Human technology

Peatlands, banks and bubble barriers: five major projects to protect nature | Biodiversity

1. Save the prairies

The common names of Glade Clover, Cream Clover, and Porter’s Goldenrod may evoke the tumultuous colors of a blossoming summer meadow, but these particular plants are also discreetly hidden away in a conservation seed bank that , it is hoped, will secure the future of North America. grassland plant populations.

Changes in land and sea use are the main driver of biodiversity loss around the world – and grassland loss is “the biggest conservation problem facing the biodiversity of eastern North America. North is currently facing, “according to the Southeast Grasslands Initiative (SGI) at the Center of Excellence for Field Biology, Austin Peay State University, which works to conserve and restore this crucial ecosystem.

Last year he launched a conservation seed bank (CSB) to preserve vulnerable populations of rare and declining grassland species. Cooper Breeden, Director of Plant Conservation at SGI, says: “One of the reasons we decided to sue CSB was that the loss of our rare plant populations outweighs efforts to conserve them in many cases. , but not for lack of effort. There is simply not enough funding and capacity for conservation.

Open meadow at the May Prairie in Manchester, Tennessee. Grasslands once covered about 7 to 10 million acres in the southeastern United States, according to SGI. Photograph: Mark Humphrey / AP

“We have sought to fill the void by striving to collect rare and declining grassland species in the southeast, particularly targeting populations that are particularly vulnerable and are not currently receiving much conservation attention.”

As of August 2020, the team has collected more than 35,000 seeds from 66 collections of 29 species.

But SGI’s work doesn’t end with the seed bank. “Ideally, we try to keep populations where they are,” explains Breeden. “The ultimate goal of these collections is to support the survival of populations in the wild.”

The next step is an interactive map that will allow users to see what species are in the seed bank and where they came from. “The purpose of making some of our collection data easily accessible to the public is that it could serve as a resource for our partners involved in grassland conservation in the region,” he says.

“As the capacity of our conservation community increases, there will be more and more opportunities to put these seeds back into the ground. “

2. Wastewater recycling

Sixty billion tonnes Renewable and non-renewable resources are extracted around the world every year, making the direct exploitation of resources, alongside the exploitation of organisms, the second largest driver of biodiversity loss. As for water, global consumption has grown by around 1% per year since the 1980s, and global water demand is expected to continue to grow at a similar rate until 2050, according to the United Nations World Water Development Report 2019.

Aerial view of a water treatment plant in Savannah, Georgia, USA.  In 1998, the City of Savannah built and began operating a Recovered Water System (RWS).  Recovered water is old wastewater (wastewater) that has been treated and purified for reuse, rather than being discharged into a body of water.
An aerial view of a water treatment plant in Savannah, Georgia. In 1998, the American city built a reclaimed water system to treat wastewater. Photograph: Jason Hawkes / Getty Images

Desalination plants have been the center of attention, but as California cities in Sydney battle drought and water shortages, they turn to Israel and Singapore for advice on how to recycle waste. waste. Globally, 80% of wastewater is currently returning to the ecosystem without being processed or reused.

Over the decades, Israel has invested heavily in wastewater treatment, alongside desalination plants, recycle almost 90% by wastewater treatment plants, which redirect the treated water to irrigation. The sludge by-product is used as a fertilizer and to generate biogas.

In Singapore, five NEWater factories cover up to 40% of the country’s water needs by recycling, according to the national water agency. By 2060, NEWater is expected to meet up to 55% of demand. Its 48 km long deep tunnel sewage system (DTSS), a wastewater highway, transports wastewater to recovery plants to be treated and purified into recovered water or discharged into the sea. When a second phase of the project, currently underway, is completed, the stations pumping and conventional water recovery plants will be phased out, freeing up land.

3. Protect peatlands

They don’t look glamorous or the star, but bogs and bogs hold one of the keys to tackling the climate crisis. While peatlands cover only 3% of the world’s land surface, they store nearly 550 billion tonnes of carbon – twice as many as in all the forests of the world.

