Humpback Whale Singing at a Norwegian Feeding Ground

Humpback Whales Underwater

Papers: Changes in humpback whale song structure and complexity reveal a rapid evolution on a feeding ground in Northern Norway; Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Song on a Subarctic Feeding Ground

Authors: Saskia C. Tyarks, Ana S. Aniceto, Heidi Ahonen, Geir Pedersen and Ulf Lindstrøm

Featured Image: Humpback whales swimming near Tonga. Photo by Elianne Dipp.

US Navy engineer Frank Watlington was searching for Russian submarines in the 1950s when his underwater microphone picked up some otherworldly noises: humpback whale singing. He was amazed to realize that the whale vocalizations were arranged in an intricate pattern that repeated itself in a song-like manner, with a similar structure to music composed by humans. 

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Nature’s Secret Weapon: How Nature-based Solutions Can Tackle Climate Change and More

Featured Image: Two striking illustrations of the river Culm catchment in the UK. Created by local artist Richard Carman, the left image shows the existing (degraded) situation, while the right image depicts a co-created nature-based solutions scenario developed in collaboration with local stakeholders, including farmers and landowners, as part of the Co-Adapt project. These illustrations provide a clear visual representation of how nature-based solutions can be used to address environmental challenges in the area.

Papers: Soil carbon sequestration impacts on global climate change and food security; Climate-smart Soils; IPCC (2014) Report on Mitigation of Climate Change; Synthesizing US River Restoration Efforts; Limited potential of no-till agriculture for climate change mitigation; Sequestering carbon in soils of agro-ecosystems; Crop Residue Removal Impacts on Soil Productivity and Environmental Quality; Towards an EU research and innovation policy agenda for nature-based solutions & re-naturing cities.

Authors: Rattan Lal, Keith Paustian, Johannes Lehmann, Stephen Ogle, David Reay, Philip G. Robertson, Pete Smith, Humberto Blanco-Canqui and more.

Are you worried about the impact of climate change on our planet and wondering what you can do to help? Look no further than nature itself, because nature-based solutions may just hold the key to mitigating its effects through soil carbon sequestration.

Climate change is an ongoing problem that poses a significant threat to our planet. Many strategies have been proposed to mitigate climate change, including renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, and nature-based solutions (NbS). Among these, NbS have gained considerable attention because they offer a range of benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating the impact of natural disasters such as floods and droughts, and improving biodiversity.

But what are NbS, and how can they help in mitigating climate change? Nature-based solutions are interventions that work with nature to address environmental challenges. These solutions involve restoring, protecting, and managing ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands. One of the significant benefits of NbS is soil carbon sequestration, which refers to the process of capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in soil.

Soil carbon sequestration is a powerful tool to mitigate climate change because it can store carbon for decades or even centuries. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), soil carbon sequestration can reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations by up to 15% by 2050. This approach has gained traction in Europe, where various projects have been implemented to sequester carbon in soils.

For example, in the UK, the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit is a non-profit organization that works with farmers to adopt practices that increase soil carbon levels. One such practice is the use of cover crops, which are planted between cash crops to prevent soil erosion, improve soil health, and increase carbon sequestration. According to the organization’s website, “the planting of cover crops, such as clover, can increase soil organic matter and carbon content by up to 15% over ten years.”

Similarly, in France, the 4 per 1000 initiative aims to increase soil carbon content by 0.4% per year. This initiative focuses on a range of NbS, such as agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and the use of biochar. According to a study published in the journal Nature, increasing soil carbon by 0.4% per year could offset around 3.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Soil carbon sequestration through NbS not only helps mitigate climate change but also has several co-benefits. For example, it can improve soil health, increase agricultural productivity, and reduce the risk of natural disasters such as floods and droughts. As Dr. Pauline Chivenge, a soil scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, explains:

”If we improve soil health, we can improve crop yields, and that translates into better nutrition and food security for communities”

However, it’s important to note that soil carbon sequestration alone cannot solve the climate crisis. We also need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, promote renewable energy, involve the local community and implement other sustainable practices. Nonetheless, soil carbon sequestration is an important piece of the puzzle and should be considered as part of a comprehensive climate action plan.

