Low-lying islands are going to drown, so should we even bother trying to save their ecosystems?


Grist

Islands are hot spots of biodiversity, often home to rich and unique ecosystems. Despite covering just 5 percent of the Earth’s land, the planet’s 180,000-odd islands contain a fifth of its plant and animal species. Around half of recorded extinctions have occurred on islands.

Unfortunately, many islands have been infested in recent centuries with ecosystem-wrecking rats and other invasive species. So scientists the world over have clamored to remove the destructive pests and protect the original inhabitants. More than 900 islands have been cleansed of rats and other animal invaders so far, often through the controversial use of poisoned baits.

But a new paper published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution asks an unsettling question: When it comes to low-lying islands that will eventually be swallowed by sea-level rise, why bother?

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Volcanoes are giving us a breather from climate change


Grist

Someone, at some point, must have made the right sacrifice to the right volcano god. Because according to new research, eruptions from 17 volcanoes are helping to give humanity a tiny bit of breathing room on climate change.

Time reports:

Research shows that large volcanic eruptions inject sulfur dioxide gas into the stratosphere. The gas forms tiny droplets of sulfuric acid, also known as “volcanic aerosols,” that can block sunlight. That cooling effect has been largely ignored by climate scientists until now, but it seems to partly offset the warming from human-caused changes in greenhouse gases. …

But unfortunately for us, the cooling effect is expected to be temporary — if we keep emitting greenhouse gases, the climate will keep warming.

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These are dark days for the Arctic — literally


Grist

Things are getting gloomy up north, where the Arctic region is losing its albedo.

No, not libido — this isn’t a problem that can be fixed with ice-blue pills and adventurous nature videos. Albedo. It’s a scientific term that refers to the amount of light that the surface of the planet reflects back into space. Reflecting light away from the Earth helps keep things cool, so the loss of Arctic albedo is a major problem.

And new research has concluded that the problem is an even greater one than scientists had anticipated.

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