Savannas are characterised by the co-existence of two very different types of plants – trees and grasses. They may be open, with large swathes of grass and an occasional tree dotting the landscape, or closed with a near complete cover of trees and a sparse grass layer beneath. In drier parts of the world, drought may play an important role in determining the balance between the trees and grasses in savannas. Extreme droughts, which are likely to become more common with climate change, could permanently shift a closed savanna to an open one. Such changes would have significant consequences for the functioning of these ecosystems and the animals they support. Dr Anthony Swemmer of the South African Environmental Observation Network explored the impact of an unusually severe drought on trees in South Africa. His team’s research shows that the response of trees to drought depends on a suite of local factors.
Dr Alejandro Estrada and Dr Paul A. Garber | The Importance of Indigenous Peoples in Safeguarding Earth’s Primates
Non-human primates play crucial roles in sustaining natural ecosystems worldwide. However, approximately 68% of primate species are now at risk of extinction, mainly due to agriculture and the depletion of natural resources. Dr Alejandro Estrada at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Dr Paul A. Garber at the University of Illinois-Urbana, and a group of scientists from various parts of the world recently carried out a study to better understand the role that Indigenous Peoples play in the conservation of threatened primates.
Cowpea is an extremely versatile food crop. Packed with high-quality protein, it has become a staple legume in many households in Africa, where it is indigenous. Cowpea also cycles nutrients back into the soil, supporting sustainable farming and healthy ecological networks. However, the production of this sustainable crop faces many hurdles, including drought, pesticide use, and declining soil quality. In a recent review, Professor Olubukola Oluranti Babalola of North-West University in South Africa outlines the issues facing cowpea production and highlights potential solutions.
Gyroscopes are widely used to measure the orientations and rotation speeds of moving objects – but according to one pair of researchers, the techniques we currently use to measure them are introducing significant and easily avoidable errors. Through their research, Dr Sara Stančin | Dr Sašo Tomažič, both at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, introduce a mathematical framework which accounts for how all three rotations measured by a gyroscope happen simultaneously, rather than in a sequence.
The magnetic field that enshrouds Earth is generated by processes deep within the planet’s interior, which geologists still don’t fully understand. Among the effects that remain poorly studied are brief variations in the strength of the magnetic field, which occur over timescales of several decades. Through detailed mathematical analysis, Dr Klaudio Peqini and Professor Bejo Duka, both at the University of Tirana in Albania, explore how these variations could arise from changes in the flows of material at the boundary between Earth’s core, and its thick layer of mantle.
Across the globe, climate change is driving extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts, with increasing frequency, duration, and intensity. Accurately assessing the flow of water through rivers – or river discharge – could help us forecast extreme weather events and prevent loss of life. Sensors onboard satellites could provide more accurate and in-depth measurements of river variables than ever before. As part of the RIDESAT project, funded by the European Space Agency, Dr Angelica Tarpanelli and her team of researchers from Italy and Denmark investigate how combining remote sensing data from satellites could support river discharge assessments.