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19 news posts in Frontiers in Environmental Science


Climate action

08 Aug 2023

Antarctic extreme events: ‘All-time records are being shattered not from decades ago, but from the last few years and months’

By Prof Martin Siegert, University of Exeter (Cornwall) Image: 42 governments around the world have agreed to protect Antarctica’s environment. While the main focus has been on operational activities in Antarctica, global warming caused by fossil-fuel burning by these (and other) countries has left Antarctica on the brink of irreversible change. A new study published in Frontiers in Environmental Science has revealed that, in addition to the influence of gradual global heating, Antarctica is increasingly affected by extreme environmental events; a recognized and predicted outcome of our heating world. Writing as part of Frontiers’ guest editorials series, the study’s lead author – Prof Martin Siegert, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Exeter (Cornwall) – discusses how without there being a rapid shift to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the Antarctic environment will experience ever more drastic changes. Extreme weather events appear to be increasing in size and occurrence, with disastrous outcomes for lives and livelihoods, whether it be from intense heatwaves, severe droughts, deluge rainfall, flooding, and deep storms. All-time records are being shattered not from those of decades ago, but from the last few years and months, exemplifying the human-induced forces we are subjecting our planet […]



21 Jul 2023

Tourists help scientists reveal microplastic pollution on remote Arctic beaches

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ We know that microplastic contamination has reached the Arctic, but quantifying the amount that appears on beaches and understanding where it came from is difficult. Scientists asked tourists on Arctic cruises to take part in a program of sample collection while visiting Svalbard and used these samples to identify microplastics that probably originated from ships and fishing net. Tourists acting as citizen scientists have helped a research team detect microplastics on remote Arctic beaches. The global scale of plastic production means that these tiny fragments of plastic are now ubiquitous, and scientists fear that ocean currents will cause plastic to accumulate in the Arctic, damaging ecosystems. But our knowledge of the scale and type of plastic pollution in the Arctic is incomplete. Researchers recruited holidaymakers to carry out sample collection during cruises, hoping to fill in some of the gaps in their knowledge. “Plastic pollution is now ubiquitous. It is found on land and in soil and most rivers of the world,” said Dr Bruno Walther of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, author of the study in Frontiers in Environmental Science. “It is even found in […]



17 Jul 2023

Soil dwellers thrive in between solar panels: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Solar parks can house semi-natural grassland communities Solar parks are sustainable ways to ensure clean energy. The ecosystems in which they are built are often sites that are excessively managed and affected by habitat destruction. This land management, however, also offers opportunity to restore or even create semi-natural grasslands. Researchers in France have studied 10 solar parks in the south of the country to examine plant community composition, soil biodiversity, and soil functioning under and outside of solar panels to test whether they hamper soil health. They have now published their results in Frontiers in Environmental Science. Their results indicate that the microclimate under panels influenced the abundance of soil megafauna, fungi biomass, and bacteria. Plant communities under panels tended to be made up of more shade-tolerant species, which reduced plant diversity and vegetation cover. Between panels, however, the researchers found more trophic interactions than outside or under solar panels. This suggested […]


17 Jan 2023

From pylons to pandas: 5 Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, many often fly under the radar. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Building better-looking pylons Pylons help support essential amenities – but they can be an eyesore. Italian scientists led by Dr Luca Di Angelo at University of L’Aquila investigated the best way to build a pylon with less visual impact on the landscape. As visual impact is subjective, reducing it requires consultation with residents who will see the pylons every day. But designs invented by residents without technical knowledge may not be able to meet safety standards. Di Angelo and colleagues used the development of new electrical pylons in the coastal regions of Italy to test a novel method of integrating visual impact minimization with the design process. They identified shapes which were related to the geography and culture of the area and streamlined enough for pylon design, and surveyed Italians from different coastal regions to determine which shapes were considered most recognizable and representative. A sail was chosen, and models were developed […]

Climate action

16 Jan 2023

Our toilets can yield excellent alternatives for widespread polluting fertilizers

