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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: London’s ‘urban forest’, plus more

Posted 5th August 2022 • Written by •

London responded to recent wildfires with trees, rewilders ‘achieved the impossible’ in Scotland, and scientists questioned notions of death, plus more positive news

London was promised thousands more trees

A fortnight after wildfires licked London, mayor Sadiq Khan has announced a major tree planting drive in the capital. 

Around a fifth of London is under tree canopy, and this week Khan pledged £3.1m to enhance the city’s “urban forest”. The funding will be targeted at areas where there are fewer trees, typically deprived neighbourhoods. 

“Trees are a versatile solution to the climate and nature crises, so it’s promising that there are plans to plant more of them,” Paul de Zylva, senior sustainability analyst at Friends of the Earth, told Positive News. “But it’s crucial that the right trees are planted in the right places.”

As well as sucking CO2 out of the air, trees help cool down cities, countering the so called ‘urban heat island’ effect.

Wildfires have prompted a raft of reforestation pledges lately. Last week, president Joe Biden announced plans to plant 1bn trees in the US. President Macron has also pledged to reforest swathes of France in the wake of devastating wildfires. 

A medical breakthrough questioned the notion of death

Pig organs have been partially revived an hour after the animals were declared dead, a breakthrough that researchers claim could transform medicine.

The organs were injected with a synthetic blood that carried oxygen around them, plus compounds that interrupted the process of cell death.

Much more research is needed before it can be applied to people. However, theoretically it could increase the number of organs available for transplant and buy doctors more time to save a life, reported the BBC.

The study results were published in the journal Nature.

The Great Barrier Reef appeared to grow

It was an observation that came with a warning: the Great Barrier Reef has grown, but the ecosystem remains vulnerable to climate change. 

That’s according to the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). During its annual survey of the reef, it recorded the highest amount of coral cover in northern and central regions since it began monitoring 36 years ago. However, the reef appears to have shrunk in the south. 

Warm sea waters cause corals to bleach, which can be fatal. Successive bleaching events have prompted many to fear for the future of the Great Barrier Reef. 

“The 2020 and 2022 bleaching events, while extensive, didn’t reach the intensity of the 2016 and 2017 events and, as a result, we have seen less mortality,” said AIMS CEO Dr Paul Hardisty. “These latest results demonstrate the reef can still recover in periods free of intense disturbances.”

However, Dr Hardisty warned that gains can quickly be wiped out by a mass bleaching, underscoring the need for rapid climate action.  

A critically endangered antelope got a boost

An antelope that was reintroduced to Kenya from North American zoos is now breeding in the wild. 

The critically endangered mountain bongo has been the subject of an 18-year-long reintroduction programme, which reached a milestone in March when five of the animals were released in Kenya’s Mawingu Sanctuary.

One has now given birth to a calf, which conservationists have named Fanaka, meaning ‘achievement’ in Swahili. 

Dr Robert Aruho, which led the project, said he was “tingling with joy” when he spotted the calf. “Getting a glimpse of baby Fanaka has meant that the last 18 years of dedication were all worth it,” he said. 

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