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We want to make cutting edge research in the environmental sciences accessible to all by highlighting recent studies and explaining how these advances shape the understanding of our world.

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Permafrost soils and carbon cycling

Permafrost soils make up 15 % of the global land cover and store more than 822 petagrams of carbon in their upper most three centimetres alone (the weight of 182,000,000,000 adult elephants). When comparing this with the annual carbon dioxide emissions of an average German citizen of approx. 2.4 tons C per year1 it becomes clear that we need to prevent these soil from breaking the masses of carbon within these soils. Warming of permafrost leads to the release of carbon, making them a source of the greenhouse gasses carbon dioxide and methane.

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O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree. How Christmas tree farms affect bird communities.

Grasslands, such as hay meadows, have been increasingly replaced with Christmas tree farms across Europe as the Christmas tree industry expands. A recent study documented higher bird abundance and more bird species in Christmas tree farms than in grasslands that had low shrub and bush (i.e. hedges) abundance. Grasslands with a large amount of hedges had similar amounts of birds compared to Christmas tree farms. As Christmas tree farms take up more and more grasslands, there is a need for more research to determine the quality of bird habitats within Christmas tree farms.

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Growing food with garbage – how fertilizing crops with food waste could solve the problem of finite landfill space

Much of the organic-rich waste (e.g. food scraps, yard waste) that ends up in landfills could be put to better use, like building soil fertility for crops. A recent study suggests that crops grown in soils that have been amended with a variety of landfill-destined organic waste products produce comparable yields to plants grown with conventional synthetic fertilizers.

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Rejuvenating Agricultural Soils

Soils play an important role in the global carbon cycle because they can absorb carbon from and emit carbon into the atmosphere. Currently, agricultural soils are not home to very large carbon pools. Recent research investigated the effects of adding carbonized crop residue to soils in agricultural environments in the hopes of finding ways to increase the amount of carbon retained by these soils.

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Daylight at night – the consequences of a world without darkness

We don’t tend to think of artificial light in terms of pollution. Most often it’s something positive; it helps us find our way around the house after dark, lets us read signs along the roads during night-time drives, and makes us feel safer while walking through cities at night. But the problem with our increasingly illuminated lifestyle is that we’re inadvertently messing with nature’s sensitive regulation systems, all fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution.

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Putting the cart before the horse: the danger of oil sands before the pipeline

The story of oil sands – one unconventional source of oil found in Canada – has a newly identified danger right in its backyard: the exhaust from the diesel trucks that carry the material across the site contains a toxin that may affect the health of people in communities downwind.

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