Featured Image: African Savannah elephants have been long-renowned for their importance in shaping the land they live on. Copyright: CC BY-SA 4.0, via wikimedia commons.
Paper: Elephant rewilding affects landscape openness and fauna habitat across a 92-year period
Authors: Christopher E. Gordon, Michelle Greve, Michelle Henley, Anka Bedetti, Paul Allin & Jens-Christian Svenning
Elephants have an enormous impact on their surrounding environment, particularly through their impact on the openness of the savannah, earning them a reputation as “ecosystem engineers”. Species like elephants, with important influences on the landscape around them, are being studied in efforts to rewild parts of the planet; restoring ecosystems in ways that they can sustain themselves. A recent paper by Gordon et al. explores elephant rewilding across South Africa and assesses its effect on vegetation and animal species across various nature reserves and time spans dating back to 1927.
Continue reading “How Elephants Impact the Savannah of South Africa: A Case Study in Rewilding“
Featured Image: Carson’s pioneering work in 1962 made environmental issues a topic that could no longer be ignored. Photo by Frank Hebbert via. Flickr, CC BY 2.0.
Book: Silent Spring (1962)
Author: Rachel Carson
We recently reached a milestone in our history: the amount of land used for farming is now declining, reversing millennia of expansion since early farming gave rise to larger civilizations. This has sparked a debate about how we should use remaining farmland – for example, to restore habitats – and how we can farm more efficiently. As our population continues to grow, and peak at the end of this century, we need to create more food from less land with a reduced environmental impact.
Continue reading “The Book that Launched the Environmental Movement”
Featured Image: It is well-understood that the Earth’s biodiversity is in severe decline. However, it is less clear if this decline can now be called a mass extinction. Public domain image via. The Wilderness Society.
Paper: The Sixth Mass Extinction: fact, fiction, or speculation?
Authors: Robert H Cowie, Philippe Bouchet & Benoît Fontaine
Human-driven emissions and land use changes have impacted Earth’s biosphere greatly, causing global extinction rates to climb fast. However, does the current undeniable biodiversity crisis meet the requirements to be called a mass extinction?
Continue reading “Getting to Grips With the Sixth Mass Extinction”
Featured Image: Yellowstone National Park attracts millions of people a year and has been a major focal point for discussions about supervolcanoes in recent decades. Public domain image via pixabay.
Paper: Capturing the Extreme in Volcanology: The Case for the Term “Supervolcano”
Authors: S. De Silva & S. Self
The earth sciences can be challenging to communicate. Definitions change over time and, in some cases, become widely reported in the media and often without a formal definition. A recent paper by Shanaka de Silva and Stephen Self addresses these issues surrounding the popular word “supervolcano.” The authors discuss the variables used to distinguish between these extreme events and regular eruptions. They then suggest a new working definition for researchers to use moving forward, clearing up much confusion that surrounds the word. The concept of supereruptions exploded in popularity after the 2005 Discovery TV/BBC documentary Supervolcano, promoted with the by-line “Is Yellowstone Overdue?“
Continue reading “What Makes a Supervolcano “Super”?”
Featured Image: Machine Learning has proven itself to be an effective tool in interdisciplinary research, but how can it be useful in understanding climate change? CC BY-NC 4.0, via. Dean Long
Paper: Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning (Chapter 8)
Authors: David Rolnick et al.
Machine Learning (ML) gives researchers extremely valuable ways of revealing patterns within enormous datasets, and making predictions. Climate change research is one of many fields that is beginning to explore ML approaches. There are three major areas of interest: (1) climate prediction/modeling, (2) assessing impacts, and (3) exploring solutions as we attempt to decarbonize energy production. Rolnick and his coworkers explored the merit of machine learning in climate research and where it can support scientists best. The authors also call for greater collaboration between researchers of different backgrounds to advance our understanding of such a complex issue.
Continue reading “How Machine Learning Helps in the Fight Against Climate Change”
Feature Image: Outcrop of volcanic rock associated with the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province. This Large Igneous Province has a strong correlation to the onset of a mass extinction ~200 million years ago, however, an exact mechanism for the extinction has been difficult to determine. CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Paper: Two-pronged kill mechanism at the end-Triassic mass extinction
Authors: Calum P. Fox; Jessica H. Whiteside; Paul E. Olsen; Xingquian Cui; Roger E. Summons; Kliti Grice
A recent study by Calum Fox and colleagues sheds light on what caused one of the “big five” mass extinctions on Earth since complex life emerged ~540 million years ago. They found that repeated pulses of volcanic activity were responsible for the extinction in two main ways: ocean poisoning caused by gaseous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) rising through the water column (known as euxinia) and ocean acidification.
Continue reading “What caused the end-Triassic Mass Extinction in the Oceans?”
Feature Image: Huge amounts of waste symbolise the impact of human activity on the Earth System. Public domain image by Antoine Giret
Paper: The Anthropocene: Comparing Its Meaning in Geology (Chronostratigraphy) with Conceptual Approaches Arising in Other Disciplines
Authors: Jan Zalasiewicz et al.
Journal: Earth’s Future
We are now entering a new geologic time due to the planetary-scale impact of human activity. The Anthropocene is widely accepted as this new epoch, but debate is still ongoing about its scientific basis and when this new epoch began. As so many different disciplines are involved in defining and characterizing the Anthropocene, it has become difficult to properly define. A recent paper by Jan Zalasiewicz and colleagues aims to provide context as the broad subject spills over into other areas of science, art and the humanities. They emphasise that future studies should stick to the original stratigraphic and Earth System Science meaning of the term to avoid confusion around the term.
Continue reading “Defining and Contextualising the Anthropocene”
Feature image from Pixabay
Article: Rhetoric and Frame Analysis of ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications
Authors: Geoffrey Supran & Naomi Oreskes
It’s no secret that ExxonMobil is a major architect of the climate crisis. The oil giants have allocated incredible amounts of time and resources to undermining climate science while continuing to pollute the planet. Now, a recent One Earth publication by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes unpacks the way Exxon has so successfully spread propaganda while borrowing techniques from another destructive industry: that of tobacco. Exxon and other oil companies (often supported by powerful right-wing think tanks) have embarked on a propaganda campaign that has morphed from outright denial into a campaign aimed at distracting us, dividing political opinion, and convincing us that climate action is hopeless. Supran and Oreskes delve into the evolution of Exxon’s harmful contribution to this narrative.
Continue reading “ExxonMobil and Climate Change Communications: A Case Study in Propaganda”