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The Environment and Climate Research Hub Observer


Hot Topic - Plastic

Welcome back to another issue of ECHO! Our hot topic for today is something we see, touch and even eat every day: plastic. The problems it causes come and go in the public eye, not least because plastic has infiltrated every aspect of human life and, sadly, remains crucial. As the problem is well known and researched, this Hot Topic presents new scientific developments to tackle it.

On average, 41 microplastic particles per m2 per day are settled from the atmosphere along the Ganges River.



Towards a more sustainable use of plastics in agriculture

An international team of researchers led by Thilo Hofmann from the Department of Environmental Geosciences at the University of Vienna addresses this question in a recent study published in Nature Communication Earth and Environment. The research shows the benefits and risks of using plastics in agriculture and identifies solutions to ensure their sustainable use.


Stronger, stretchier, self-healing plastic

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed an innovative plastic that is stronger and more elastic than the current standard, can be cured with heat, retains its shape and is partially biodegradable.
Pictured: A graphical summary of the new material's properties.

Environment @ UNIVIE

These are the latest developments in environmental and climate research
at the University of Vienna, with and without the involvement of ECH members.


Review: Panel Discussion "Our life with waste: Between consumption and environmental protection" (German)

On October 10th, our event series "Umwelt im Gespräch" provided another interesting discussion with different perspectives on an environmental issue. Professor of Science and Technology Studies Ulrike Felt and functional and evolutionary ecologist Philipp Weber from the University of Vienna were joined on the panel by Josef Thon, head of waste management and street cleaning of the City of Vienna. The topic of waste and recycling was discussed with lively participation from the audience.  


What the future is made of

Man-made materials affect our daily lives. A hundred years ago, the total weight of man-made things, or 'anthropogenic mass', was only about three per cent of the world's biomass. Today, there is far more man-made material on Earth than there are living beings. Meanwhile, research groups around the world are searching for new materials: Our hopes are pinned on them to solve many of the burning issues of our time. Read how researchers from different fields at the University of Vienna are contributing to the development of sustainable materials.



Soil bacteria prevail despite drought conditions

Recent research is revealing the resilience of certain soil microorganisms in the face of increasing drought. While many bacteria become inactive during dry periods, certain groups persist and even thrive. The study, conducted by researchers of the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science (CeMESS) at the University of Vienna, provides groundbreaking insights into bacterial activity during droughts, with implications for agriculture and our understanding of the effects of climate change.


Microbial Metabolites: A New Link to Parkinson's Disease?

Published in Environment International, a groundbreaking study by a team led by ECH member Thomas Böttcher at the University of Vienna, in collaboration with the University of Konstanz and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, reveals the role of a microbial metabolite in inducing Parkinson's-like symptoms. This discovery could change our understanding of the environmental triggers of Parkinson's disease.

Environment & Climate in the Media

Additionally, media and newspaper articles with recent environmental findings and developments are listed here.

Biodegradable plastics still damaging to fish

Biodegradable plastics may not be the solution to plastic pollution that many had hoped for, as a University of Otago study shows they are still harmful to fish.

Window to avoid 1.5°C of warming will close before 2030 if emissions are not reduced

Without rapid reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, the world has a 50% chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C by 2030, according to a new study led by researchers at Imperial College London and published today in Nature Climate Change. It is the most recent and comprehensive analysis of the global carbon budget.

Biochar’s potential for mitigating climate change

Biochar, a charcoal produced by heating discarded organic materials such as crop residues, offers a way to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) at a time when climate scientists warn that urgent action is needed to limit CO2 in the atmosphere. New maps, produced from a first-of-its-kind high-resolution global dataset of crop residues, show areas where residues can be sustainably used to produce biochar.

The loss of groundwater storage around the world

With global water resources under pressure from climate change and population growth, farms and cities are increasingly turning to groundwater to meet their needs. Unfortunately, pumping groundwater can cause the land surface above to sink as the aquifers below are drained and the ground's architecture collapses. A new study maps this loss of groundwater storage capacity around the world for the first time.

A sustainable alternative to air conditioning

Air conditioning is a major contributor to global warming, using potent greenhouse gases and energy. Now, in a new study, researchers from McGill University, UCLA and Princeton have found a cheap, sustainable alternative to mechanical cooling with refrigerants in hot and dry climates, and a way to mitigate dangerous heat waves during power outages.

Humans are disrupting natural ‘salt cycle’

A new paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment reveals that human demand for salt is making the Earth's air, soil and freshwater saltier, which could pose an "existential threat" if current trends continue.

Look out for:

Interesting events and/or projects related to environment and climate taking place in Vienna/Austria in the near future.


A hands-on exhibition for children

At the ZOOM Children's Museum, children can immerse themselves in different scenarios of the future: views of and from the galaxy, learning about recycling and helping in an upcycling tailor shop, or discovering the glass greenhouse. The hands-on exhibition was designed with the help of the Developmental Psychology Research Unit at the University of Vienna, among others. It is aimed at both individuals and institutions and will run until  February 25.


Green claims - How can you recognize greenwashing and bogus climate protection? (German)

How can you recognize greenwashing? What can you do about it? What does the "Green Claims" Directive contain? When does the directive apply in Austria? On November 28, the EU Umweltbüro hosts a discussion with Barbara Schmon (Integrated product policy, corporate environmental protection and environmental technology, BMK) and Martin Wildenberg (Expert on sustainable consumption and production, agriculture, biodiversity, Global 2000). The event will go from 13:00 to 14:30 and can be joined on site at the Seminarraum Umweltdachverband Dresdner Straße 82, 1200 Vienna or online via Zoom.


Information Day

Within the framework of the Climate and Energy Fund, the Austrian Climate Research Programme (ACRP) provides a conceptual and institutional basis for the promotion of climate research in Austria. The ACRP focuses on research on climate change and climate protection, adaptation, mitigation and their interactions. In an online information event the content of the 16th ACRP call will be presented on November 22. In addition, FFG will provide information on administrative and organisational aspects as well as tips and tricks for a successful application. There will be enough time for your questions.

Until next time!

Be sure to visit our website https://ech.univie.ac.at/ for more information on the ECH and other environment and climate news from the University of Vienna. While you are at it, feel free to share the registration link for our newsletter with colleagues and friends that are interested in environment and climate research.