Written by: Trevor Steele, Peak Associate

 

Agriculture’s impact on earth’s environment

UBC researchers, in collaboration with researchers from a number of universities including SFU, have revealed the significance of agriculture’s effect on Earth’s environment in a new study published in the journal Science Advances.

     The researchers examined how the rise of agricultural activity in the Bronze Age in Ireland affected Earth’s nitrogen cycle. They saw how, as deforestation and agricultural activity rose, notable shifts emerged in soil and plants’ nitrogen makeup. Eric Guiry, a post-doctoral fellow at UBC, suggests that this “was the turning point at which humans first began to cause environmental change.”

     While the study was conducted exclusively in Ireland, the researchers believe that their findings may be echoed wherever people have modified land for the purpose of agriculture.

 

BC seagrass not as beneficial to the environment

A new study from SFU and Parks Canada researchers, published in the science journal PLOS One, has found that seagrasses in northern regions store much less carbon than seagrasses in other parts of the world.

     Seagrasses are found in coastal regions throughout much of the world, and are the sole type of marine flowering plants in existence. The plants draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Because of this ability to store carbon, seagrasses are considered an important tool in slowing climate change.

     The researchers set out to measure how much carbon was stored in seagrass meadows on the west coast of Vancouver Island. They found that the amount of carbon stored in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island was much lower than the amount stored in seagrass meadows in tropical regions — the Vancouver Island region has less than 10% of what many other regions have been believed to contain.

     The team of SFU researchers, led by resource and environmental master’s students Victoria Postlethwaite and Aimee McGowan, pointed to the species of seagrass, low-light conditions, low temperatures, nutrients, and water conditions as reasons for the disparity. They concluded that a more regional focus was needed to effectively reduce climate change.