Forests cover around 30 % of the Earth’s surface, are home to millions of species, capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2), influence the local climate and provide us with water. This month, Horizon examines how the health of the world’s forests impacts on climate change. We explore the link between deforestation, forest degradation and CO2 emissions, examine the push to combine farming and forestry for better land management, and find out how scientists are using tree rings and DNA to combat illegal logging.
While it seems common sense that planting more trees should help remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and thereby cool the planet, Europe's forest management strategies have actually not helped to fight climate change, according to Professor Sebastiaan Luyssaert, from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Climate change is threatening Europe’s coffee supplies, but the impacts could be diluted by planting the crops amongst trees - a technique known as agroforestry, which is also being revived in European farming.
In November, Horizon takes a deep dive into the captivating, diverse world of clouds to understand what they mean for climate change. We speak to atmospheric physicist Prof. Pier Siebesma about why clouds are still one of the biggest sources of uncertainty when it comes to climate change and how new field studies are helping to reduce some of the unknowns. We speak to a researcher about flying through tropical clouds to collect particles at high altitudes to paint a full picture of the role of clouds and aerosols in our planet’s climate. And we also delve into research investigating how global warming is changing clouds and why this could bring about extreme weather and rain, and we look at how aerosols – crucial for cloud formation - are changing due to anthropogenic pollution.
In October, Horizon discovers a futuristic world of transparent e-books, plastic solar cells and electronic skin with a look at some of the applications of organic electronics. We speak to organic chemist Prof. Andreas Hirsch about how using carbon rather than silicon in electronics can make them flexible, lightweight and biocompatible and could lead to a new generation of human-looking robots and ‘chemical’ computing. We take a look at work to create electronic skin – self-healing, stretchable material that can mimic some of the functions of human skin – and its potential uses. We discover how thin, flexible, plastic solar cells could turn surfaces such as cars and fabric into sources of renewable energy, and we uncover some novel approaches to charging wearable electronics.
Live vaccines can give health effects beyond just protecting us from a specific disease and may even help us combat other infections such as Covid-19, according to Christine Stabell Benn, a professor in global health at the University of Southern Denmark.
Using light as an energy source, photosynthetic microalgae can be used to produce products like biofuels and cosmetics. But algae grown in a reactor block out the light on which they feed. New reactor designs could solve this problem and help the industry move forward.
Prof. Christine Stabell Benn is studying the wider effects of common vaccines.
Stephan Borrmann’s detective work required help from a high-altitude former spy plane.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.