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Des Walling Honoured

Emeritus Professor Des Walling, Department of Geography, has had a virtual special issue of the International Journal Hydrological Processes published in his honour to mark and to celebrate his outstanding contribution to the understanding of fine sediment in river catchments over the last 50 years.

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Research reveals “negative feedback” loop between warming and net exchange of carbon caused by erosion

In the study of human impact on the environment, there are few negative or stabilising feedbacks on climate change.

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New research project to discover deep oceans flows

A new project is set to shed light on the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon and heat from the Earth’s atmosphere, by capturing movements deep beneath the ocean’s surface for the first time.

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Exeter expert to advise select committee on benefits of species re-introduction in UK

A University of Exeter expert will provide key evidence to a cross-party committee of MPs in its inquiry into species re-introduction across the UK. 

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Three ‘super-leverage points’ offer hope for climate breakthrough

Three “super-leverage points” could trigger a cascade of decarbonisation in sectors covering 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report presented today at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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Forests recovering from logging act as a source of carbon

Tropical forests recovering from logging are sources of carbon for years afterwards, contrary to previous assumptions, new research shows.

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Overshooting climate targets could significantly increase risk for tipping cascades

Temporarily overshooting climate targets of 1.5-2°C could increase the tipping risk of several Earth system elements by more than 70%, a new risk analysis shows.

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Exeter experts react to COP27

Researchers from the University of Exeter have given their views on the COP27 climate change conference.

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Exeter researchers recognised in global rankings

Twenty-one researchers from the University of Exeter have been recognised as leading experts in Clarivate’s annual highly cited researchers list.

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No sign of decrease in global CO2 emissions

Global carbon emissions in 2022 remain at record levels – with no sign of the decrease that is urgently needed to limit warming to 1.5°C, according to the Global Carbon Project science team.

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Biodiversity economics research programme awarded £1m

A research project that will help the UK meet its biodiversity commitments and improve understanding of the effectiveness of biodiversity policies has been awarded a £1 million grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

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Resilient water management offers hope for tackling climate change

Earlier this year, an IPCC report found that the majority of all adaptation actions (changes humans will need to make in response to climate change) are water-related.

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Scientists say Earth is ‘unequivocally’ in midst of climate emergency

Earth’s vital signs have worsened to the point that “humanity is unequivocally facing a climate emergency”, according to an international coalition of researchers.

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How fluctuating oxygen levels may have accelerated animal evolution

Oxygen levels in the Earth’s atmosphere are likely to have “fluctuated wildly” one billion years ago, creating conditions that could have accelerated the development of early animal life, according to new research.

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'Forgotten' forests and savannas vital to people, biodiversity and climate

With massive international focus on rainforests, the vital importance of tropical dry forests and savannas is being overlooked, researchers say.

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Natural England and University of Exeter announce partnership

Natural England and the University of Exeter have announced a new strategic partnership to boost nature recovery.

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The University of Exeter’s role in the new Devon Carbon Plan

The final version of the Devon Carbon Plan has been published today by the Devon Climate Emergency partnership.

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Major new tipping points initiative launched at conference

Efforts to activate "positive tipping points" to tackle the climate crisis have been boosted by a £1 million (US$1.15m) grant from the Bezos Earth Fund.

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Little Ice Age study reveals North Atlantic reached a tipping point

Scientists have used centuries-old clam shells to see how the North Atlantic climate system reached a "tipping point" before the Little Ice Age.

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Risk of passing multiple climate tipping points escalates above 1.5°C global warming

Multiple climate tipping points could be triggered if global temperature rises beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, according to a major new analysis.

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Exeter debate on 'positive tipping points'

World-renowned experts will discuss the power of "positive tipping points" to tackle the climate crisis at the University of Exeter next week.

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Crime-scene technique identifies asteroid sites

Analysing the charred remains of plants can confirm the locations of asteroid strikes in the distant past, new research shows.

