Rewilding Tropical Forest Landscapes: A Win-Win Solution for People and the Planet

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Tropical forests are crucial for regulating Earth's climate and biodiversity, yet they are being destroyed at an alarming rate for agricultural purposes. Reforestation projects that involve local communities and provide incentives for sustainable land management can not only combat climate change, but also benefit the people living in these landscapes.

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Tropical forest landscapes are home to millions of Indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers. Just about every square meter of land is spoken for, even if claims are not formally recognized by governments.These local landholders hold the key to a valuable solution as the world tries to slow climate change – restoring deforested tropical landscapes for a healthier future.Tropical forests are vital to Earth’s climate and biodiversity, but a soccer field-size area of mature tropical forest is burned or cut down about every 5 seconds to clear space for crops and cattle today .

The Amazon Rainforest, the world's largest tropical rainforest, covers about 5.5 million square kilometers.

While those trees may be lost, the land still has potential. Tropical forests’ combination of year-round sunshine and high rainfall can lead to high growth rates, suggesting that areas where tropical forests once grew could be valuable sites for reforestation. In fact, a host of international agreements and declarations envision just this.For reforestation projects to make a dent in climate change, however, they have to work with and for the people who live there .

Tropical forests are home to over 30 million species of plants and animals, making up more than half of the world's biodiversity.

As forest ecologists involved in tropical forest restoration, we have been studying effective ways to compensate people for the ecosystem services flowing from their land. In a new study, we show how compensation that also allows landholders to harvest and sell some of the trees could provide powerful incentives and ultimately benefit everyone.The extraordinary value of ecosystem servicesTropical forests are celebrated for their extraordinary biodiversity, with their preservation seen as essential for protecting life on Earth .

Tropical forests absorb around 1.2 billion tons of carbon annually, helping to regulate Earth's climate and mitigate the effects of climate change.

They are reservoirs of vast carbon stocks, slowing down climate change. However, when tropical forests are cleared and burned, they release copious amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that drives climate change.Programs offering payments for ecosystem services are designed to help keep those forests and other ecosystems healthy by compensating landholders for goods and services produced by nature that are often taken for granted .

Indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers make up over one-third of the population in tropical forest regions.

For example, forests moderate stream flows and reduce flood risks, support bees and other pollinators that benefit neighboring croplands, and help regulate climate.In recent years, a cottage industry has grown up around paying people to reforest land for the carbon it can hold. It has been driven in part by corporations and other institutions looking for ways to meet their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions by paying projects to reduce or prevent emissions elsewhere .

Reforestation projects have the potential to create thousands of jobs and contribute to the local economy.

Early iterations of projects that pay landholders for ecosystem services have been criticized for focusing too much on economic efficiency, sometimes at the expense of social and environmental concerns.Win-win solutions – where environmental and social concerns are both accounted for – may not be the most economically efficient in the short term, but they can lead to longer-term sustainability as participants feel a sense of pride and responsibility for the project’s success .

Agroforestry, the practice of integrating trees and crops, can help restore deforested landscapes and support sustainable agriculture.

That longer-term sustainability is essential for trees’ carbon storage, because many decades of growth is required to build up stored carbon and combat climate change.



The Impact of Light Pollution on Nocturnal Migration of Birds

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Light pollution has been steadily increasing which in turn attracts migratory birds, leading to them getting killed due to colliding with buildings. We studied stopover locations and found that light pollution was a top predictor of the density of migrating birds at stopover locations for both spring and fall migration across the continental U.S., and we were able to make novel maps for the first time ever. Our data could help inform the selection of stopover habitat, allowing us to better protect birds from harm and helping reduce bird-building collisions throughout North America.

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Agriculture Innovation to Fight Climate Change

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At the annual United Nations climate conference of 2023, agriculture was brought to the forefront due to its major contribution to one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions. The Innovation Commission for Climate Change, Food Security and Agriculture identified seven areas for innovation to ensure sufficient food production, minimize emissions and reach hundreds of millions of people. Three innovations in particular - accurate, accessible weather forecasts, precision fertilization and better crop breeding – can pay off economically and be scaled up quickly.

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The Uncertainty of the Loss and Damage Climate Negotiation Fund

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The long-awaited United Nations Climate Negotiation Fund met with critique from climate justice advocates and is still left with many unresolved details, such as which countries will be eligible to receive funding and how it will be funded. Initial pledges from countries have been relatively low, with the USpledging only $17.5 million, and the fund remains voluntary and not solely reliant on wealthy countries providing finance.

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Reconsidering Conservation Strategies in the Wake of the COP Conference

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The annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP, will bring together governments and organizations to discuss solutions for the current climate emergency, tackling the worldwide loss of species due to limited resources and the methods of calmly solving the 'Noah's Ark Problem' proposed by the late Harvard economist Martin Weitzman and the Bible.

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Iceland is so Volcanically Active: Here's Why

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Iceland is a geologically active place. It's overactivity is a result of two features. One is called a hotspot, and the other involves two tectonic plates that are pulling apart right beneath the island. Radar satellite data shows that a broad area around Grindavík sank by 3 feet over 10 days and a GPS station in town moved 3 feet to the southeast from Oct. 28 to Nov. 9. Magma pressurised beneath the earth has led to potential of an eruption.

