How do you feed a city? It is one of the great questions of our time. After all, for a species that ultimately depends on plants to feed ourselves, we do tend to cram ourselves into places that are rather unfriendly towards them. Our cities are built around cars, offices and perhaps the odd park – not fields of crops.
Preserving biodiversity is one of the key debates of our time – but another subject of hot debate in recent decades among evolutionary experts is how biodiversity has changed over the past few hundred million years. New findings are challenging the conventional view on this.
Insects in products such as pasta or bread, microalgae, and single-cell proteins derived from wood could feed and nourish humans and animals in the future. Now, those exploring alternative proteins for more sustainable eating are working out how to make the switch to bug-based food a reality.
Dr Luciano Zuccarello grew up in the shadow of Mount Etna, an active volcano on the Italian island of Sicily. Farms and orchards ring the lower slopes of the volcano, where the fertile soil is ideal for agriculture. But the volcano looms large in the life of locals because it is also one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
When fish stocks crashed in the Baltic in the late 1990s, the islanders of Bornholm, Denmark, realised they had to reinvent themselves. Their rocky outcrop, some 200km east of Copenhagen, had been in decline for years. Its 40,000-plus inhabitants needed a new path, and they chose to pursue sustainability.
Scientists used a radar to track a bumblebee from its maiden flight until death for the first time as part of wider research racing to understand the impact and needs of declining bee populations, including on Europe’s fragmented biodiversity hotspots – grasslands.
By harnessing the power of strong winds at higher altitude than turbines reach, airborne wind energy could be another key source of renewable energy, but it will need a combination of successful designs, more robust software and good storytelling to really take off.
By 2030, a fifth of the fuel that motorists put into the petrol tanks of their cars could be alcohol, according to research concluding that new petrol and ethanol blends can reduce carbon emissions from Europe’s transport sector with little additional cost to consumers.
There is a certain romance to speleology, the study of caves, if you can see past the cold and the damp and the dark. Caves are ancient and often beautiful places. And they can be useful. Rock formations in caves, it turns out, hold within them chemical secrets that provide a window on both ancient civilisations and the climate of the future.
Male seahorses not only become pregnant and give birth, but do so in ways that take different forms, which make them unique research subjects to understand the evolution of pregnancy, according to Dr Olivia Roth from the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR) in Germany.
'Frontier research' scientists share how they are fighting Covid-19.
The Belgian city won the €1 million iCapital cash prize, while runner-up prizes went to Cluj-Napoca, Espoo, Helsingborg, Vienna and Valencia.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.