In conclusion, nature-based solutions such as soil carbon sequestration offer a promising strategy for mitigating climate change while providing multiple benefits. By implementing NbS practices such as agroforestry, cover crops, and conservation agriculture, we can increase soil carbon levels, improve soil health, and enhance biodiversity. By implementing NbS practices, we can all contribute to mitigating the impacts of climate change and promoting sustainable development. Here are some ways you can get involved:

  1. Educate yourself: Learn about the benefits and potential of nature-based solutions in addressing environmental challenges. Read about case studies, best practices, and research on nature-based solutions.
  2. Advocate for nature-based solutions: Speak up about the benefits of nature-based solutions in conversations with family, friends, colleagues, and community members. Encourage local leaders to consider nature-based solutions in planning and decision-making.
  3. Support conservation efforts: Donate to conservation organizations or volunteer for conservation efforts in your community. Protecting natural areas can support nature-based solutions and the ecosystem services they provide.
  4. Plant trees and native plants: Trees and native plants play an important role in sequestering carbon, improving air and water quality, and supporting biodiversity. Planting trees and native plants in your yard or community can support nature-based solutions.
  5. Support sustainable agriculture: Sustainable agriculture practices, such as agroforestry and regenerative agriculture, can support nature-based solutions by promoting soil health, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration.
  6. Participate in citizen science: Citizen science projects can provide valuable data for understanding environmental challenges and the effectiveness of nature-based solutions. Participate in citizen science projects in your community or online
  7. Support green infrastructure: Green infrastructure, such as green roofs and bioswales, can support nature-based solutions by reducing stormwater runoff and improving air quality. Encourage your community to invest in green infrastructure or start from your own garden by removing paved surfaces and replacing them with greenery, make your own compost etc..
  8. Support policies and funding for nature-based solutions: Policy changes and funding can help support the uptake of nature-based solutions at local and national levels. Support policies and funding initiatives that promote nature-based solutions.

By taking action and supporting NbS practices, we can all make a difference in the fight against climate change. As Dr. Bedford, a climate change expert, reminds us:

”We all have a role to play in addressing the challenges of climate change, and implementing nature-based solutions is one of the most effective ways to do so.”


Nature’s Secret Weapon: How Nature-based Solutions Can Tackle Climate Change and More by Borjana Bogatinoska is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Eunice Foote, the original founder of climate change dynamics

Featured Image: Artist rendition of Eunice Foote conducting research on compressed gasses. Image courtesy Carlyn Iverson, NOAA.  Featured image courtesy GNU Free Documentation License

Papers: Circumstances affecting the heat of the Sun’s rays; Understanding Eunice Foote’s 1856 experiments: heat absorption by atmospheric gases

Authors: Eunice Foote; Joseph Ortiz and Ronald Jackson

“An atmosphere of [carbon dioxide] would give our Earth a high temperature.”

These words were spoken out loud in August of 1856 at the 10th annual meeting of AAAS, though not by their author. The speaker continues on to suggest that, “[if] at one period of its history the air had mixed with [carbon dioxide] a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature…must have necessarily resulted.” This paper was the first recorded finding of the link between carbon dioxide and global warming, and was discovered by the female physicist and scientist, Eunice Foote. While these findings were remarkable on their own, she synthesized the implications to correctly state that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere both increase global warming and can explain Earth’s geologic history, specifically regarding the Devonian period1,2.  Despite being on the sidelines of science at the time because of her gender, Eunice Foote provided fundamental and groundbreaking knowledge in the field of gaseous physics. 

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How Elephants Impact the Savannah of South Africa: A Case Study in Rewilding

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. 

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Soot in the water – Understanding oceans’ carbon cycle

Featuring image: soot produced by incomplete burning by fossil fuels. Picture: Pxhere, Public Domain (C0)

Paper: Hydrothermal-derived black carbon as a source of recalcitrant dissolved organic carbon in the ocean

Authors: Y. Yamashita, Y. Mori, H. Ogawa

Earth’s oceans not only harbour a multitude of organisms, they are also a major carbon sink, compensating the increased production of carbon by humans and thus slowing down climate change. But could hydrothermal vents be another source of carbon in the oceans themselves?

