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63 news posts in Climate action

Climate action

16 Nov 2023

Inequality hotspot map shows where women in agriculture are hit the hardest by the climate crisis

by Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Women working in agricultural sectors in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionally at risk from climate change induced hazards, such as droughts, floods, or shortened crop-growing seasons. Now, researchers have developed a map showing localities where climate change risk for women in agri-food systems is especially high. Ranking 87 countries, they found that women in central, east, and southern Africa, as well as west and south Asia are at particular risk. Threats posed by the climate crisis disproportionally affect certain communities and social groups that are more exposed. People living in low- and middle-income (LMIC) countries are at heightened risk. Within these countries, women typically face higher climate risk than men. To show where women working in agri-food systems – systems that encompass production, but also post-harvest handling and distribution – are most threated by climate change, an international team of researchers has developed a hotspot map that identifies and ranks localities by threat level. “We show that significant climate hazards, high exposure faced by women in agri-food systems, and high vulnerability faced by women due to systemic gender inequalities converge particularly in central, east, and southern Africa, as well as in […]

Climate action

08 Sep 2023

The climate crisis could reshape Italian mountain forests forever

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/Shutterstock. With the changes in conditions caused by the climate crisis, the forests of the Italian Alps and Apennines are set to alter. Many species, including keystone species, will have smaller ranges to grow in. Some others may expand their ranges, possibly helping to maintain forests in the years to come. Scientists now warn that conserving our forests depends on detailed biodiversity modelling. As a result of the climate crisis, future forests may become unrecognizable. Trees that currently make up European woods may no longer be seen — or they may have moved several hundred meters uphill. Scientists writing in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change have mapped the forests of five vulnerable mountain areas in Italy and modelled the future of these fragile ecosystems. “If I imagine my daughter walking with me as an old man, in our mountain forests, I can imagine that we can see the initial stage of a profound change of species,” said Dr Sergio Noce of the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change Foundation (CMCC). “Like any natural process, time is needed, and forests have times that are totally different from us.” Seeing the wood for the trees […]


Climate action

08 Aug 2023

Antarctic extreme events: ‘All-time records are being shattered not from decades ago, but from the last few years and months’

By Prof Martin Siegert, University of Exeter (Cornwall) Image: 42 governments around the world have agreed to protect Antarctica’s environment. While the main focus has been on operational activities in Antarctica, global warming caused by fossil-fuel burning by these (and other) countries has left Antarctica on the brink of irreversible change. A new study published in Frontiers in Environmental Science has revealed that, in addition to the influence of gradual global heating, Antarctica is increasingly affected by extreme environmental events; a recognized and predicted outcome of our heating world. Writing as part of Frontiers’ guest editorials series, the study’s lead author – Prof Martin Siegert, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Exeter (Cornwall) – discusses how without there being a rapid shift to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the Antarctic environment will experience ever more drastic changes. Extreme weather events appear to be increasing in size and occurrence, with disastrous outcomes for lives and livelihoods, whether it be from intense heatwaves, severe droughts, deluge rainfall, flooding, and deep storms. All-time records are being shattered not from those of decades ago, but from the last few years and months, exemplifying the human-induced forces we are subjecting our planet […]


Climate action

13 Jul 2023

‘Red sea plume’ alga may cut greenhouse gas emissions from cow poo nearly in half

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: Methane production in the livestock sector greatly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Animals with four-chambered stomachs produce methane while digesting, however, their manure also emits the gas when decomposing. Recently, natural methane inhibitors have been discussed as a solution. Researchers in Sweden have now examined how supplementing cow feces – rather than cow feed – with such an inhibitor influences methane emission from manure. They found that if a tropical alga was added to dairy cows’ feces, significantly less methane was emitted. Approximately a third of all anthropogenic methane is emitted by ruminant livestock. These animals get nutrients through fermenting food in four-chambered stomachs found in cows, sheep, and goats. They produce methane in two ways: through belching and from the decomposition of their manure under certain conditions. Now, researchers in Sweden have examined if adding the tropical alga Asparagopsis taxiformis (AT), also known as red sea plume, to cow feces impacts greenhouse gas emissions from the manure of dairy cows. They have published their results in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. “We showed that adding AT to the feces of dairy cows significantly reduced methane production from the feces by 44% […]

Image/Enric Ballesteros

Climate action

02 Jun 2023

Underwater forest’s recovery offers hope for marine restoration across the globe

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/Enric Ballesteros Scientists show that efforts to restore the building blocks of marine ecosystems are paying off, with macroalgae that provide food and shelter for other species bouncing back over 10 years of growth in an underwater seaweed forest in the Mediterranean Sea. Human activity has degraded ecosystems and damaged biodiversity around the world, but ecosystem restoration offers hope for the future. Scientists studying the restoration of underwater seaweed forests which provide other species with food and shelter have found that 10 years of restoration efforts have helped a damaged forest regrow to richness and strength comparable to forests that have never been disturbed. “Macroalgal forests are found along over one-third of the world’s coastlines and underpin entire ecosystems,” said Dr Emma Cebrian of the Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes, corresponding author of the study in Frontiers in Marine Science. “In 2011, a restoration action took place in the Bay of Maó, Menorca, where a macroalga species was reintroduced in the area where it used to thrive. After 10 years, we found that the associated algal species returned to the habitat, and with them, the ecosystem functions they provide.” Under the sea Cebrian […]