Old Ralphs Cross and bog on Westerdale Moor, North York Moors National Park.
Bogs on Westerdale Moor in the North York Moors, England. About 10% of the UK is covered in bogs. Photograph: Mike Kipling Photography / Alamy

About 10% of the UK is covered in bogs. However, much of it is degraded and estimates suggest that British peatlands could emit the equivalent of 23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Restoring degraded peatlands could stop these emissions and create biodiversity benefits for wildlife, including plants, birds and insects.

The Great North Bog – which includes four National Parks, three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Pennines Park Project – accounts for around 92% of England’s highland peat moss and is one of the major restoration projects from the United Kingdom.

The project, led by the North Pennines AONB Partnership, the Yorkshire Peat Partnership and the Moors for the Future Partnership, aims to restore nearly 7,000 km2 of upland peat, which stores 400 million tonnes of carbon. Damaged peat in the Far North peat bog currently releases around 4.4 million tonnes of carbon per year, but project organizers hope that “by joining some of Europe’s most successful peatland restoration organizations, we can bring about radical and urgent change in saving the majority of the peatlands of the highlands of England before it is too late “.

4. Fight against plastic pollution

Scientists have predicted that over the next 20 years, the amount of plastic waste in the oceans is expected to nearly triple in volume, from around 8 million tonnes per year today to 29 million tonnes by 2040. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the plastics crisis, but scientists, inventors and volunteers around the world are exploring a myriad of ways to overcome it.

A team from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University in the United States is trying to pull all of this information into one “inventory of plastic pollution prevention and collection technologies”. Among the 52 technologies included to date are the Large bubble barrier, where “tubes placed diagonally at the bottom of the waterway create a bubble barrier by pumping air, creating a current which brings the debris to the surface and guides it to a collection system”; the Holy Turtle, a 1,000-foot floating unit that is towed by two vessels and captures floating waste; and Put it away, don’t throw it away, a youth-led initiative that recycles tennis ball containers into fishing line recycling bins for fishermen.

The bubble barrier was developed as a simple way to stop plastic pollution flowing from waterways into the ocean.  An air compressor sends air through a perforated tube that runs diagonally across the bottom of the channel, creating a flow of bubbles that trap waste and guide it to a collection system.  According to the Dutch social enterprise behind the system, it traps 86% of the waste that would otherwise flow into the IJ River and further into the North Sea.
The bubble barrier is one of 52 plastic pollution prevention technologies listed in an inventory compiled by the team at Duke University. Photography: Courtesy of The Great Bubble Barrier

Zoie Diana, PhD student in the Department of Marine Sciences and Conservation at Duke University and one of the team members behind the inventory, says they aim to add more than 40 new technologies by the start of next year. “We hope that our study and inventory will serve as a tool to prevent plastic from entering waterways and collecting existing pollution, complementing ongoing efforts to reduce the generation of plastic pollution further up in its cycle. of life.”

5. Dealing with invasive species

It is estimated that at least 107 highly endangered birds, mammals and reptiles have benefited from the eradication of invasive mammals on the islands, according to a study published in 2016. “Although still few in number and localized in space, such cases show that with swift and appropriate action, it is possible to reduce rates of human-made extinction,” the intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services (Overall assessment of IPBES) Noted.

An ermine trap by the Milford Track, a hiking route on the South Island, New Zealand
A stoat trap on the South Island of New Zealand. Traps and bait stations are used to control specific pests but not harm others. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod / The Guardian

New Zealand is at the forefront of this action and is committed to eradicating stoats, possums and rats by mid-century under its Predator Free 2050 package, using a mix of Trapping, Hunting, Poison, and Tech. But he is also experimenting with other projects. A specially designed predator exclusion fence erected to protect 6,000 square meters of prime habitat for endangered species robust grasshopper, considered to be the world’s first fenced habitat designed for an insect.

The goal of New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 program is to “restore the voices of insects, bats, reptiles and birds to forests, farmlands, towns, cities and coasts.” Currently, 74% of the country’s native landbirds, 84% of its native reptile species and 46% of vascular plant species are threatened or at risk of becoming extinct, according to the Department of Conservation. But for five years Free Predator 2050 was launched, the number of birds such as the kea, kākā, kākāriki, Antipodes snipe and TÅ«Ä« have all increased, according to one five-year progress report.

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