news 2021



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Environment - Earth Sciences - 23.12.2021
Controlled burning of natural environments could help offset our carbon emissions
Planting trees and suppressing wildfires do not necessarily maximise the carbon storage of natural ecosystems. A new study has found that prescribed burning can actually lock in or increase carbon in the soils of temperate forests, savannahs and grasslands. When managed properly, fire can be good - both for maintaining biodiversity and for carbon storage Adam Pellegrini The finding points to a new method of manipulating the world's natural capacity for carbon capture and storage, which can also help to maintain natural ecosystem processes.

Environment - Life Sciences - 23.12.2021
Protecting ecosystems is better done regionally than locally
VUB biologists find missing link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning Biologists from VUB and the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have demonstrated for the first time that it is not the local biodiversity in a specific place that is essential for maintaining a properly functioning ecosystem, but the biodiversity of the entire region.

Life Sciences - Environment - 22.12.2021
Greater diversity of Iberian spiders previously unknown
Greater diversity of Iberian spiders previously unknown
Populations of peninsular spiders that make aerial spider webs and move around the air by ballooning (using the silk threads as parachutes) present a more homogeneous genetics structure and are better connected between them. However, species of nocturnal spiders, which hunt on the ground and have a low dispersal capacity, show less genetically connected populations and are more vulnerable to local extinction processes due to environmental factors.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 22.12.2021
Safer carbon capture and storage
Safer carbon capture and storage
Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have increased significantly over the last 50 years, resulting in higher global temperatures and abrupt changes to Earth's climate. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is one of the new technologies that scientists hope will play an important role in tackling the climate crisis.

Materials Science - Environment - 21.12.2021
Spray-on coating could make solar panels snow-resistant
In an advance that could dramatically improve the productivity of solar panels in cold climates, a University of Michigan-led team has demonstrated an inexpensive, clear coating that reduced snow and ice accumulation on solar panels, enabling them to generate up to 85% more energy in early testing. The coating is made chiefly of PVC or PDMS plastic and silicon or vegetable-based oils.

Physics - Environment - 21.12.2021
Berkeley Lab's Top 10 Science Stories of 2021
Berkeley Lab’s Top 10 Science Stories of 2021
Dealing with our climate crisis continues to be top of mind, although batteries, magnets, and exotic elements also captured the imagination While the COVID-19 pandemic continued to be ubiquitous in science headlines in 2021, the urgency of the ongoing climate crisis became impossible to ignore. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Sixth Assessment Report and world leaders gathered in Glasgow for a climate summit to negotiate how they will cut emissions.

Earth Sciences - Environment - 21.12.2021
Microplastic discovered in 'pristine' Pyrenees mountain air
Microplastic discovered in ’pristine’ Pyrenees mountain air
Previously detected in rivers, oceans, and snow, 1 microplastic has now been found in the high-altitude air surrounding the Pic du Midi (2,877 m)-by an international research team including scientists from the CNRS, Université Grenoble Alpes, 2 and the University of Strathclyde (Scotland). After analysing the composition of 10,000 m3 of air captured weekly by a pump installed at the Pic du Midi Observatory, 3 the researchers report a microplastic concentration of approximately one particle per 4 m3.

Environment - Innovation - 20.12.2021
UC San Diego Researchers Take a Digital Snapshot of an Ancient Infant Burial Site
Researchers based at the UC San Diego Qualcomm Institute (QI) and Jacobs School of Engineering have digitally recreated, in painstaking detail, the oldest documented European burial of an infant female. The interactive 3D excavation site, included last week in an article with Scientific Reports (Nature) , is being used by an international team to learn more about burial practices, gender-based status and other social behaviors of ancient hunter-gatherer groups.

Life Sciences - Environment - 20.12.2021
Space and time: how to better understand biological processes in plants
Space and time: how to better understand biological processes in plants
If the perspective of space and time is not properly applied to plant research, the understanding of biological processes is limited as well as the response to the threats that endanger the life of plants worldwide. This is one of the main conclusions of an article published in the journal Trends in Plant Science by Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch, from the Faculty of Biology , the Biodiversity Research Institute ( IRBio ) and the Institute for Nutrition and Food Safety ( INSA ) of the UB.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 20.12.2021
Could life be making its own habitable environment in the clouds of Venus?
Scientists have proposed a new theory which suggests that possible lifeforms in the clouds of Venus could be setting off a cascade of chemical reactions that is making the environment much more habitable. This self-sustaining chain of events could also explain many of the strange anomalies present in the planet's upper atmosphere that have been puzzling scientists for decades.

