Key biological mechanism is disrupted by ocean acidification

A team led by scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) has demonstrated that the excess carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere through the combustion of fossil fuels interferes with the health of phytoplankton which form the base of marine food webs.

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants whose growth in ocean surface waters supports ocean food webs and global marine fisheries. They are also key agents in the long-term removal of carbon dioxide (CO2)


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Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Development

This paper distills core lessons about how researchers (scientists, engineers, planners, etc.) interested in promoting sustainable development can increase the likelihood of producing usable knowledge. We draw the lessons from both practical experience in diverse contexts around the world and from scholarly advances in understanding the relationships between science and society. Many of these lessons will be familiar to those with experience in crafting knowledge to support action for sustainable development. However, few are included in the formal training of researchers. As a result, when scientists and engineers first venture out of the laboratory or library with the goal of linking their knowledge with action, the outcome has often been ineffectiveness and disillusionment. We therefore articulate here a core set of lessons that we believe should become part of the basic training for researchers interested in crafting usable knowledge for sustainable development. These lessons entail at least four things researchers should know, and four things they should do. The knowing lessons involve understanding the coproduction relationships through which knowledge making and decision making shape one another in social–environmental systems. We highlight the lessons that emerge from examining those coproduction relationships through the ICAP lens, viewing them from the perspectives of Innovation systems, Complex systems, Adaptive systems, and Political systems. The doing lessons involve improving the capacity of the research community to put its understanding of coproduction into practice. We highlight steps through which researchers can help build capacities for stakeholder collaboration, social learning, knowledge governance, and researcher training.


Posted in Knowledge, Sustainable development | Tagged ,

Sustainability in an urbanizing planet

Sustainability science is use-inspired fundamental research that links knowledge to action such that meeting the needs of society can be balanced with sustaining the life support systems of the planet (1, 2). Nowhere is this action-oriented research needed more than in urban areas that are now home to more than half of the world’s population, generating about 80% of the world’s economy (3) as well as over 70% of global energy use and global energy-related emissions (4). Depending on the literature and perspectives taken, urbanization and cities will be either key components to the transition to sustainability or major threats to sustainability.


Posted in Sustainability, Urban | Tagged ,

Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise

Satellite altimetry has shown that global mean sea level has been rising at a rate of ∼3 ± 0.4 mm/y since 1993. Using the altimeter record coupled with careful consideration of interannual and decadal variability as well as potential instrument errors, we show that this rate is accelerating at 0.084 ± 0.025 mm/y2, which agrees well with climate model projections. If sea level continues to change at this rate and acceleration, sea-level rise by 2100 (∼65 cm) will be more than double the amount if the rate was constant at 3 mm/y.

Using a 25-y time series of precision satellite altimeter data from TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, and Jason-3, we estimate the climate-change–driven acceleration of global mean sea level over the last 25 y to be 0.084 ± 0.025 mm/y2. Coupled with the average climate-change–driven rate of sea level rise over these same 25 y of 2.9 mm/y, simple extrapolation of the quadratic implies global mean sea level could rise 65 ± 12 cm by 2100 compared with 2005, roughly in agreement with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report (AR5) model projections.


Posted in Climate change, Sea-level | Tagged ,

The Social Networks of Trees

IN the deep stillness of a forest in winter, the sound of footsteps on a carpet of leaves died away. Peter Wohlleben had found what he was looking for: a pair of towering beeches. “These trees are friends,” he said, craning his neck to look at the leafless crowns, black against a gray sky. “You see how the thick branches point away from each other? That’s so they don’t block their buddy’s light.”

Before moving on to an elderly beech to show how trees, like people, wrinkle as they age, he added, “Sometimes, pairs like this are so interconnected at the roots that when one tree dies, the other one dies, too.”


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On Lessons in Nature to Boost Learning

Teachers wishing to offer lessons in nature may hold back for fear of leaving students keyed up and unable to concentrate in subsequent, indoor lessons. This study tested the hypothesis that lessons in nature have positive—not negative—aftereffects on subsequent classroom engagement. Using carefully matched pairs of lessons (one in a relatively natural outdoor setting and one indoors), we observed subsequent classroom engagement during an indoor instructional period, replicating these comparisons over 10 different topics and weeks in the school year, in each of two third grade classrooms. Pairs were roughly balanced in how often the outdoor lesson preceded or followed the classroom lesson. Classroom engagement was significantly better after lessons in nature than after their matched counterparts for four of the five measures developed for this study: teacher ratings; third-party tallies of “redirects” (the number of times the teacher stopped instruction to direct student attention back onto the task at hand); independent, photo-based ratings made blind to condition; and a composite index each showed a nature advantage; student ratings did not. This nature advantage held across different teachers and held equally over the initial and final 5 weeks of lessons.


Posted in Learning, Nature | Tagged ,

How the contact with nature promote human health

How might contact with nature promote human health? Myriad studies have linked the two; at this time the task of identifying the mechanisms underlying this link is paramount. This article offers: (1) a compilation of plausible pathways between nature and health; (2) criteria for identifying a possible central pathway; and (3) one promising candidate for a central pathway. The 21 pathways identified here include environmental factors, physiological and psychological states, and behaviors or conditions, each of which has been empirically tied to nature and has implications for specific physical and mental health outcomes. While each is likely to contribute to nature’s impacts on health to some degree and under some circumstances, this paper explores the possibility of a central pathway by proposing criteria for identifying such a pathway and illustrating their use.


Read also: The healing power of nature

Posted in Health, Nature | Tagged ,

The healing power of nature

The idea that immersing yourself in forests and nature has a healing effect is far more than just folk wisdom. ‘The longer the trip, the more healing occurs,’ says the geologist Peter Winn, who has been leading expeditions down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon since the 1960s. ‘Healing happens for people almost without exception.’

The most dramatic transformations that he’s observed have been in disabled military veterans on 16-day kayaking trips organized by a group called Team River Runner. ‘One army communications expert came home from Iraq so full of shrapnel, he’d lost his ability to do even simple math, and would only say “Fuck you.”’ By the end of the trip, he spoke eloquently and at length, in appreciation of both the Canyon and his fellow boaters. ‘Later his wife wrote to thank the crew and the river for getting her husband back.’


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Understanding climate change’s impact on early societies

A new study linking paleoclimatology — the reconstruction of past global climates — with historical analysis shows a link between environmental stress and its impact on the economy, political stability, and war-fighting capacity of ancient Egypt.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, show that integrating evidence from historical writings with paleoclimate data can advance both our understanding of how the climate system functions, and how climatic changes impacted past human societies.


Posted in Climate change, Society | Tagged ,

What will our climate look like in 2050?

Knowing that we have the power to influence global climate is enormously important when trying to imagine what our climate might look like in 2050. To a large degree, it will depend on actions our leaders take now and in the immediate future.

What kind of a climate we will experience in 2050 is something we, to a large degree, are actually in the process of deciding. There are, of course, still some people who do not “believe” in human-caused climate change. Their reasons for this are usually justified by two arguments: The Earth’s environment goes through natural cycles and humans cannot change those cycles. Indeed, variations on this line of reasoning are found daily in social media and other news outlets.


Read also: How business can meet the challenge of climate change

Posted in Climate change, Climate policy | Tagged ,