Climate action

05 Apr 2023

How a city walk may improve your mood: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Walking in the city might be just as good for our mood as walking in nature Time spent in urban environments is associated with depletion of cognitive resources and an increasing prevalence of mental illness. Few studies, however, have measured working memory capacity. Now, writing in Frontiers in Psychology, US researchers have compared memory performance and self-reported mood before and after a 30-minute walk in a natural or urban environment. The scientists assigned participants to either a nature or an urban condition and measured differences in self-reported affect and OPSAN, a complex measure of working memory capacity, before and after going on a walk in the respective environment. Their results showed that regardless of the setting, walkers exhibited an increase in positive affect and a decrease in negative affect, suggesting that going outside for a walk can boost mood regardless of environment type. They found, however, no significant changes in working memory […]

Climate action

16 Jan 2023

Our toilets can yield excellent alternatives for widespread polluting fertilizers

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Scientists show that the yield of cabbages grown on soils supplied with two modern nitrified urine fertilizers recycled from human urine is approximately equal to the yield when soils are fertilized with commercial vinasse. The exclusive use of compost recycled from human feces gave a slightly lower yield, but such compost is expected to give extra carbon to soils when combined with nitrified urine fertilizers. Importantly, pharmaceuticals in feces ended up in the edible plant parts only in negligible amounts, implying that fertilizers recycled from human excreta are not only productive but also safe. To tackle the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and pollution, humanity will need to move to a circular economy, where all resources are recycled. Why not recycle our own body waste too as fertilizer, provided there is no risk that harmful microbes or traces from pharmaceuticals end up in the consumed crops? Most nutrients needed for plant growth occur in human urine and feces. Urine is especially rich in nitrogen and potassium, and also contains trace amounts of metals such as boron, zinc, and iron. Feces could in theory supply other nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium or valuable organic […]

Climate action

08 Dec 2022

Flocking to fire: wildfires don’t deter Americans from moving to at-risk regions

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists investigated whether environmental hazards put people off moving to regions at risk and found that heatwaves and hurricanes deter newcomers, but wildfires don’t. The climate crisis has caused humans to move both within their countries of origin and across borders. Although climate migration is often treated as a phenomenon of the ‘global south’, a team of scientists led by Mahalia Clark at the University of Vermont (UVM) turned the spotlight on the US. The US has experienced numerous destructive weather events recently, which have killed and injured many people and done billions of dollars of damage. But the team found that despite the death toll, more people are moving to areas in the United States that are at serious risk of wildfires. “Our original motivation was the increasing number of headlines each year about record breaking heat waves, hurricanes, and wildfires,” said Clark, a researcher at UVM’s Gund Institute for Environment. “I had been studying natural amenities — features of the climate and environment that are attractive to movers — but I began to wonder if the threat of these hazards might have a deterring effect on migration.” Read original article […]

Climate action

17 Nov 2022

Vast phytoplankton blooms may be lurking beneath Antarctic ice

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: Researchers using NASA’s Earth observing system find that Antarctic sea ice allows enough light in to let hidden phytoplankton bloom in the Southern Ocean. Until now, we thought the packed sea ice of the Southern Ocean blocked all light from reaching the sea beneath, preventing phytoplankton — tiny algae which are the base of aquatic food webs — from growing there. The less light available, the less the phytoplankton can photosynthesize and therefore the less phytoplankton there will be, heavily restricting life beneath the ice. But research inspired by increasing under-ice blooms of phytoplankton in the Arctic has shown that Antarctic waters also have unexpected denizens, indicating that there is underestimated ecological variability under the ice. Blooms are often spotted as soon as the sea ice begins its seasonal retreat, supported by plenty of light and freshwater with high iron content. Yet a team led by Dr Christopher Horvat of Brown University and the University of Auckland suspected that there would already be potential phytoplankton blooms in waiting. Writing in Frontiers in Marine Science, they described using sampling from independent BGC-Argo floats and climate model output to estimate light availability beneath […]

