From floods to earthquakes and erupting volcanoes, during March, Horizon focuses on the science helping prepare for natural disasters.
We speak to scientists that have mapped data from over 35 000 earthquakes to identify the regions most at risk from seismic activity. We also hear from the researchers who are developing ways to test power grids, transport networks and dams for vulnerability to natural events.
In the wake of intense flooding in parts of Europe, we find out about projects that are figuring out how to improve Europe’s resilience to flooding, and we talk to the coordinator of a project that is monitoring some of Europe’s largest volcanoes to better plan for future eruptions.
On 27 March, the EU called for research proposals to improve Europe’s disaster resilience, including ways to detect chemical and biological toxins, and methods of preparing for a pandemic outbreak.
Imagine the scenario, an earthquake strikes a small Mediterranean city, forcing people out of their homes and shattering roads. Then, violent aftershocks cause a landslide, burying one of the city suburbs, but rescuers can’t get in because the roads have been damaged.
Scanning the earth’s surface to check for volcanic changes will improve volcano early warning systems when combined with ground-based measurements, according to Dr Giuseppe Puglisi, of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology. Dr Puglisi manages the EU-funded MED-SUV research consortium which brings together monitoring techniques so that it can warn decision-makers when there’s a hightened risk of an eruption.
Tsunamis are not very frequent events, but they can have a terrible impact on human life and on the economy of a country. They occur as a result of earthquakes, usually at the bottom of the sea, but at present such earthquakes cannot be foreseen.
This month, Horizon explores the global challenge of biodiversity loss. Many experts believe we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, where human-caused factors such as land use and pollution are causing a decline in biodiversity – something that threatens the future of our own species. We speak to British ecologist Professor Georgina Mace about how bad the situation is and what we can do about it. We explore marine ecosystems, where species relocation outpaces that of terrestrial populations, and examine how we can help these environments adapt. We also look into the link between food insecurity and biodiversity degradation, and find out what’s in store for bees – our pollinators. Finally, we investigate the services nature provides for people – from cleaning our water to acting as a carbon sink – and ask whether putting a value on natural capital could help save it.
Fifty years after humans first set foot on the moon, Earth’s only permanent natural satellite is back in the news with China’s successful landing on the moon’s as-yet-unexplored far side. This month, Horizon looks at how Europe is contributing to moon research. We hear from the European Space Agency’s director of human and robotic exploration about their plans to send a robot and then humans to the lunar surface in the 2020s, and speak to the scientists trying to fill the holes in our understanding of how the moon was formed. We also hear how we could solve the puzzle of where water on Earth originated by analysing volatile substances from the moon, and take a look at the methods and facilities being developed to protect precious extra-terrestrial samples from human contamination.
Nature provides people with everything from food and water to timber, textiles, medicinal resources and pollination of crops. Now, a new approach aims to measure exactly what a specific ecosystem supplies in order to incentivise decision-makers and businesses to help combat biodiversity loss.
Europe’s position on privacy, regulation and competition could be a key way to attract entrepreneurs who share those values but there is still some work to do in encouraging ambition, according to Nicklas Bergman, a Swedish entrepreneur and technology investor. Over the past two years, he and other entrepreneurs have advised the European Commission on the design of the European Innovation Council (EIC), an initiative to support companies, researchers and entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business or scale up their projects internationally. The second phase of the pilot was launched on 18 March 2019.
To protect species, we need to speak the language of business, say experts.
He has advised the EU on its new European Innovation Council.
Species loss needs urgent international action, says Prof. Georgina Mace.