A lot of the carbon that is produced on land by organisms and industry is transported into the oceans by rivers and wind. Black carbon (or soot), which is for example produced by incomplete burning of fossil fuels, can be stored in the oceans and remain inaccessible for long periods of time (several thousand years). But is all the stored black carbon coming from land sources? Although scientists already had some hints that not all dissolved black carbon (DBC) in the oceans comes from the land, a reliable evidence for a DBC source within the oceans remained elusive. The research from a group from Japan was able to shine new light on this question by looking at hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean.

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One Lake, Two Lake; Green Lake, Blue Lake

A large lake divided by a shallow spit of land, water to the left of the spit appears green and murky, the right side clear and blue.

Paper: Shallow lakes under alternative states differ in the dominant
greenhouse gas emission pathways

Authors: Sofia Baliña, María Laura Sánchez, Irina Izaguirre, Paul A. del Giorgio (2023)

Imagine some of the most dynamic, ecologically important lakes in the world…. you are picturing a deep, wide lake, not something knee deep and murky, or so full of aquatic plants you can’t see the bottom, right? Well, perhaps you should; while they don’t always make the most inviting swimming holes, small, shallow lakes have an outsized importance in the cycling of carbon and other nutrients through the landscape. 

Shallow depths tend to lead to warmer temperatures and more concentrated growth of algae and aquatic plants, not always the most desirable features for recreation.  But what these lakes might lack aesthetically, they make up for with a massive contribution to the global carbon cycle. Combine the abundance of small lakes with a tendency for frequent mixing of the water column, and high rates of organic input from the surrounding watershed and small lakes pack a big punch in terms of cycling nutrients, including carbon, through pathways in both the water and lake bottom sediments. 

These carbon cycling power houses are tricky to pin down because they can operate in what scientists call two different ‘stable states’: a murky, turbid state, dominated by algal growth that blocks the sunlight from reaching the bottom, and a clearwater state where plants anchored in the lake bottom sediments are dominant. A number of natural events, including floods, droughts, or changes in surrounding vegetation can lead to a ‘flip’ between states. Human activity can lead to a ‘flip’ as well, for example, in the Pampean Plains of Argentina, agricultural practices have added excess nutrients to the system, which tends to push lakes toward the murky, turbid state. The two lake states not only look different from the surface, but also have important differences in rates of photosynthesis, burial of organic material, and circulation in the water.

Knowing the importance of small lakes to global carbon cycling, a team in Argentina did a detailed investigation on how the different states impact carbon cycling and green house gas emissions.  By monitoring sets of turbid and clear shallow lakes in the Pampean Plains over the course of a year, they found important seasonal differences in rates of carbon dioxide (CO2) diffusion into and out of water column, and in the flux of methane (CH4) from lake bottom sediments.

Through monitoring instrumentation suspended in the air above the lakes, as well as measurements taken in the water and sediments, researchers were able to observe weather-driven seasonal changes. The biggest differences were between winter and spring: cold, clear lakes tended to act as CO2 source. When the lakes warmed up, they started to move gas from the water into the atmosphere and became carbon sinks, while turbid lakes did the opposite. 

Figure 3 from Baliña et al. (2022) showing the different pathways and relative ratios for carbon flow in clear-water, vegetated lakes (on the left) compared to more green, or turbid, lakes with heavy algal growth on the right. In total, the total greenhouse gas emissions (or CO2 equivalents) for both lake states was similar, but came from different pathways in the lake.

Over an annual cycle, clear lakes had as much as 5 times the CO2 emissions to the atmosphere as compared to turbid lakes, mainly attributed to the vegetation. Turbid lakes, however, had a higher annual emission of CH4. On balance, the two groups of lakes had roughly the same total contribution to green house gas fluxes, but the seasonal variability and differences in carbon pathway are important to understand as we continue to learn more about these dynamic ecosystems and how they change over time.