Climate action

04 Nov 2022

From ghost gear to microbe memories: 4 Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, many often fly under the radar. Here are just four amazing papers you may have missed. The hunt for ghost gear 25-30% of the plastic waste in the sea is lost fishing gear, or ‘ghost gear’, some of it now up to 60 years old. This ghost gear devastates the environment not only through continuing to trap fish, but also by shedding microplastics into the environment which then enter the food chain. Once it sinks as far as the sea floor, it becomes invisible from above – a hidden threat to the marine ecosystem. A team led by Andrea Stolte from the World Wildlife Foundation, writing in Frontiers in Marine Science, reported a successful ghost-hunting collaboration between fisherfolk, scientists, and divers in the Baltic Sea. This coalition of stakeholders had several options for hunting down the ghost gear. Traditionally, when lost gear is spotted, fisherfolk use search hooks and other similar tools to try to retrieve it. However, this proved to be inefficient and damaging to the […]

Climate action

24 Oct 2022

CO2 ventilation breakthrough could turn city rooftops into bumper vegetable gardens

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: Scientists find that expelled air from ventilation systems can make corn and spinach grow taller and larger, recycling CO2-rich indoor air to fertilize edible plants. As the world’s cities grow, the hunt is on for ways to make them greener, more sustainable, and more livable. Rooftop farms and gardens that take advantage of underutilized roof space are a popular option, providing new food resources while simultaneously cooling the surrounding area, increasing building insulation, and improving air quality. But the conditions on rooftops — greater solar radiation, more wind exposure, lesser soil moisture — often mean that plants are smaller and less healthy. A team led by Dr Sarabeth Buckley, now at the University of Cambridge, theorized that repurposing the CO2 from building exhaust as a kind of fertilizer might help counter some of these challenges. To explore this, they grew corn and spinach on the roof of a campus building at Boston University. “We wanted to test whether there is an untapped resource inside buildings that could be used to make plants grow larger in rooftop farms,” said Buckley, whose team named their experimental garden BIG GRO and published their work […]


Climate action

29 Sep 2022

UK politicians lack awareness of the links between climate change and mental health

By Lucy T Pirkle from the Department of Brain Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, UK Image credit: WikiWitch / Wikimedia Commons It’s essential that today’s politicians and decision makers recognize the many and severe risks that the climate crisis poses not just for our physical health, but also for our mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, at least in the UK, politicians so far have demonstrated little awareness of the direct and indirect links between climate and mental health. That’s the worrying conclusion of a recent study in Frontiers in Public Health, where researchers mined the public records of all debates in the UK’s House of Commons and House of Lords between 1995 and 2020. The authors found that on the few occasions that speakers showed any awareness of these links, the focus of their speeches was always on the association between flooding and anxiety. But no-one mentioned any of the other proven mental health impacts of climate change. For example, higher temperatures are associated with higher suicide rates and more hospitalizations for mental disorders. Likewise, extreme weather events such as wildfires, floods, droughts, and severe storms are associated with worse mental health in affected populations. And research has shown that […]

Climate action

13 Sep 2022

Putting sharks on the map: a new standard to identify important, global habitats

By Tayyibah Aziz, science writer Image: Shutterstock Many existing marine protected areas fail to adequately consider the needs of sharks, rays, and chimaeras, as data about many species is limited. In a new publication, scientists have developed a new framework to consider the species’ biological and ecological needs and inform planning to secure the protection they desperately need in the face of extinction. To date, shark, ray, and chimaera species have not been sufficiently considered in the planning of marine protected areas. However, a publication in Frontiers in Marine Science by researchers from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group (SSC), IUCN’s Ocean Team, and the IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas Taskforce have developed a new framework to fundamentally change how sharks are considered in the design of protected areas and therefore support the protection they desperately need in the face of extinction. Ciaran Hyde, consultant to the IUCN Ocean Team, explained: “We still have so much to learn about many shark, ray, and chimaera species, but unfortunately several studies indicate that many protected areas are failing to adequately meet their needs. However, Important Shark and Ray Areas (ISRAs) will help to identify areas for these […]

Climate action

05 Aug 2022

Worrying finding in California’s multi-billion-dollar climate initiative reveals problem with using forests to offset CO2 emissions

By Suzanna Burgelman, Frontiers science writer Image: Zack Frank/ Researchers have found that California’s forest carbon buffer pool, designed to ensure the durability of the state’s multi-billion-dollar carbon offset program, is severely undercapitalized. The results show that, within the offset program’s first 10 years, estimated carbon losses from wildfires have depleted at least 95% of the contributions set aside to protect against all fire risks over 100 years. This means that the buffer pool is unable to guarantee that credited forest carbon remains out of the atmosphere for at least 100 years. The results, published in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, illustrate that the program, one of the world’s largest, is likely not meeting its set requirements. Carbon offset programs have become popular action plans to combat the climate crisis. California’s carbon offset program was established to utilize the ability of trees to absorb and store carbon and applies to around 75% of statewide emissions allowances. The program allows forest owners to earn ‘carbon credits’ for preserving trees. Polluters buy credits so that they can emit more CO2 than they’d otherwise be allowed to under state law. Each credit represents one ton of CO2. This exchange is supposed to […]