West Antarctic Glacial Retreat Increasing
The Getz region in Western Antarctica has seen an increased rate of glacial melt over the last two decades. A detailed study into 1000 kilometres of coastline investigated the rate of ice decline (or retreat) for glaciers that are melting. Since 1994, they have collectively lost 315 gigatonnes of ice. The main reason for the changes are thought to be “ocean forcing” whereby warmer waters are getting under glacial fronts and causing them to melt from below.
This area of Antarctica accounts for around 10% of sea level rise globally, so it is important to monitor the glacial movements. On average, the speed of all 14 glaciers in the region increased by almost a quarter between 1994 and 2018. The velocity of three central glaciers was higher as it was shown to be increasing by more than 40%. The most extreme was a 59% increase in velocity for ice stream.
Satellite observations allow the West Antarctic, and much wider areas around the margins of Antarctica, to be mapped in much more detail than it has been previously possible to do. High-resolution remotely sensed data from satellites, such as European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite which collects a new image every six-days, allows a much more in-depth analysis to be undertaken. The information has allowed monitoring of the changing rates of glaciers and ice flows. The rates of increased glacier speed along with ice thinning highlights that the Getz basin is in a state of ‘dynamic imbalance’. This means that it is losing more ice than it gains through snowfall.
Satellite technology has allowed a more comprehensive understanding of the state of glaciers in the western Antarctic. Data collection and monitoring is now much easier than it had been, due to the satellites. Detailed ground studies, which greatly aid the understanding of why the processes are happening, can be very challenging in remote and inhospitable places such as this. The ground studies often assist in the interpretation of data being collected from satellites. Further details can be reviewed on the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM) web site.
30 By 30 Nature Campaign
A campaign to protect nature recognises the wider common good of nature based systems allowing life on Earth to flourish. That includes allowing human lives to flourish as well. It is estimated if nature’s services were expressed as a monetary value then $125 trillion of services are provided to us from nature. This is against a backdrop of having lost around 60% of terrestrial species over the last 50 years, 90% of big ocean fish over the last century and the fact that deforestation continues at a rate of more than 18 million acres each year. The Campaign for Nature highlights these figures and proposes a solution in terms of 30% of all land being protected to provide nature based solutions to our environmental and climate situation by the year 2030.
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an independent intergovernmental body established by nation states to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development. They highlight the sustainable use of wild species as being instrumental in sustainable development. Wild species provide half of the world’s seafood, a significant proportion of timber and energy, and provide a major source of protein, fibre and medicines for many communities in both developing and developed countries.
The scientific reasons for the 30% of land use being used for “ecosystem services” by 2030 are presented in this Science Advances paper: A global deal for nature (GDN) by Dinerstein et al from 2019. It notes a solution targeting 30% of Earth to be formally protected for nature with an additional 20% designated as areas that can be used to stabilise the climate, by 2030, to stay below 1.5°C that was set out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Natural ecosystems are critical in order to maintain human prosperity with the world warming. 65% of those who signed up to the Paris Agreement have committed to restoring or conserving ecosystems. As an example intact forests, especially tropical forests, sequester twice as much carbon as planted monocultures which are associated with agriculture.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature or IUCN has developed a series of categories for protected areas: they range from totally protected strict nature reserves where human activity is not permitted to the least strict category of protected areas that allow sustainable use of natural resources. They have a protected planet web site that lists the worlds protected areas. It highlights just how much protection nature has. The site suggests that the Earth currently has around only 9.8% of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs). There is a long way to go to the 30% target. There are many differences between countries with some exceeding this 30% figure and others are being behind it.
These two studies, from CPOM and the Science Advances paper, highlight increasing glacial decline as well as previous damage inflicted on our ecosystems by humankind. It goes to show just how critical the 2020s will be to addressing the environmental and climate crisis faced by humanity. There need to be big changes in how land is managed in order to restore a more natural balance on Earth. The 30 by 30 initiative sets out a clear path to get there.