What do termites have to do with climate change? Potentially a lot, according to research recently published in Science (subscription required to read the full text of the study). Through their excavations, termites actually change the composition of soil in the African savanna. The tunnels the termites create hold water better and the insects will add clay or sand to soil depending on whether its too loose or stiff, turning their mounds into “nutrient islands” where both vegetation and other animals thrive better than in the surrounding land. Even in times of low rainfall the researchers show that termite mounds keep vegetation while vegetation around the mounds decreases. And when rains return, the termite homes help bring vegetation back to the entire area. This means “that the termite mounds are an insurance policy against climate change, protecting the vegetation on them from water scarcity,” writes Science senior correspondent Elizabeth Pennisi about the research. The research suggests that if land with termite mounds is turned into farmland the resiliency the mounds offer could be lost as well, making it much easier for the landscape to become degraded for good.
How treatment of homes for termites decades ago may cause diabetes today
Obesity has been accepted as a risk factor for diabetes but results of four recently published studies have now revealed that insecticides in fat of patients may be the real risk factor. The initial investigations showed that the expected association between obesity and diabetes/insulin resistance was absent in people who had low levels of organochlorine insecticides in their blood (1, 2). However, the expected association between obesity and diabetes/insulin resistance increased with levels of these insecticides....
Times are changing: Wastewater as a resource
Times are definitely changing. It used to be that wastewater from whatever source – domestic, agricultural, industrial – was something to collect and pipe away as quickly and efficiently as possible. There was more water coming out of the ground or falling from the sky, so why bother investing time and money cleaning water that had already been used? Now, thanks to issues like population growth and climate change, more and more people around the planet are realizing that water can be treated and...
The best way to restore environments in the face of climate change
Florida’s Kissimmee River once flowed freely. Fish, birds and other wildlife dwelled in the wetlands it fed. But in the 1960s, spurred by public outrage over flooding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers straightened the winding waterway and turned it into a drainage canal. Flip forward a few decades and the river is returning — at least in part. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has partnered with the South Florida Water Management District on the Kissimmee River Restoration Project, aiming to restore a...
Climate Change Threatens Coral
For many years environmentalists have stressed the importance of coral to the environment. Scientists estimate some kinds of coral have existed on earth for hundreds of millions of years. Currently, though, anthropogenic activity, especially CO2 emissions, pose a significant threat to coral populations. Coral reefs are irreplaceable; by implementing conservation strategies, protection plans, and climate change mitigation strategies, we can help preserve some of the most invaluable organisms on the planet. What...
Climate change is more than a tech problem, so we need more than a tech solution
At the COP 21 climate convention in Paris at the end of 2015, leaders from 194 nations agreed to pursue actions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming within 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) above pre-industrial conditions. Meeting this goal will avoid continued and increasing harm to people and ecosystems around the world caused by a changing climate, and it is also a great opportunity to turn the world into a place that embodies our collective and pluralistic values for the future. Neverthele...