Environment - 19.12.2021
50 years of science, citizen activism and policy making on air pollution
In the past few months, the billboards of CurieuzenAir, the research project involving citizen participation to measure air pollution, have appeared all over Brussels.

Social Sciences - Environment - 17.12.2021
Dying in the desert: How U.S. border policies contribute to migrant mortality
A 5-year-old child will probably die first. Then a nonpregnant woman, followed by a grown man and finally a pregnant woman. This macabre list isn't some analysis of horror films — it's an all-too-real ranking of how likely migrants are to perish from dehydration and exposure as they traverse the most unforgiving routes through the Sonoran Desert near the Mexico-Arizona border.

Environment - 17.12.2021
Strategies of the forest during extreme drought
Strategies of the forest during extreme drought
Research team including Göttingen University participates in far-reaching study with analysis of carbon storage How do tropical rainforests and their plants react to extreme drought? Understanding these processes is crucial to making forests more resilient to the increasing risk of drought due to climate change, and will improve the scientists- ability to refine climate models.

Environment - Earth Sciences - 17.12.2021
The climate system relies on microscopic particles
Scientists from EPFL and the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO) have discovered a new source of organic phosphorus that is fertilizing remote marine ecosystems via atmospheric particles. This finding could help researchers better understand how marine ecosystems respond to climate change.

Environment - 17.12.2021
Deforestation-fueled heat already affecting millions of outdoor workers in the tropics
Deforestation-fueled heat already affecting millions of outdoor workers in the tropics
Pledges made in Glasgow at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, are urgently needed by communities on the front lines of forest loss, according to a new study by a multidisciplinary team from the University of Washington, Duke University and The Nature Conservancy. New research shows how much local temperature rises in the tropics - compounded by accelerating deforestation - may already be jeopardizing the well-being and productivity of outdoor workers.

Social Sciences - Environment - 16.12.2021
Loneliness within older adults is more than the stereotype
In recent years, a lot of attention has been paid to loneliness in old age. Recent international studies show that 25% to 62% of elderly people experience occasional feelings of loneliness. However, the issue does not suddenly appear when one is old. Lise Switsers' doctoral research at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel showed the importance of looking at loneliness from a life-course perspective: "It's one of the many stereotypes that only older adults are lonely.

Environment - 15.12.2021
Predicting recovery of mercury-contaminated fish populations
Reducing mercury pollution entering lakes lowers how much harmful mercury is found in freshwater fish destined for consumers' plates. This is according to a new paper . During the study, conducted over 15 years, scientists intentionally added a traceable form of mercury to an experimental lake and its watershed.

Astronomy / Space Science - Environment - 14.12.2021
Parker Solar Probe data bolsters theories in long-running solar riddle
Parker Solar Probe data bolsters theories in long-running solar riddle
University of Michigan researchers were able to accurately predict when and where the probe would cross an important barrier in the sun's atmosphere Data collected by NASA's Parker Solar Probe bolsters theories previously put by University of Michigan researchers about one of the sun's greatest mysteries-why its outer atmosphere is hotter than its fiery surface.

Life Sciences - Environment - 13.12.2021
Earthquakes, dining in space, and gender equality
Earthquakes, dining in space, and gender equality
Environment Herbicide Roundup disturbing freshwater biodiversity As Health Canada extends the deadline on public consultation on higher herbicide concentrations in certain foods, research from McGill University shows that the herbicide Roundup, at concentrations commonly measured in agricultural runoff, can have dramatic effects on natural bacterial communities.

Life Sciences - Environment - 13.12.2021
The genetic changes caused by fishing may be linked to fish population size
Commercial fishing, particularly in reduced fish populations, may be responsible for genetic changes and affect overall population resilience if not carefully managed. A new study, led by the University of Glasgow and published in PNAS, examined how commercial fishing practices - such as trawling - impacted the genetic evolution of fish populations, both directly and through reduced fish population density, mimicking declines in stocks due to over-fishing.
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