News: Solar panels used over canal systems

In recent news, researchers have been studying the idea of installing solar panels over the top of canal systems. In short, this can help reduce evaporation of water, help plant growth and be used as a space for renewable energy. An article published in the Nature journal also argued that the idea of installing solar panels over canal systems outweigh the ecological and financial alternatives of installing them elsewhere; concluding that this method produces 20%-50% more solar power than conventional methods.

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How drone technology can aid people and the environment

The past decade has witnessed an increased use of drone technology within different environmental roles. From farmers to scientists, drones are now being used to reduce farming costs or help survey plant and animal populations in remote areas. Below is a short list consisting of the different tasks drones can be used to help the environment and scientific research.

Reducing the cost of farming

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Drones can help with farming tasks such as planting, crop spraying, monitoring and irrigation. Increasing the success rates of planting crops whilst also decreasing planting costs. In terms of crop spraying, drones can reduce the amount amount of chemicals that work their way into ground water whilst completing the task up to five times faster than traditional machinery.

Renewable energy maintenance

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Inspecting tall structures such as wind turbines are another way drones help reduce risk and increase efficiency. Drones are now used to help with maintenance surveys and collect data on solar panel installation as well.

Ariel mapping

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Drones can also help map and collect data on areas which may be hard to reach for people on the ground. For example, environmental scientists are using drones to help survey mangroves, coral reefs and tropical rainforests. Making the task more efficient and also safer for the researchers involved.

Population surveillance

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Drone technology is also used to monitor wildlife movement, track population numbers and survey habitats. This method makes it a lot easier for ecologists to get a more accurate number of a certain species whilst reducing the risks of interfering with the animals themselves.

Disaster relief

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Finally, drones are also used to help prevent and assess natural disasters such as wildfires or typhoons. For example, In the Philippines during 2013 drones were used to assess the damage of a typhoon and help migrate people whilst finding the most ideal places for reconstruction.

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Drones used to repopulate forests

A recent strategy to repopulate forests uses drones to plant seeds at a safer and faster way than humans can. In different parts of the world, organisations are using drones to restore forests damaged by wildfires and other consequences of climate change.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiOPdJCukNg&ab_channel=Reuters

This short video summaries what is taking place in the United States and the process which takes place. This company’s website gives a more detailed look into how they operate.

In the UK, organisations are using drone planting techniques in order to solve the issue of Ash dieback. Ash dieback is common in most parts of Europe and is a fungal disease which often spreads from tree to tree. Therefore, the seed spreading drone program aims to help repopulate forests with healthier trees.

One UK tech company, Dendra, is aiming to plant 500 billion trees by 2060. This idea could help restore forests which are being lost to deforestation due to organisations profiteering from the newly cleared land, for example the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

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In Myanmar people are tweaking the technology to plant mangrove trees along coastal areas and places hard to reach on foot. This new innovative design looks promising as not only are the drones used to plant trees at much higher rates and in places hard to reach, they are also used to help scan sections of woodland and provide information on specific areas of forests.

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Sustainable ideas for homes

Making your home more sustainable can be achieved in various ways and can introduce some interesting and exciting new ideas. Below are some practical ideas as well as some experimental prototypes.

Sustainable heating systems: Switching from a gas boiler can improve the sustainability of your home and in some cases save you money. If you would like more detailed information then check the hyperlink above. Three alternative heating systems I found from the website were the electrical resistance heating, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps.

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Sustainable water systems: Again, for more in-depth information follow the hyperlink in the title. One important point I found from the website was that two central branches for sustainable water involve introducing water-efficient devices and/or using alternative water sources to supply the household.

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Tesla solar panel roofing: This involves replacing typical roof tiles with roof tiles that are also solar panels. Efficient as they maximise the space a roof can capture solar energy whilst demonstrating a modern style.

Solar panel windows: A new innovative design that replaces normal windows with clear solar panel windows. This idea is still in its infancy and being tested but could prove to be a valuable investment. Given time for transition, with enough buildings installing solar windows this could alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels for energy usage.

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Growing your own food: This is a fun and relatively easy way to reduce your dependence on supermarkets, all it takes is a little patience and saves a little money. Plastic used by supermarkets creates a lot of waste and vegetables tend to always be packaged in plastic wrapping. If you’re growing food indoors, growing near a window seal is beneficial or using artificial lights. Regardless of where you decide to grow your plants, there are sustainable techniques to growing food that are universal. Different techniques involve composting green waste, saving seeds from vegetables and mulching. Growing your own food whether in little pots by your window or in big planters in the garden is a simple solution toward being more sustainable.

