One billion hectares of trees needed to check global warming, Science

Environmentalists estimate that global temperatures could rise 1.5° C above industrial levels by as early as 2030 if current trends continue. To address this problem, the latest report from the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended adding 1 billion hectares of forests to help tackle the climate crisis.
In their recent study published on Science, ecologists Jean-Francois Bastin and Tom Crowther of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and their co-authors figured out whether today’s Earth could support that many extra trees, and where they might all go. They analyzed nearly 80,000 satellite photographs for current forest coverage and categorized the planet according to 10 soil and climate characteristics. This identified areas that were more or less suitable for different types of forest. After subtracting existing forests and areas dominated by agriculture or cities, they calculated how much of the planet could sprout trees.
The analysis found there are 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land on which 1.2 trillion native tree saplings would naturally grow. Though it is impossible to have 100% tree cover on these areas, the Earth could still naturally support 0.9 billion hectares of additional forest—an area the size of the United States. The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.
Tree planting is “a climate change solution that doesn’t require President Trump to immediately start believing in climate change, or scientists to come up with technological solutions to draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere”, Crowther said, “It is available now, it is the cheapest one possible and every one of us can get involved.” Estimates of how much forest restoration on this scale would cost vary, but based on prices of about $0.30 a tree, Crowther says it could be roughly $300 billion.
Scientists claim that if people around the world could work together, this a billion new hectares of trees can sequester 205 gigatons of carbon in the coming decades, roughly five times the amount emitted globally in 2018, and limit global warming to 1.5° C by 2050. This idea sounds fabulous on paper. But who would be foolish enough to believe that people can actually collaborate and implement this plan?

Space station mold could survive 200 times the radiation dose that would kill a human

The picture above captures mold growing on the inside of the International Space Station. In low-Earth orbit, the radiation doses are too low to inhibit mold proliferation and astronauts have already been constantly battling with mold. However, recent studies revealed that even at places outside the station where the radiation dose is higher, mold will still survive and hitchhike in our future space travels.
Researchers reported last month at the Astrobiology Science Conference that new studies showed that the spores of mold could survive radiation doses of 500 to 1000 gray (gray is a measure of the amount of absorbed radiation energy), whereas human would get radiation sickness at doses of 0.5 gray and be killed by 5 gray. Cortesão, the principal investigator of the research, also found that the spores survived large amounts of high-energy ultraviolet radiation, which is commonly used as a hospital disinfectant and has been proposed for sterilizing the surfaces of spacecraft. Though the study did not take into account other aspects of the harsh outer space environment, Cortesão believed that we will have spores with us for sure in our space travels.
Perhaps the most important implication of this research is on the study of the origin of life. One of the puzzles in origin-of-life research is that Earth seems to have gone from prebiotic all the way to fairly complex microorganisms early in its history—a process that some scientists think required more time than had passed since the planet first became habitable. One idea is that life originated elsewhere, either in our solar system or farther afield. “Now that we know that Earth life can survive in space, it is certainly reasonable to think that it could have arrived on Earth from somewhere else,” says Paul Mason, an astrobiologist at New Mexico State University.

Fast-evolving insecticide resistance might soon make cockroaches unstoppable, Scientific Reports

People are aware of the development of insecticide resistance. But exactly how fast will it develop? New studies on German cockroaches reveals that the pest can become resistant to almost every kind of chemical insecticides within months. The fact that cockroaches live only for about 100 days allows resistance to evolve quickly, with genes from the most resistant cockroaches being passed to the next generation.
To test resistance in German cockroaches, researchers treated three different colonies in multiple apartment buildings in Indiana and Illinois over the course of 6 months. The populations were tested for their level of resistance to three different insecticides: abamectin, boric acid, and thiamethoxam. One treatment used all three pesticides, one after another, for 3 months before repeating the cycle. In another treatment, researchers used a mixture of insecticides over the full 6 months. A final treatment scenario used just one chemical that the selected roach population had low resistance to for the entire time.
The result was that the size of the cockroach population did not drop regardless of the type of treatment. That was true even when the researchers used multiple insecticides at once—a standard practice among exterminators. That suggests cockroaches are quickly evolving resistance to all three of the chemicals that were tested, which is horrible news to people who have been battling them for ages.
ISP Sci. Rev. 26 (2019)
Editor: Rossoneri
Integrated Science Program
Northwestern University

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