Shoreline erosion can transform freshwater wetlands from carbon-storage pools to carbon sources, according to a study led by Illinois State Geological Survey researchers. Wave action and high water levels sweep away soils and plants at a rate much higher than nature can replace them. An accurate measurement of this carbon budget imbalance may help better prioritize coastal management efforts and improve global carbon-cycle models. Freshwater wetlands account for as much as 95% of all wetlands – freshwater and marine – and have one of the highest carbon-storage rates of any environment, the researchers said. “There are a lot of coastal wetlands here in the Great Lakes region and they are recognized as important carbon-storage reservoirs,” said Ethan Theuerkauf, an Illinois State Geological Survey researcher and study co-author. “But, we want to know how erosion and landscape change may alter that carbon-storage capacity. That has not been explored before.” The researchers developed a new model that works like those that assess the carbon budgets of coastal saltwater environments, but with modifications to account for the unique characteristics of freshwater ecosystems. The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Pop-up parks (PUPs) help urban dwellers connect with nature in their neighborhoods, serve important conservation functions by providing small-scale habitat refuges for a wide variety of threatened plants and animals in urban environments, and deliver a suite of ecosystem services to urban residents and wildlife alike. In a study published in the Ecological Society of America's journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, lead author Luis Mata -- ecologist with the People, Nature, Place research program at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University's Centre for Urban Research -- and colleagues explore the socioecological potential of PUPs in greater depth. Mata et al.'s review of PUP-related studies provides strong evidence that even small greenspaces confer a wide variety of social benefits to urban residents, although these differ somewhat from the benefits provided by larger greenspaces; for example, the small size of PUPs constrains more robust physical activities such as walking and jogging, and limits exposure to better air quality. Pop-up parks can fit into areas that may not be large enough for a more traditional greenspace, as evidenced by the Pop-Up Urban Park in Wichita, Kansas. Wichita’s park began as a large hole in the ground, left behind after the previous property owner’s development plans fell through in 2007 with the start of the Great Recession.
Nearly 5.5 million adults 60 and older in 2017 were food insecure — meaning that they often went hungry because they could not afford food — according to Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization that operates a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs nationwide. According to the report, even though food insecurity for the overall population declined from 2016 to 2017, the number for adults over 60 remained largely the same. In 2016, there were 5.3 million seniors living with hunger. “We know that the number of seniors is going to keep on increasing. So even if the rates stay the same, the number of seniors who are food insecure will be expected to increase quite dramatically in the coming years,” says Craig Gundersen, a professor at the University of Illinois who coauthored the report. “Food insecurity among seniors is not just an issue for those who are poor.” The study was based on data gathered from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. That poll was conducted in December 2017, and the data was released last September, making it the most current data available on food insecurity. This is the third year Feeding America has published the “State of Senior Hunger in America” report. The 5.5 million adults 60 and older who were food insecure comprise 7.7% of all the people in that age group. The report, coauthored by James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky, found that the rates of hunger were higher among people ages 60 to 64 than for those who were older. Among adults over 60 who were food insecure, more than one third (37.5%) were ages 60 to 64, while 1 in 10 (9.9%) were 80 and older.
Human waste might be an unpleasant public health burden, but scientists at the University of Illinois see sanitation as a valuable facet of global ecosystems and an overlooked source of nutrients, organic material and water. Their research, directed by Assistant Professor Jeremy Guest, is reported in the journal Nature Sustainability. Human beings derive benefits from the ecosystems around them – services that often go undervalued in traditional economic systems, the researchers said. These ecosystem benefits include things such as forests providing wood as a building material and natural hydrological processes that improve water quality. “In previous research, we have shown that human waste can provide a potentially valuable source of nutrients and water to enhance agriculture,” said lead author John Trimmer, a civil and environmental engineering graduate student. “In the new study, we expand this concept and set out to find connections between ecosystem services and the recovery of nutrients, water and organic matter from sanitation systems – then define and analyze the viability of pathways through which those recovered resources might further enhance ecosystem services.”