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Hopefully this post offers some insight on how to make your home more sustainable, given you an activity to do during lockdown or at the very least been an interesting read.

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Why bees are integral to our ecosystems and how to restore their population

Whilst forests play an important part in maintaining habitats and provide carbon traps, bees help pollinate the food we eat as well as the trees and plants that make up forests. We rely on them to maintain a biodiverse landscape as well as pollinate 90% of food worldwide.

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We are experiencing a global decline in bee diversity and population which is a serious issue as they pollinate a large percentage of our food supply. The reasons for this loss can vary depending of geographical location. Generally, bee population decline is due to the use of pesticides, such as the ones recently allowed in the UK. Climate change also disrupts bee populations from unstable plant diversity and unpredictable weather patterns. Finally, monoculture such as palm oil plantations presents a lack of biodiversity and commercial development both impact bee populations and their chances of survival.

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There are many different ways the bee population can be restored. For example, the National Wildlife Federation has comprised a list of six different solutions:

  • Plant natives – These are accustom to your local ecosystem, provide bees with sustainable food and do not require fertilizer.
  • New garden areas – Add new garden beds and encourage others to plant more flowers.
  • Organic – Refrain from using insecticides and chemicals in your garden.
  • Water – Place shallow pools of water in your garden for bees and other pollinators to thrive.
  • Nesting places – Create nesting places in your garden to increase the likelihood of the bee population increasing.
  • Responsibility – Raise awareness of the issue and inspire others to follow the same list of resolutions.

Others suggest planting bee friendly plants to adhere more to their needs or even going further and advocating for bee protection at different levels of government.

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‘Slowing down and even reversing habitat destruction and land-conversion to intensive uses, implementation of environmentally friendly schemes in agricultural and urban settings, and programs to flower our world are urgently required. Bees cannot wait’ – Zattara, E. Aizen, M. (2021)

No matter what we decide to do in resolving this growing issue, it is undoubtedly vital that bees and other pollinators populations increase otherwise our food security and biodiversity of the planet will severely suffer.

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News: Urban gardens are crucial in conserving bees and butterflies

A recent study found that urban areas can offer hotspots of urban floral diversity. Stating further how the individual gardener has an important role to play in maintaining the population size of many different pollinators.

‘Urban nectar is supplied by a diverse community of flowering plants, heavily comprised of non‐native species. Residential gardens are the key land use underpinning nectar sugar production within urban landscapes, providing both an abundance and diversity of floral resources’ – Quantifying nectar production by flowering plants in urban and rural landscapes

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Sustainable forest management and adaptation to climate change

Sustainable forest management can be defined as ‘outcomes that are socially just, ecologically sound and economically viable – the three pillars of sustainability‘. Each pillar is needed in order for a forests to thrive, if one of these pillars is missing a forest cannot be protected.

Depending on the type of forest that is being managed, such as a rainforest or a boreal forest, the management of that forest will vary. Management needs to be specific to the type of ecosystem that the forest resides, tailor to the legal framework and socio-cultural aspects depending on what nation the forest is found in. Although, there are objective requirements that all forests should include.

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Climate change can present many uncertainties when managing forests, therefore a forest should be adapting to promote resilience against the threat of droughts, damage from pests, diseases and wild fire. One way this can be achieved is by practicing silviculture, which consists of controlling the structure and dynamics of a forest. In managing a forest one needs to take an adaptive approach as the climate is constantly changing. Additionally, aside from climate change other influences may include timber prices, land use change and recreational use. There are often extreme conditions one may have to plan for as well, such as extreme drought or rainfall, these are conditions that may need individual and adaptive plans for these issues.

‘Adaptive management is an iterative process in which it is important to test new systems and ideas and judge how these perform under extreme climatic conditions’ – Climate change: impacts and adaptation in England’s woodlands

It is important to focus on why and how a forest needs to be managed but also on the adaptive measures that need to be facilitated in order to prevent these issues from destroying forests.

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Current research suggest that the adaptation of forests must be tailored to local communities. This is important as adaptations strategies vary among geographical location and the type of forest present.

Some strategies involve planting drought-resistant trees to provide food security and reduce erosion. Other strategies invest in forest genetic research and breeding programmes. This improves forestry growth rates and resilience to disease. Alternatively, focusing on restoring biodiversity can increase the resilience of an ecosystem and restore habitat loss.