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Community growing schemes and mapping empty housing identified as key sustainability goals for Cornwall

Supporting community growing schemes and mapping unused properties to house local people have been identified as sustainability goals for the coming year by community leaders across Cornwall, according to a new report.

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Amazon's growth limited by lack of phosphorus

Growth of the Amazon rainforest in our increasingly carbon-rich atmosphere could be limited by a lack of phosphorus in the soil, new research shows.

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Experts to discuss 'tipping points' alliance

Experts will meet next month to discuss catastrophic climate "tipping points" – and the power of positive tipping points to avert the climate crisis.

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Climate change: potential to end humanity ‘dangerously underexplored’

Global heating could become “catastrophic” for humanity if temperature rises are worse than many predict or cause cascades of events we have yet to consider, or indeed both. The world needs to start preparing for the possibility of a “climate endgame”.

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Exeter researchers pay tribute to James Lovelock

University of Exeter researchers have paid tribute to scientist James Lovelock, who has died aged 103.

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'Sensing system' spots struggling ecosystems

A new "resilience sensing system" can identify ecosystems that are in danger of collapse, research shows.

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£3 million for new carbon capture project and pilot plant

A new carbon capture project could pave the way for large-scale removal of carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere using the ocean.

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Introducing the Real Living Wage to Penzance would improve the local economy, new research suggests

Giving Living Wage Town status to Penzance would help improve the local economy and the reputation of the area, new research shows.

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Climate change will increase chances of wildfire globally – but humans can still help reduce the risk

New research highlights how the risk of wildfire is rising globally due to climate change – but also, how human actions and policies can play a critical role in regulating regional impacts.

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Investing in nature is key to levelling up rural regions in the UK says new report

Investing in the environment and thinking more creatively about our reserves of “natural capital” should be at the heart of the government’s levelling up agenda, a new report suggests.

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People power can tackle climate crisis

An audience at the Glastonbury Festival has heard how people power can tackle the climate crisis.

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Science Futures to make Glastonbury debut

Festivalgoers can learn about climate change, space travel, plant power and much more at Glastonbury's new Science Futures area.

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Talking Deck to help people with life and health issues

A new "Talking Deck" will help shape conversations at an Exeter wellbeing hub.

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No "echo chambers" in Reddit climate debate

Climate change debates on Reddit don't happen in polarised "echo chambers", new research suggests.

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New study maps financial ownership of more than $1 trillion of the fossil fuel industry’s projected ‘stranded asset’ losses due to low-carbon transition

Driven by technological, societal and political change, renewable energy technologies are progressively replacing fossil fuels.

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People must be 'heart' of climate action

Tackling the climate crisis can only be achieved by "placing people at the heart of climate action", researchers say.

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Deep ocean warming as climate changes

Much of the "excess heat" stored in the subtropical North Atlantic is in the deep ocean (below 700m), new research suggests.

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Royal Geographical Society awards for two Exeter academics

Two professors at the University of Exeter have received prestigious awards from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).

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Resilience of ecosystems can be measured from space

A natural habitat's ability to withstand and recover from damage can be empirically monitored from space.

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Origin of complex cells started without oxygen

The origin of complex cells started without oxygen, new research suggests.

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Surfer science supports seawater study

Seawater samples taken from a surfboard have helped scientists understand microscopic life in the waves, new research shows.

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Major research effort to save future of European peatlands

A five-year, £3.7m research project involving scientists from the UK and across Europe will assess the risk that climate change poses to peatlands, and improve methods of managing these important ecosystems.

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Exeter experts comment on IPCC report

University of Exeter researchers have commented on the new report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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Last chance to have a say on the Devon Carbon Plan

Devon residents have one final chance to give their views on the Devon Carbon Plan before its publication this summer.

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Amazon rainforest losing resilience

The Amazon rainforest is becoming less resilient – raising the risk of widespread dieback, new research shows.

