Which types of forests are the most effective in storing carbon? Plus global renewable energy growth defies expectations, despite the pandemic. Researchers investigate whether Climate-adapted plant breeding may lead to improvement of crops with seeds from gene banks, and, more news from the Comer Climate Conference.
Which Forests are Most Effective in Storing Carbon, Global Renewable Energy, Research on Climate-Adapted Plant Breeding, News from Comer Climate Conference
BEST FORESTS TYPES FOR STORING CO2
An international team led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has studied which types of forest, in terms of biodiversity, are the most effective in storing carbon. Inventory data from natural forests on five continents show that species diversity is optimal for equatorial and tropical rainforests, and that, conversely, in forests located in cold or dry regions, it is the abundance of trees and not their diversity that favours the recapture of CO2.
The results of the study, published in Nature Communications, are valuable in defining natural strategies to combat climate change. Global warming is stressing forests through higher mean annual temperatures, longer-lasting droughts and more frequent and extreme weather events. At the same time, forests — and the wood they produce — can trap and store carbon dioxide (CO2), they therefore play a crucial role in mitigating climate change.
Trees and forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to carbon during photosynthesis, which they then store in the form of wood and vegetation, a process referred to as “carbon sequestration.”
The findings of these studies are of substantial practical relevance as they will aid decision makers identifying nature-based climate change mitigation strategies and to successfully use forests and their sequestration of carbon to reach the climate goals defined in the Paris Agreement.
DEEPER DIVE: UNIVERSITY OF GENEVA
RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCE PRODUCTION DEFIES EXPECTATIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC
The International Energy Agency, otherwise known as IEA, published a new report suggesting sustainable energy has set a new record and exceeded expectations during the pandemic. IEA is an international agency that works with governments and industries around the world to help build future sustainable energy.
In a May 2020 assessment, the agency said global renewable energy showed the pandemic hurt, but did not halt, global growth. However, in the agency’s November report, research showed sustainable energy accounted for roughly 90 percent of the increased total power capacity worldwide in 2020. IEA said renewable markets, particularly electricity-generating technologies, show a promising resilience to the global crisis.
The executive director of IEA said renewable power is showing robust growth and a brighter future with new capacity additions, while other fuels are struggling.
The IEA report also provides forecasts for renewables in the electricity heat and transport sectors through 2025.
IMPROVED CROP RESILIENCY FROM SEEDS FROM GENE BANKS
Researchers investigate whether Climate-adapted plant breeding May Lead to improvement of crops with seeds from gene banks. The famous seed vault in Spitsbergen, Norway and national gene banks retain hundreds of thousands of seed samples to preserve old varieties of crop plants and the genetic diversity associated with them. Are these seed banks gold mines or seed cemeteries?
Researchers around the globe are investigating whether retained samples contain genes that have been lost through breeding which could be beneficial in counteracting climate change. A research team led by Chris-Carolin Schön, Professor of Plant Breeding at the Technical University of Munich, is now presenting a solution to harness the genetic potential of old varieties, so-called landraces.
Since the 1960s, maize has been grown in Europe’s fields mainly in the form of hybrid varieties. Hybrid varieties are developed through a specific breeding scheme. The research team focused on traits related to early plant development and also took into account the stability of the plant. Using molecular methods that scan the entire genome, they were able to link the data from the field trials to genes relevant to the specific traits.
“We have shown how to find new genetic variation for important traits in agricultural production. The variation in these traits is determined by many genes and is not sufficiently available in current breeding material,” says Manfred Mayer, lead author of the study. “This opens the door to the development of improved climate-adapted hybrid varieties.”
DEEPER DIVE: TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF MUNICH
CLIMATE CHAMPION PROFILES: JOHN LYNCH FROM THE COMER CLIMATE CONFERENCE
Let me introduce you to John Lynch, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford. He studies ways to anticipate the impacts of greenhouse gases and suggests that carbon dioxide is more important to address than methane. It’s much quicker to reverse the impact of methane emissions than it is to undo the effects of carbon dioxide, so he says it’s possible to delay addressing methane. His suggestion has huge implications, because the way greenhouse gases are reported and compared in policies today doesn’t make it clear how these gases behave differently.
Earlier this year, Lynch presented this new research at the Comer Climate Conference, an annual summit where climate scientists from around the world gather to present emerging research. Lynch’s research shows that the conventional forms of the Global Warming Potential metric, also known as GWP, may be misleading. By reporting all gases as though they were on the same playing field as the GWP shows, experts say does not account for key differences between them, especially between methane and carbon dioxide.
Since all greenhouse gases warm the planet, governments should not ignore methane emissions in climate policy, Lynch said. But ultimately, the most important thing to do is to get to net zero carbon dioxide, because that’s the gas with the longest-lasting and biggest impact on global warming.