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The fabled use of canaries in coal mines as an early warning of carbon monoxide stemmed from the birds’ extreme sensitivity to toxic conditions compared to humans. In that vein, some avian species can indicate environmental distress brought on by overdevelopment, habitat loss, and rising global temperatures before an ecosystem has collapsed. Not all bird species, however, respond to environmental disturbances equally.

Researchers from Princeton University set out to help determine the characteristics that make certain species more sensitive to environmental pressures. They recently reported in the journal Ecography that a bird species’ ability to adapt to seasonal temperature changes may be one factor in whether it can better withstand environmental disruption. The study focused on how temperature changes and the conversion of forests to agricultural land affected 135 bird species in the Himalayas. Species living in the seasonal western Himalayas adapted to deforestation more readily than birds native to the tropical eastern Himalayas.

Glaciers are melting in most areas across the globe. However, the speed at which tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes are retreating is particularly alarming. This is according to a detailed investigation of all Peruvian mountain ranges conducted by a research team from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, which found a drastic reduction of almost 30 percent in the area covered by glaciers between 2000 and 2016. In a paper recently published in the open-access journal The Cryospherethe research team also observed that El Niño activities had a significant effect on the state of the glaciers. 

Tropical glaciers exist around the equator at altitudes of above 4000 metres. Peru is home to 92 percent of all areas covered by glaciers in the tropics. Due to their geographical location, tropical glaciers are particularly sensitive to fluctuations and changes in the climate. In certain mountain ranges in the Andes, such as the Cordillera Blanca, glaciers are reported to have been retreating at an accelerated rate since the 1980s. Measurements of the mass balance of individual glaciers have also shown a significant loss of ice.

Achieving human well-being and eradicating poverty for all: reaching this goal by 2030 is still possible, but only through a fundamental change in the relationship between people and nature and concerted global efforts to reduce social inequalities. This is according to the 2019 UN Global Sustainable Development Report, released earlier this month.

The UN Global Sustainable Development Report – The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development – evaluates progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and is the first report of its kind since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted four years ago. It was drafted by an independent group of scientists, co-chaired by Peter Messerli, Director of the Centre for Development and Environment, and Endah Murniningtyas, former Deputy Minister for Natural Resources in Indonesia. 

The largest glacier in the Alps is visibly suffering the effects of global warming. ETH researchers have now calculated how much of the Aletsch Glacier will still be visible by the end of the century. In the worst-case scenario, a couple patches of ice will be all that’s left.

Every year, it attracts thousands of visitors from around the world: as the largest ice flow in the Alps, the Great Aletsch Glacier is a major tourism draw in the Swiss region of Upper Valais, second only to the Matterhorn. In the summer, its meltwater plays a key role in providing sufficient water to the dry Rhone valley.

Yet as the climate becomes ever warmer, the massive glacier is suffering just as much as the Matterhorn, which is beginning to crumble. The Aletsch Glacier’s tongue has receded by about one kilometre since the year 2000, and scientists predict this trend will continue over the coming years. But how will things look for the Great Aletsch Glacier by the end of the century? How much of it will still be visible from, say, the nearby Eggishorn or the Jungfraujoch?

As one of the highest and most prominent mountains in Europe, Mont Blanc is a very popular mountain to climb among mountaineers all over the world. However, this venture has become increasingly challenging, as many of the routes have undergone significant changes, and in some cases disappeared completely.

As climate change causes an increasing level of physical alterations to routes on Mont Blanc, it is taking its toll on mountaineering in the region. However, the new conditions climbers encounter on the mountain are still widely unknown and barely researched, particularly in the western Alps. A new study published in the journal Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research attempts to go some way towards addressing this, working closely with mountaineers to investigate their perception of and adaptation methods to the changing conditions.

The IPBES Plenary, at its seventh session held in Paris from 29 April to 4 May 2019, adopted 'the rolling work programme of IPBES up to 2030' (set out in annex I to decision IPBES-7/1), which includes, under its first objective, a thematic assessment of the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and the determinants of transformative change and options for achieving the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. 

This assessment is aimed at understanding and identifying factors in human society at both the individual and collective levels, including behavioural, social, cultural, economic, institutional, technical, and technological dimensions, that can be leveraged to bring about transformative change for the conservation, restoration, and wise use of biodiversity, while taking into account broader social and economic goals in the context of sustainable development. It explores the drivers of and motives behind broad societal changes and transitions to inform the design of relevant policies, communication and engagement campaigns and other actions.

The IPBES Plenary, at its seventh session held in Paris from 29 April to 4 May 2019, adopted 'the rolling work programme of IPBES up to 2030' (set out in annex I to decision IPBES-7/1), which includes, under its first objective, a thematic assessment of the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food, and health. 

This assessment will use a nexus approach to examine the strong interlinkages among the Sustainable Development Goals related to food and water security, health for all, protecting biodiversity on land and in the oceans, and combating climate change, among others. Interlinkages take various forms, including synergies, co-benefits and trade-offs.

A unique project is linking in-situ measurements with natural hazard research. For the past ten years, a network of wireless sensors on the Matterhorn’s Hörnli ridge has been constantly streaming measurement data on the condition of steep rock faces, permafrost, and prevailing climate. The project leader, Jan Beutel, reviews progress to date.

The summer heatwave of 2003 triggered a rockfall that shocked both researchers and the general public: 1,500 cubic metres of rock broke away from the Hörnli ridge – a volume roughly equivalent to two houses. The fracture event exposed bare ice on the surface of the steep scarp. Experts soon realised that the record temperatures had warmed the rock down to such a depth that the ice contained in its pores and fissures had melted. This effectively caused a sudden reduction of the bonding holding the rock mass together.

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