Tipping Points

Fine tree roots beneath Amsterdam street

Fine tree roots beneath Amsterdam street

Underground Networks

GPM # 65

It’s a living web beneath our feet – a tangled network of microscopic tubes weaving through the soil, pulsating with nutrients, tying the roots of trees and other plants into vast networks.

Mycorrhizal fungi they’re called. Most plants rely on them entirely.

But, mycorrhizal fungi do more than just feed plants. They cycle carbon from atmosphere to soil and back again, regulating Earth’s climate – and they face a host of threats. Soil scientists have come together to protect fungal networks, and are calling on citizens to help out.

Listen to this story in today’s podcast. Click on the play button above, or go here.

Complex flows inside the hyphae of an arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Credit: Loreto Oyarte Galvez, AMOLF + VU, Amsterdam)

Human emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases has warmed Earth’s surface temperature by about 1.1 degrees Celsius, relative to the late 19th century, at a rate of about three tenths of a degree per decade since 1980.

That rate is steadily rising.

As Earth’s surface warms, thermal expansion and melting ice sheets have raised sea levels by two tenths of a meter.

That rate is rising too.

Slow and steady for years to come? Think again.

In a recent report, a team of scientists warn about tipping points — points of inflection where Earth warming and the destruction of Earth’s living fabric become non-linear and unstoppable, and where Earth systems start shifting to new, potentially dangerous states.

Twenty-five tipping points have been identified. Five major ones may already have been transgressed. More could soon be tripped, potentially triggering a cascade of amplifying feedbacks across Earth’s interlocked climate system and biosphere.

Globalized human economies and societies will inevitably suffer.

As if all this weren’t scary enough, “there is no adequate global governance at the scale of the threats posed by negative tipping points,” the report’s authors warn. Manjana Milkoreit is one of them. Milkoreit is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oslo, and lead author of a chapter of the report about tipping point governance.

The GPM reached Manjana Milkoreit in Oslo. Listen our conversation. Click on the play button above, or go here.

Cootes Paradise (David Kattenburg)

Intact, natural ecosystems are home to a wide range of plants and animals. Cities are ecosystems too. The healthiest ones coexist with nature.

On the edge of one of Canada’s largest cities, the benefits provided by natural ecosystems, and the importance of protecting them, are on display. Here’s a story from Hamilton, Ontario – a place called Cootes Paradise. Click on the play button above, or go here.