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Blood glaciers: why is Alpine snow turning pink?
Have you ever seen or heard about the “sang de glacier” (glacier blood) phenomenon? This phenomenon is observed in Alpine areas in springtime and corresponds to red snow over the mountain. Also known as watermelon snow, it has been observed for centuries. In ancient times, philosophers thought that it was due to “red and hairy worms”. However, scientific studies have shown that the phenomenon was directly caused by blooms of algae. Redding is a self-defense feature of algae to protect themselves from ultraviolet light.
Even if it is a natural phenomenon, scientists have started studying it with a closer look. A French group of experts, lead by Eric Marechal, have discovered that the watermelon snow has become a long-term phenomenon and thus, starts to be worrisome. The first findings have been published in Frontiers in Plant Science after the collection and the analysis of samples of blooms in different areas.
Two main observations can be made. The first one is that algae live from carbon dioxide: if carbon dioxide levels rise, they can thrive and thus live longer. The second one is the increase in ultraviolet light that brings out the red color more often. UVs are dangerous for human health but also for biodiversity. Both are likely to be closely linked to climate change according to scientists. But, another important point is that algae’s thriving could also be a consequence of climate change as algae make the snow melt faster than usual because the sun’s rays are not correctly reflected in the atmosphere.
Meet the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners
Winners of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize have been revealed this week. The award, also known as the “Green Nobel Prize”, rewards climate activists across the five continents and islands. Each year, six individuals and their actions to preserve the environment and protect biodiversity are put forward. The activists have taken actions in diverse fields:
- In the US, Sharon Lavigne was awarded for fighting against the implementation of plastics manufacturing plants near the Mississippi River. The area is nowadays called the “cancer alley” as the rate of cancer is 50 times higher than the national average. The Chinese company had been allowed to build the factories which could have led to more toxins in the river, thanks to the work of Sharon, this potential catastrophe was avoided.
- In Malawi, plastic pollution is a major issue across the country as it causes disease and damages biodiversity. Gloria Majiga-Kamoto has fought for years to ban the production, importation, distribution, and use of thin plastics.
- In Peru, Liz Chicaje Churay leads an Indigenous community. She has gathered other local communities for the creation and the preservation of a National Park to protect the Amazon rainforest and peatlands.
- In Vietnam, Thai Van Nguyen was awarded for dedicating his life to protect pangolins. The species is endangered in many areas of the world but especially in Asia where it is poached for its not-proven and largely contested medicinal value. Thai Van Nguyen and his team fight against poaching and have saved thousands of pangolins from illegal trafficking.
- In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Maida Bilal has succeeded in preventing the building of hydropower plants along The Kruščica River, protecting its very rich biodiversity. Local communities were never informed about the project and many protests took place across the region led by Maida.
- In Japan, Kimiko Hirata leads a non-governmental organization to stop the building of tens of coal plants encouraging developers to stop financing coal. Impacts on human well-being and the environment could have been dramatic.
Climate crisis to hit Europe’s coffee and chocolate supplies
As the UN has qualified droughts as the “next pandemic”, scientists have discussed the high vulnerability of food products. Many countries depend on the import of palm oil, sugar cane, coffee, or cocoa whose crops are threatened by droughts and high temperatures.
The danger does not only concern food sources for humans, but also for animals that are mainly fed with products made from soybeans such as chickens and pigs. Thus, a shortage of that kind of product could cause a lack of food across Europe. Prices keep increasing and experts wanted to highlight the direct consequences of climate change in the continent. If some would think that it only concerns the most vulnerable countries, they are completely wrong. Our economies and way of living are highly interdependent and climate change affects trade and consumption habits, everywhere. Disruption in the supply chain of the production of food products has immediate consequences on our daily lives.
The research only focused on droughts but scientists have warned that other extreme natural phenomena such as flooding, bushfires, or storms could also have major impacts on human activities. Beyond the effects on the ecosystem (soil and water), these phenomena inhibit labor to work and earn their living having a direct impact on local communities depending on their crops.
Strong mitigation and adaptation actions should be taken to avoid a global food shortage and protect communities that need to cope with extreme conditions.