How can we build more sustainable cities to promote better environmental and societal wellbeing? This year’s United Nations theme of ‘Act Local to Go Global’ emphasises the need for local action to help us to live greener lives and researchers are developing technologies that can support us all in creating equitable and sustainable societies.
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By 2025, nearly two million people are expected to be living in areas suffering from water shortages, with the impacts especially pronounced in arid regions. In the Nature Portfolio Sustainability Community, He Shan shares a newly developed hygroscopic (moisture-absorbing) material made from active carbon and hygroscopic salt, which extracts water vapour from the air. Combining this technology with a portable water harvester allows the trapped water molecules to be condensed into fresh water, therefore providing a new method for generating a stable water supply.
Adopting renewable energy is essential to mitigate climate change, but could there be of way of engineering more efficient photosynthesis in cyanobacteria? In the Springer Nature Material Community, Ardemis Boghossian shares a new process where carbon nanotubes have been engineered to enter photosynthetic bacteria. The subsequent nanobionic cells have been found to have near-infrared fluorescence which is inheritable between bacterial generations and increased photoelectric production. The researchers hope that this technology could be used to create living photovoltaics that have a higher energy output than unmodified cyanobacteria, with potential uses in renewable technology.
Rapid urbanisation and industrialisation have increased the number of aerosols in the atmosphere, in addition to those generated by natural events such as dust storms, volcanic eruptions, wildfires and ocean waves. As such, aerosols have varied compositions, containing salts, organics and transition metals. In the Nature Portfolio Earth and Environment Community, Hind Al-Abadleh, Marcelo Guzman and Akua Asa-Awuku write that aerosols have a dramatic effect on climate depending upon their composition, with brown carbon aerosols (those made from light-absorbing organics) being a great source of uncertainty when considering their contribution to climate forcing and cloud interactions.
Urban forests not only benefit the wellbeing of the population but also help to reduce air pollutants, sequester carbon and moderate temperatures in urban environments. What will happen as tree health declines and urban forests shrink? In the Nature Portfolio Earth and Environment Community, Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez, Mark Tjoelker and Rachael Gallagher report that there is a global lack in understanding the impact of climate change on urban tree species. To address this, the team studied 3,129 tree and shrub species planted in 164 cities across 78 countries to provide data which helps urban planners to choose the most appropriate, climate-resilient species for their towns and cities, with steps to appropriately monitor their urban forests in the face of climate change.
Charlotte is a Freelance Research Content Manager at Springer Nature and is based in Birmingham. Her main focus is spotlighting the research published by Springer Nature through Behind the Paper blogs in the Nature Portfolio and Springer Nature Communities, and engaging audiences through social media content creation.