One Lake, Two Lake; Green Lake, Blue Lake by Avery Shinneman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

‘Cacao’ meteorite and other Fe-Ni meteorites on Mars

Featured image: ‘Cacao’ meteorite in Gale crater, Mars – MastCam mosaic comprised of 19 images. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Paper: Spectral Diversity of Rocks and Soils in Mastcam Observations Along the Curiosity Rover’s Traverse in Gale Crater, Mars

Author: Rice M S et al., (2022)

On the 28th January 2023 NASA’s MSL Curiosity rover team confirmed the rock ‘Cacao’ as an iron-nickle (Fe-Ni) meteorite on the surface of Mars. Curiosity captured images of a silvery-grey rock, very distinctive among the beige-red sedimentary landscape it is currently exploring. Cacao is a ‘float’ rock, meaning is it not embedded within the bedrock and is not where it formed. Float rocks are common on Mars, but many can be traced back to the upper ledges of slopes they have fallen from, or as ejecta from a nearby impact. Cacao has joined a special group of float rocks that are distinct in appearance, genetic composition, and origin.

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Microscopic Miners: How invisible forces create tropical caves

Featured Image: Scientist Ceth Parker moving through a passageway within an iron formation cave.  Photo courtesy of the University of Akron.

Paper: Enhanced terrestrial Fe(II) mobilization identified through a novel mechanism of microbially driven cave formation in Fe(III)-rich rocks

Authors: Ceth W. Parker, John M. Senko, Augusto S. Auler, Ira D. Sasowsky, Frederik Schulz, Tanja Woyke, Hazel A. Barton

Consider this: microscopic creatures literally moving tons of rock before your very eyes. It seems too fantastical, but maybe not if you’re in the Brazilian tropics. In new work, scientists have detailed these stealthy and microscopic processes, naming a new cave generation pathway called exothenic biospeleogenesis, or “behind-wall life-created” caves.

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How plants left a mark on history

Featuring image: Plants slowly eroding limestone. Picture from Jon Sullivan, public domain (C0).

Paper: Composition of continental crust altered by the emergence of land plants

Authors: C. J. Spencer, N. S. Davies, T. M. Gernon, X. Wang, W. J. McMahon, T. R. I. Morrell, T. Hincks, P. K. Pufahl, A. Brasier, M. Seraine and G.-M. Lu 

In the winter of 1990, the first Voyager spacecraft looked over its shoulder and snapped an iconic photo of Earth as a ‘pale blue dot’ in the vast cosmos. But when you look at it from Space, there is another very important colour: green. Plants cover a major portion of the landmasses. Besides bringing their bright chlorophyll colour to the continents, new research by Spencer and co-authors finds that plants have also slowly changed the composition of the Earth’s crust over hundreds of millions of years.

In a recent study, Spencer and co-workers were able to connect the development of land plants to changes in the geochemical composition of crustal rocks through the effects that plants had on landscapes, weathering, and sediments. Land plants arose during the early Ordovician period, about 440 million years ago, and today they cover approximately 84% of Earth’s landmasses. After they spread all over the continents, plants started to heavily influence the sedimentary cycles between continents and oceans.

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From Arizona to Mars: How Impact Craters Have Shaped the Solar System

Featured image: Meteor Crater, located in southwestern United States. Credit: David A. Kring (2017).

Book: Kring, D. (2017) Guidebook to the geology of Barringer Meteorite Crater, Arizona (a.k.a. meteor crater). 2nd edn. LPI Contribution No.2040.

Author: David A. Kring

Impact cratering has been occurring throughout geological time. Earth’s best preserved impact crater lies in Arizona. Barringer Meteorite Crater – or Meteor Crater – formed when an iron meteorite impacted into northern Arizona ~50,000 years ago. Since then, the landscape has seen little erosion, creating a beautifully preserved impact crater. The site can be accessed by tourists only in restricted areas, but the wider crater can be used by select geologists and is used by NASA to train astronauts… and somehow, I found myself there alongside a group of PhD students from across the world.

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