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Scientists show that the yield of cabbages grown on soils supplied with two modern nitrified urine fertilizers recycled from human urine is approximately equal to the yield when soils are fertilized with commercial vinasse. The exclusive use of compost recycled from human feces gave a slightly lower yield, but such compost is expected to give extra carbon to soils when combined with nitrified urine fertilizers. Importantly, pharmaceuticals in feces ended up in the edible plant parts only in negligible amounts, implying that fertilizers recycled from human excreta are not only productive but also safe. To tackle the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and pollution, humanity will need to move to a circular economy, where all resources are recycled. Why not recycle our own body waste too as fertilizer, provided there is no risk that harmful microbes or traces from pharmaceuticals end up in the consumed crops? Most nutrients needed for plant growth occur in human urine and feces. Urine is especially rich in nitrogen and potassium, and also contains trace amounts of metals such as boron, zinc, and iron. Feces could in theory supply other nutrients such as phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium or valuable organic […]


23 Sep 2022

Ancient Maya cities were dangerously contaminated with mercury

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Temple of the Great Jaguar at Tikal, a UNESCO world heritage site in Guatemala. Image credit:  Leonid Andronov,/ A new review shows that the soil in the cities of the ancient Maya are heavily polluted with mercury. As vessels filled with mercury and objects painted with cinnabar have been found at many Maya sites, the authors conclude that the Maya were heavy users of mercury and mercury-containing products. This resulted in severe and dangerous pollution in their day, which persists even today. The cities of the ancient Maya in Mesoamerica never fail to impress. But beneath the soil surface, an unexpected danger lurks there: mercury pollution. In a review article in Frontiers in Environmental Science, researchers conclude that this pollution isn’t modern: it’s due to the frequent use of mercury and mercury-containing products by the Maya of the Classic Period, between 250 and 1100 CE. This pollution is in places so heavy that even today, it poses a potential health hazard for unwary archeologists. Lead author Dr Duncan Cook, an associate professor of Geography at the Australian Catholic University, said: “Mercury pollution in the environment is usually found in contemporary urban areas and […]


21 Feb 2022

Peace has led to more deforestation in Colombia

By K.E.D. Coan, science writer Difference between reserve and cattle ranches in Colombia. Image credit: Sebastian Di Domenico / Shutterstock In the tropics, when conflict affected countries transition to peace, deforestation often increases. But the reasons behind this trend are neither simple nor generalizable, reports a new study from Colombia. By looking at a range of agricultural and societal drivers at multiple scales, this research shows that different factors promote forest loss. Accounting for these variations will be important for developing more effective conservation strategies in the future. The consequences of peace and armed conflict for deforestation depend on the location, reports a new publication in Frontiers in Environmental Science. Using Colombia as a case study, this work presents one of the most comprehensive studies to date comparing forest loss to drivers such as coca cultivation and cattle farming during periods of peace and conflict. These insights will help make conservation efforts more effective by taking into account the land use, politics and socioeconomics on a local level. “There are other studies that show increased pressure on forests after peace agreements, but our results show that it’s very hard to generalize deforestation in the context of conflict,” said co-author Raphael […]

Chief Editor Dagmar Haase heads new Land Use Dynamics section of Frontiers in Environmental Science

Frontiers news

25 Jun 2018

‘An affair of the heart’: Dagmar Haase on the motivation behind new Land Use Dynamics section

Professor Dagmar Haase capitalizes on the Frontiers open-access platform to address issues of sustainability and resilience in land-use management. — by Louisa Wood Urbanization, biodiversity declines, exploitation and socio-economic segregation of resources, climate change: human-induced pressures on land systems are unprecedented, with changes in the way land is used having far-reaching global consequences. To address these challenges and drive solutions for a more sustainable and resilient future, Frontiers in Environmental Science has launched Land Use Dynamics — a centralized hub of interdisciplinary, solution-orientated research in land system science.  Led by Professor Dagmar Haase of Humboldt University Berlin, and supported by an outstanding team of Associate Editors, this new section publishes innovative insights into land-use variation and the temporal dynamics of land-use change, as well as the driving forces behind land dynamics and their socio-ecological feedbacks. “Land use and land-use change issues are very much at the forefront of earth, environmental, and social sciences. However, despite great efforts to hinder urban sprawl and in saving or protecting land and soil, there is still a disparity between the messages that the scientific community and policymakers wish to convey and the reality we detect via satellite observations,” says Prof Haase. “Accounting for sustainability and resilience […]