📰 EwA News Digest: Noise Pollution Harming Seagrass, Method to Stop Wildfires, and New IPCC Report

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Olivia Bible

Aug 17, 2021, 12:23:49 PM8/17/21
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Hello, all!

Olivia here with my last news digest. I hope everyone’s had a great summer. 

To begin, noise pollution has long been known to harm marine animals, but it turns out the effects of this phenomenon may go beyond just harming animal species. A new study has revealed that seagrasses are also disturbed by noise pollution since their amyloplasts (gravity-sensing structures to help plants push their roots through sediment on the seafloor) pick up on the vibrational waves we interpret as sound. Seagrasses are responsible for storing much of the carbon in our atmosphere, and noise pollution may make it harder for them to store carbon as starch. Find out more here.

In late July, wildfire smoke from the western US was so severe that firefighters in the Boston area received calls of concern that there was a fire nearby, and residents reported films of smoke and the scent of wood burning. BU environmental scientist Mark Freidl shared that more frequent wildfires could accelerate climate change, since when forests burn they release carbon into the atmosphere. Also, the terrible air quality has implications on public health. Read more about these potential implications here

Thankfully, there are a few techniques that have proven to be effective in stopping the spread of the recent wildfires. The Sycan Marsh Preserve in Oregon is a test subject of prescribed burning (when small, controlled areas of a larger ecosystem are burned down to renew the soil and prevent large-scale damage). When the recent Bootleg wildfire reached the marsh, the fire was weakened because of the conditions created by these prescribed burns and was subsequently controlled. Prescribed burning is a technique used by the local Klamath tribes, demonstrating how beneficial it can be to include indigenous perspectives in environmental conservation. Read more about this technique at The Guardian.

How do we work to offset climate change while taking human rights into account? When involving those who have not traditionally had a voice in conservation, a new Science article calls for a “shared earth” approach to conservation in Africa. This approach helps both nature and people, empowering Indigenous people and local communities. It asks for ecologically maintaining or restoring 20% of local living and working areas and comes with the initiative of having more equitable conservation efforts in Africa. Learn more at Mongabay.

In large-scale environmental news, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just published a new report on the current state of climate change. The account states that global surface temperatures were 1.09C hotter from 2011-2020 than they were from 1850-1900. Flooding, droughts, and heatwaves are cited as a few of the reasons for the chief of the UN calling the situation “a code red for humanity”. Despite this bleak report, scientists believe there is still hope for the future of our planet if we cut global emissions in half by 2030. Read more about the findings of the report at bbc.com. 

To end on a positive note, a new method to reverse degraded semiarid (characterized by slightly more precipitation than a desert climate) farmland was recently discovered in Mexico. This solution uses a mix of drought-tolerant mesquite and agave to rehabilitate soils. These plants can be fermented to produce fodder for the grazing animals that locals depend on. This process is cheap, does not need irrigation, and can sequester carbon from the air. This method could be used worldwide in semiarid climates, making this a crucial discovery since land degradation affects almost 40% of the world’s population. Read more about this revolutionary method at Mongabay. 

That’s all for this news digest! Thank you for reading these over the past few months--I’ve loved writing them. Have a great beginning of fall! 


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