool of knowledge, chiselled out by the sharp incision of wisdom, is seen the true face of what truth is: That what  beauty paints, that what music sings, that what love makes into a magic. And it is life: a momentary magnificence, a-bloom like a bubble's miniscule exposition, against the spread of this awe-inspiring composition of the the Universe. Only through the path of seeking, learning, asking and developing, only through the vehicles and vesicles of knowledge, only through listening to the endless springs flowing beneath, outside, around and beyond our reach, of wisdom, we find the infinite ocean of love which is boundless, eternal, and being infinite, it makes us, shapes us and frees us onto the miracle of infinite liberty: without border, limitation or end. There is nothing better, larger or deeper that humanity can ever be than to simply be and do love. The Humanion

 

Poets' Letter Magazine Archive Poetry Pearl

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The Humanion Online Daily from the United Kingdom for the World: To Inspire Souls to Seek

At Home in the Universe : One Without Frontier. Editor: Munayem Mayenin

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First Published: September 24: 2015