Bike Race Footage Shows Climate Change

Bicycle

By watching an annual bicycle race researchers found evidence of climate change. The Liège–Bastogne–Liège one day race has been running for decades and filmed since at least the 1980s. Because the route covers much of the same ground every year some researchers figured that they could use it to witness how plants are reacting to our warming climate, so they watched a lot of races but watched the trees not the racers. This sort of research is really neat since it provides another way to visually analyze our planet and share that knowledge.

Co-author Lisa Van Langenhove sifted through more than 200 hours of television data of the race shot between 1981 and 2016. Though the route had changed over the years, the team selected 12 climbs and landmarks where they could pinpoint individual trees. They studied 46 trees in particular. Most of them were not native to the area and included magnolia, hawthorn and forsythia.

The researchers found that in the 1980s, there were virtually no leaves on trees. After 1990, however, many trees were already in full leaf.

The change was significant. When leaves begin to emerge on a tree branch, it’s referred to as flushing. The study found that between 2006 and 2016, 45 per cent of trees had begun to grow leaves. That’s compared to nearly zero in the 1980s.

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Green Vacant Land to Regrow Neighbourhoods

Falling apart houses, patches of unused land, and generally neglected residential spaces can be found throughout American cities. These urban blights not only look ugly but cause societal problems as well since it’s a neglected space that nefarious activities can easily take place. Cities have found success in converting vacant lots into community garden spaces to address these concerns; however, in some cities there are too many vacant lots and not enough demand for more gardening space. Philadelphia found that just greening vacant lots by planting some sod and trees they’ve been able to improve neighbourhoods and help the city in other ways like local temperature cooling and water management.

The PHS LandCare program recognizes that while vacant lots in legacy cities greatly outnumber the organizations or individuals willing or able to turn them into gardens, vineyards, or parks, allowing those lots to remain derelict condemns their surroundings to continued blight. To address this, PHS developed an inexpensive, low-maintenance approach to vacant lots that involves only basic sodding, tree planting, and erection of simple split-rail fencing on the lot. Today, PHS, with support from the city of Philadelphia, has installed and maintains LandCare treatments on more than 7,000 vacant lots across the city.

Facing this problem, cities realized that their vacant land inventories offered an alternative. Instead of using the traditional method of channeling stormwater runoff into the sewers, the water could be channeled toward green spaces, where it could gradually filter through the ground and refill the aquifers under the city. Such a strategy would be far better environmentally and would also reduce the need for massive holding tanks and allow cities to comply with EPA requirements at lower cost. Philadelphia was the first city in the United States to turn the idea into a reality by developing a detailed plan and a 25-year implementation strategy, which was approved by the EPA in 2012.

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Urban Forests Suck up tons of Carbon

The lush, dense, quality of rainforests instantly make one think of how beautiful and efficient they are at making fresh air (and thus suck up carbon). As a result of the obvious wonderfulness of rainforests we’ve done a lot of work to try to protect rainforests from destruction. We need to the same in our cities. In London, researchers used LIDAR technology to better understand how much carbon urban trees soak up. Trees in urban centres love to absorb that carbon! The proximity to carbon sources like automobiles make urban trees really effective at air-cleaning so much that they are comparable to rainforests.

Thank your local tree for making your air cleaner!

The UCL team used publicly available airborne lidar data collected by the UK Environment Agency, in conjunction with their ground measurements, to estimate biomass of all the 85,000 trees across Camden. These lidar measurements help to quantify the differences between urban and non-urban trees, allowing scientists to come up with a formula predicting the difference in size-to-mass ratio, and thus measuring the mass of urban trees more accurately.

The findings show that Camden has a median carbon density of around 50 tonnes of carbon per hectare (t/ha), rising to 380 t/ha in spots such as Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery – that’s equivalent to values seen in temperate and tropical rainforests. Camden also has a high carbon density, compared to other cities in Europe and elsewhere. For example, Barcelona and Berlin have mean carbon densities of 7.3 and 11.2 t/ha respectively; major cities in the US have values of 7.7 t/ha and in China the equivalent figure is 21.3 t/ha.

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Belize’s Coral Reef Protection Praised

After years of being threatened by human activity the Belize Barrier Reef is getting some relief. The government of Belize has been praised by UNESCO for taking some neat initiative to save the reef. Back in 1996 the reef was added to UNESCO’s world heritage sites which stirred the government into action. The progress of protections of the coral reef has increased over the years and hopefully other governments will follow the lead of Belize.

In December 2017, lawmakers passed a landmark moratorium on oil exploration in Belizean waters, which makes it one of only a handful of countries in the world with such legislation.

At its meeting in Bahrain on Monday, Unesco praised Belize’s “visionary plan to manage the coastline”, saying that “the level of conservation we hoped for has been achieved”.

The decision comes just under a year after Unesco opted not to place the Great Barrier Reef on its “in danger” list, arguing that Australia had taken action to preserve it.

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How Nations Worked Together to Address the Ozone Hole

Way back in 1987 nations of the world signed the Montreal Protocol to address some environmental problems. The biggest environmental issue discussed at the time was the hole in the ozone layer and thanks to everyone confronting it the hole in the ozone layer is basically gone. It’s proof that if the political will is there then we can solve any global environmental problem by working together!

We don’t hear much about the hole in the ozone layer anymore. That’s because we’ve all but fixed it, thanks to consumer choices and a massive international agreement called the Montreal Protocol. Can we learn anything from this environmental success story that will help us fix climate change?

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