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Local adaptation methods may involve maintaining the quality of water surrounding a forest. In dry regions, sourcing scarce water sources can help maintain a forest by providing healthy sustenance. Another local strategy may be encouraging the increase of rare species of a certain tree to make the population more abundant. This can help particularly if that certain species is a valuable asset to the local community. However, local strategies has its limitations as local information is rarely documented and often preserved for a few members of the community. Also, a globalised market can impact the infrastructure of a local self-sufficient rural community.

In summary, adapting forests for climate change cannot be solved with one over-arching solution. Each forest, depending on region, will need to have specific adaptation strategies specific to that region. As climate change is a complex issue with unpredictable outcomes, adapting for a worst case scenario may be as complex as the issue itself. Therefore, in order to enable sustainable strategies which maintain the health of a forest, it is important to plan and put systems in place to better enable these adaptive strategies.

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Agricultural strategies to climate change

One consequence of global warming and climate change is unpredictable weather patterns and extreme weather. The agricultural industry rely on predictable weather patterns in order to produce the most yield from their crop, however, global warming is affecting the production of this crop on a international scale.

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Many people have been looking toward adaptive measures in order to deal with unpredictable weather. For example, one approach being Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) aimed at increasing sustainable agricultural productivity, reduce emissions and helping food systems build resilience to a changing climate.

One of the main reasons for healthy soil, apart from the production of crops, is that soil is the second largest carbon sink after oceans – making it a highly valuable resource but also one that is most vulnerable to climate change. The EU have a strategy which can help protect soil from climate change but the European Environment Agency claim that a lot more information is still needed in order to implement long-term sustainable solutions.

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Others have suggested strategies which aim to make agriculture more resilient such as building healthier soil or developing new crop varieties and farming practices. One agricultural practice some suggest to use in order to tackle climate change is permaculture. Permaculture is centred around simulating the patterns and features observed in the natural ecosystem. Some have suggested that permaculture techniques can improve efficacy and sustain limited farm resources. Permaculture can be used in a variety of different environments, which is helpful as we need need something that functions like a natural habitat but also meets our needs.


These are just some of the strategies and difficulties people have expressed as climate change worsens, farming and agriculture needs to be thought of thoroughly as our current mass produced scale is something that is fragile and can easily be disrupted.

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The benefits of rewilding and biodiversity

‘The term biodiversity (from the phrase “biological diversity”) refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life’

– greenmatters.com

Biodiversity is needed as we rely on different ecosystems to provide water, food and medicine. If one species becomes extinct, this often creates a collateral affect on other species, increasing the loss of biodiversity within different ecosystems.

Without these intricate ecosystems human societies could not exist. The different benefits which we draw from these ecosystems is known as ecosystem services.

Due to the increase in the human population and deforestation, biodiversity is at a rapid decline, meaning different species are set to become extinct in unprecedented numbers and the ecosystems we rely on are starting to disappear.

However, one solution to the rapid loss of biodiversity is rewilding nature.

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‘Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats’

– rewildingeurope.com

This definition provides a broad overview of rewilding, however different types of rewilding also exist.

Passive rewilding: Aims to reduce human interference by letting nature take its course and thrive on its own

Pleistocene rewilding: During the Pleistocene era, a mass extinction of megafauna occurred. Some believe this left an imbalance to our ecosystems, this approach suggests including non-native species into different ecosystems to restore a balance of different species.

Translocation rewilding: A proactive approach which reintroduces species which were previously lost from certain ecosystems, with the goal of restoring areas to a state of previous wellbeing.

Rewilding not only applies to rural areas but also to urban landscapes as well. The benefits of green urban areas can be made possible by increasing the number of forests and parks in cities as well as reduced pesticides and harmful management. Allowing for a more environmentally friendly landscape has also led to some interesting developments, such as those currently underway in Singapore.

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Global climate change solutions

The problems climate change presents can seem complex at first, however below I have attempted to separate the solutions to this overwhelming problem into two categories. In order to better understand what can and must be done to prevent further damage from climate change, it is best to look at what we can do through repairing our planet and making transitions which are more sustainable for all life on earth.

Repair

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Transition

We cannot simply tackle every single issue climate change presents us with, although with divided attention each nation can do their part to work toward these issues. The natural world is defined by its many different cycles which helps operate life on earth, these issues work similarly in the way that one often has a collateral impact on the other. Therefore, we cannot focus on one single issue either as this will not be sufficient enough to slow down the consequences of our changing climate.

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