Culture

Earth Overshoot Day – Let’s #Movethedate

 “Lakes are losing oxygen 2.75-9.3 times faster than the oceans, a decline that will have impacts throughout the ecosystem.”

Professor Kevin Rose,  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Oxygen levels in the world’s temperate freshwater lakes are declining faster than in the oceans. Image credit: Gretchen Hansen, University of Minnesota

Although lakes make up only about 3% of Earth’s land surface, they contain a disproportionate concentration of the planet’s biodiversity.

Research published in Nature found that oxygen levels in surveyed lakes across the temperate zone have declined 5.5% at the surface and 18.6% in deep waters since 1980. Meanwhile, in a large subset of mostly nutrient-polluted lakes, surface oxygen levels increased as water temperatures crossed a threshold favouring cyanobacteria, which can create toxins when they flourish in the form of harmful algal blooms.

The research was conducted by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It found that oxygen levels in the world’s temperate freshwater lakes are declining rapidly — faster than in the oceans — a trend driven largely by climate change that threatens freshwater biodiversity and drinking water quality

The use of chemicals in agriculture and other sectors is also impacting on freshwater ecosystems.

Oxygen concentrations regulate many other characteristics of water quality. When oxygen levels decline, bacteria that thrive in environments without oxygen, such as those that produce the powerful greenhouse gas methane, begin to proliferate. This suggests the potential that lakes are releasing increased amounts of methane to the atmosphere as a result of oxygen loss. Additionally, sediments release more phosphorous under low oxygen conditions, adding nutrients to already stressed waters.

Earth Overshoot Day

July 29th 2021 has been calculated as Earth Overshoot Day.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.

Earth Overshoot Day

Last year, due to the public health restrictions of the Covid pandemic and the effects of lockdowns worldwide, the Earth Overshoot Day in 2020 was pushed back. Despite all the pledges to do things differently it seems that we have learned nothing from 2020 and are hastening back to the same old ways.

Commenting on Earth Overshoot Day, Councillor Susan Aitken, the Leader of Glasgow City Council said:

“In November the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow, host of COP26, the climate summit that needs to make the decisions that will deliver our planet on a safer and more sustainable future.

“We’ve got the opportunity here in Glasgow to show the world what we’re doing, coalescing together as a city to show real change, to respond to the climate and ecological emergency. Let’s put our planet first and let’s #MoveTheDate together.”

June 5th was World Environment Day and the United Nations chose that date to launch ‘The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. It can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction.

Included in the initiatives is Seven Lochs – Scotland’s largest urban nature park. Established in 2016, Seven Lochs aims to develop a heritage and nature park. The organisations involved in its development are:

Peatland ACTION which aims at restoration of that unique ecosystem is another of the initiatives highlighted by the UN. Peatland ACTION is funded by the Scottish Government and will support ‘on-the-ground restoration activities.’

Professor Roxane Andersen of the University of the Highlands and Islands recently gave her inaugural professorial lecture on ‘Carbon Planet: a journey into the science of peatlands’. She explained that the northern peatlands make up 3% of the planet’s land mass.

Professor Andersen described how more biomass is bound up in sphagnum moss than in any other plant on Earth. She has been instrumental in bringing to the fore the importance of the Flow Country – the largest expanse of bog in Europe – habitats which she says are ‘critical for the survival of our species.’

Last year the Scottish Government announced a £250 million ten-year funding package to support peatland restoration, with a target of restoring 250,000 hectares of degraded peatland by 2030. In 2021-22, five partners including NatureScot and Scottish Water will get a share of £22 million to deliver a range of new and existing restoration projects across Scotland.

Related article: “Let’s defend our future, let’s fight for it, let’s create it” #NobelPrizeSummit

It’s in our hands to make the changes we need to . ‘Let’s do net zero’ is the Scottish Government’s climate campaign. This involves widespread advertising to raise awareness of the transformation required if we are to reduce emissions in Scotland.

In 2020 governments around the world demonstrated that change was possible. The tragedy of the Covid19 pandemic has shown us that we can do things differently.

Image credit Rosie Hopkins

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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