Nature and Biodiversity

Drought-stricken Amazon River at lowest recorded level, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

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Top nature and climate news: Amazon river at lowest-ever recorded level, and more.

Top nature and climate news: Amazon river at lowest-ever recorded level, and more. Image: REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/Files

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
  • This weekly round-up contains key nature and climate news from the past week.
  • Top nature and climate stories: Amazon River at lowest-ever recorded level; EU targets 74% cut in microplastic waste; Flame-retardant chemicals threaten more than 100 species.

1. Drought-stricken Amazon River at record-low level

Brazil's Amazon River fell to its lowest-ever recorded water level as a record drought threatens hundreds of thousands of people and has damaged delicate jungle ecosystems.

Drying river tributaries along the world's second-longest river left boats stranded and cut off essential supplies of food, water and medical provisions to remote village communities.

High water temperatures pose a serious threat to marine life and are suspected of killing more than 100 endangered river dolphins, Reuters reports.

Water levels in Manaus, a port city with the region's largest population, fell to 13.59 metres, compared to 17.60 metres at the same time last year. This represents the lowest levels in more than a century since records began in 1902.

Parts of the Amazon have had the least recorded rainfall between July and September since the 1980s, Brazil's disaster monitoring and response organization (Cemaden) reports.

More than 480,000 people have been impacted by the drought, according to the Amazonas state civil defence agency.

Emergency supplies are being distributed by tractor, canoe, or on foot in some regions.

2. EU targets 74% cut in microplastic waste

Success would result in a 7% reduction in Europe's microplastics pollution, the European Commission says.

The move targets the tiny plastic pellets that are deliberately added to plastic products as raw material.

“The most important thing is to cut pollution at the source,” Virginijus Sinkevičius, EU commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries, told The Guardian. “What we are looking to do is basically ensure we drastically cut, at the source, pollution of microplastics.”

Recycling efforts not enough to solve plastic waste problem.
Plastic waste is predicted to triple by 2060. Image: Statista

Globally, plastic waste is forecast to triple by 2060, increasing from 353 billion tonnes in 2019 to 1 billion tonnes, according to the OECD's Global Plastics Outlook.

While an uptick in recycling rates can go some way to tackling the problem, efforts to curb plastic pollution at source could prove more effective.


3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week

Long-lasting flame-retardant chemicals threaten more than 100 species across the world, new research shows. Creatures at risk range from mammals to marine life and include endangered animals like red pandas, chimpanzees and killer whales.

The EU has agreed on a push to phase out "unabated" fossil fuels at the upcoming COP28 climate talks in the United Arab Emirates. The bloc's stance leaves a window for countries to continue burning fossil fuels if they use technology to capture harmful CO2 emissions.


What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Melting surface ice on Greenland's ice sheets has accelerated while in the Antarctic it has slowed, new research shows, EcoWatch reports. During the last decade, wind-related melting has increased by 10% in Greenland but fallen by almost a third in Antarctica.

Sewage discharge is more harmful to rivers than the impact of agricultural land use, a study from the University of Oxford says. UK water companies are permitted to release wastewater into rivers, which poses a serious threat to river ecosystems and human health.

Nigeria has for the first time publicly destroyed a four-tonne haul of illegally trafficked Pangolin scales, valued at $1.4 million. The move aims to deter the illicit trade in wildlife parts like Pangolin scales, which are commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Rubber production in Southeast Asia could be responsible for three times more forest loss than previously thought, new research shows. The region produces 90% of global rubber supply, which is putting pressure on natural forests and driving biodiversity loss.

Twenty-one species have been removed from the endangered species list because they are extinct, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CBS News reports. Federal protection arrived too late to preserve the species, which include mammals, birds, fish and mussels.

A new study says it's found the likely cause of the death of 10 billion snow crabs in Alaska in 2022. Warmer ocean temperatures 'increased their caloric needs considerably' causing them to starve, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

Extreme heat, poor air quality, pests, floods, wildfires and other climate change-linked threats could seriously impact jobs and workers around the world. Here's how.

Scientists expand on Darwin's theory of evolution to propose a new law of nature, which states that complex natural systems evolve due to selection for useful functions.

Climate change is becoming a security issue according to Andrew Zolli, Chief Impact Officer at space and AI organization Planet. National and natural security are inextricably linked as the impact of climate change increases, he says.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate Action
1. Drought-stricken Amazon River at record-low level2. EU targets 74% cut in microplastic waste3. News in brief: Other top nature and climate stories this week4. More on the nature and climate crisis on Agenda

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