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Exeter and Potsdam agree 'tipping points' partnership

The University of Exeter and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have signed an agreement to jointly investigate climate change tipping points.

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IPCC report highlights need for climate action and adaptation

A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the need stop carbon emissions and adapt to "unavoidable risks", according to one of its Lead Authors.

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COP26 deal sparks hope for positive tipping points

The Breakthrough Agenda agreed at COP26 could help trigger positive tipping points to tackle the climate crisis, researchers say.

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Councils urged to sign 'motion for the ocean'

UK councils are being urged to sign a "motion for the ocean" – pledging to engage with citizens to promote ocean recovery.

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Social sciences to play vital role in meeting UK’s net zero goals

The UK’s journey to net zero by 2050 is set to be bolstered by the social sciences, thanks to a major new investment from ESRC.

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4°C warming by 2100 'can't be ruled out'

Global warming of 4°C by 2100 still cannot be ruled out, according to experts whose work informed a new UK government report.

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More trusting societies have been more successful at reducing coronavirus cases and deaths

Countries where people have more trust in each other have been more successful in bringing down waves of coronavirus cases and deaths, a new study shows.

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Logged forest landscapes are seen as lower priorities for protection. Credit Zoe G Davies. 

New study finds logged tropical forests are surprisingly vibrant and need protection

Logging affects many of the world’s tropical forests, and such forests are often considered degraded because they have lost vegetation structure, biomass and carbon stocks.

But there has rarely been analysis of whether the ecological health and functionality of these ecosystems are similarly degraded.

A new study, by researchers at the University of Oxford, finds that logged rainforests are treasure troves of healthy ecological function and should not be written off for oil palm plantations.

Lead author Professor Yadvinder Malhi, Professor of Ecosystem Science at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, said: “We were very surprised by how much more energy was flowing through the logged forests compared to the old-growth forest, and that it was flowing through the same diverse range of species found in the old-growth forest.

“We had not expected the logged forest to be so ecologically vibrant.”

The research, “Logged tropical forests have amplified and diverse ecosystem energetics”, published in the journal Nature, tackles this issue through the perspective of ecosystem energetics – the cascade of energy from plants to mammals and birds through the food they consume.

The research team combined more than 36,000 tree, root and canopy measurements with population data on 248 vertebrate species from old-growth forests through logged forests to oil palm plantations in Borneo.

Remarkably, the study found that the ecological energy flow through the logged forest was 2.5 times greater than in the old-growth forest, before collapsing in the oil palm plantations.

The logged forest supported similar or greater densities of almost all bird and mammal species. 

The authors emphasise that old-growth forests still hold immense ecological value and high carbon stocks, and need to be left intact where possible.

But this study questions the labelling of logged forests as “degraded” when they are so ecologically vibrant.

Such labelling can mean these logged forest landscapes are seen as lower priorities for protection and are cleared to make way for agriculture such as oil palm.

Professor Malhi said: “In tropical forests, and probably in many other ecosystems, not everything that looks broken, is broken.”

The study required meticulous counting of almost all bird and mammal species in the remote study sites, as well as measuring the growth rates of trees and their leaves and roots.

Dr Matthew Struebig, co-author and Reader in Conservation Science at the University of Kent, added: “In the early morning, ornithologists listened out for birds, while evenings were spent catching bats in special traps.

“Meanwhile, trail cameras and cage traps over 77,000 combined nights provided much-needed information on secretive and elusive mammals, from tree shrews, sun bears and elephants.”

Dr Terhi Riutta, co-author and Post Doctoral Researcher at the University of Exeter, said: “This work would not have been possible without the many years of detailed fieldwork by our partners and research assistants in Malaysia, often in very tough conditions.”

Professor Robert Ewers, co-author at the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, added: “Ecologists often just study one aspect of an ecosystem, like its trees or its birds.

“This study shows how meticulous and joined-up research across a wide range of species can yield surprising and important new insights into the nature of ecosystems in a human-dominated world.”

Date: 14 December 2022

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