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Human Activities and Wildlife: Examining the Toll of Human Encroachment

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At hundreds of rehab centers across the US, humans are bringing sick and injured wild animals for treatment. In a recent study that looked at over 670,000 records, it was discovered that humans are the main source of danger for wildlife. Common causes of injury include entrapment, collisions, exposure to toxins, climate change, and domestic pets. Digital records are helping to improve wildlife conservation and public health.

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The History and Fascinating Botany of Cranberries

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Cranberries have been a Thanksgiving staple in U.S. households for years, but they are surprisingly young agricultural crops and have many unique botanical features, such as hermaphroditic flowers and four air pockets that allow them to float and disperse their seeds. Native Americans in North America also used cranberries for foods like pemmican before they were domesticated.

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The Problem with PFAS: How ‘Forever Chemicals’ End Up in Marine Ecosystems

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PFAS, or "forever chemicals", are human-made pollutants used in a variety of products that are now found in aquatic ecosystems. They have been linked to immunological disorders, endocrine, developmental, reproductive and neurological disruption and increased risk of cancers. At Florida International University’s Institute of the Environment, we are tracking the origins of PFAS contamination in Miami’s Biscayne Bay to help pinpoint ways to reduce the harm, finding the major sources of contamination are sewage from failed septic systems and wastewater leaks in urban areas and aerosolized particles from highways and airports.

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Julia Child’s Gas-Powered Cooking Show: How the Gas Industry Uses Public Relations to Manufacture Doubt

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In 1976, Julia Child aired her cooking show outfitted with gas stoves paid for by the American Gas Association. It was part of a campaign to increase use of gas stoves and grow their residential market, but it appears they wanted more. New research from Climate Investigations Center and an NPR investigation show that the gas industry launched a campaign to counter findings about gas stoves published in the scientific literature using the same public relations tactics the tobacco industry used in the 1950s.

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Municipal Utilities are a Good Answer to Frustration with Electric Services

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Maine was the latest state to debate the switch from private to public utilities, with Question 3 asking voters whether they wanted to create a new publicly owned power company and Question 1 asking whether consumer-owned electric utilities should have to get public approval before taking on more than US$1 billion in debt. Voters adopted Question 1 and soundly defeated Question 3. There are three basic ownership models for electric utilities, investor-owned, municipally owned, and cooperative owned. Five of the nine public utilities in Maine charge less than 15 cents per kilowatt-hour for residential customers, showing how a municipal utility could provide for cheaper power.

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What the Northern Rockies Can Teach Us About Wildfires

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The Big Burn of 1910 was a major fire disaster in the Northern Rocky Mountains of Idaho and Montana, and recent fires suggest that the climate is changing further. To study how and why ecosystems changed in the past, paleoecologists tracked how often forest fires occurred across the Northern and Southern Rockies over the past 2,500 years. The research suggests that high-elevation, or subalpine, forests of the Northern Rockies can withstand even the most extreme fire seasons, while those of the Southern Rockies are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

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Water: a Source of Hope or Despair in the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

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Water is a central element of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, with Israel controlling most of the water supply that enters Gaza. This has caused unequal access and environmental consequences due to rising population and demand for water. In order to solve this problem, there needs to be a shift in policy to enable an equitable distribution of resources and cooperation between the two sides of the conflict.

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Clean Your Home After Wildfire Exposure to Reduce Risks From Potential Harmful Gases

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Wildfire smoke is filled with hazardous particles and gases that persist in buildings for weeks. Air purifiers, ventilation and masks can reduce the amount of VOCs entering the home, but the most effective way to reduce risk is to clean with plain soap and water, even if the surfaces don't look dirty.

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Unraveling the Geography of Climate: Exploring How Climate and Geographic Features Influences Biodiversity

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We are part of an international, interdisciplinary team interested in the puzzle of how the geography of climate and the global patterns of species diversity fit together. Our study findings recently published in the journal Nature showed that climate is an important factor in how many species flourish in a location, but the size and relative isolation of the climate pockets also influences the richness and abundance of species that thrive in an area.

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What We Can Learn from the Big Burn of 1910 in the Northern Rocky Mountains

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Paleoecologists studied how high-elevation forests in the Rocky Mountains have changed over the past 2,500 years. Despite record-setting warm, dry summers like in 1910, the Northern Rockies show resilience - but similar research in the Southern Rockies warns of potential changes to the forests if fire activity remains frequent and core-exit events, like the heat wave in 2010, keep happening.

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The Impact of Seawater Intrusion on Coastal Communities

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Seawater intrusion is the movement of saline water from the ocean or estuaries into freshwater systems which can potentially contaminate drinking water sources, kill crops and cause soil salinization. Climate change is expected to increase the severity and frequency of seawater intrusion events, making it a major threat to coastal communities in the future.

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The Value of the Horseshoe Crab in Modern Medicine

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Horseshoe crabs are an important part of modern medicine. Their blood is used to produce a substance called Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) which is used to test intravenous drugs for toxins. While this is a 20th-century medical safety breakthrough, there are now criticisms of the process, primarily concerning environmental impacts and the process for reviewing and approving alternatives to horseshoe crab blood.

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The US Was Built on Stolen Lands and Wealth

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Director Martin Scorsese's new movie, "Killers of the Flower Moon," tells the true story of a string of murders on the Osage Nation's land in Oklahoma in the 1920s. The US was built on stolen lands and wealth that was taken from Native Americans. Starting in the 1830s, the US government placed pressure on Native American tribes to remove them from their ancestral homes in the east to reservations in the west, and the General Allotment Act of 1887 sought to forcibly assimilate Native Americans into the national population by transitioning communal systems of land ownership.

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