“Brumby” slaughter, carbon rebound and giant research index

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Brumbies roam a wintry landscape near Yarangobilly in Kosciuszko National Park in Australia.Credit: Perry Duffin / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Australia’s ‘brumby’ slaughter doesn’t go far enough

Up to 10,000 wild horses could be killed or removed from Australia’s largest alpine national park as part of a draft plan to control the rapidly growing population of non-native animals. Scientists have welcomed the idea, but are alarmed the plan will allow thousands of horses to stay, threatening endangered species and habitats.

The proposed slaughter, in Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales (NSW), contrasts with the ban on lethal control measures in the United States, where large populations of wild horses, known as mustangs, also pose problems.

The plan, released in October, recommends reducing the park’s wild horse population, known in Australia as brumbies, from around 14,000 to 3,000 through ground shootings and repatriation.

But the Australian Academy of Sciences is pushing for a rapid reduction to below 3,000. In an open letter with 69 signatories, including scientists and institutions, sent to the New South Wales Minister for the Environment on October 29 , he notes that “Alpine wetlands continue to deteriorate even with very few wild horses. Kosciusko cannot begin to recover from drought, large bushfires and overgrazing if there are, as currently proposed, 3,000 wild horses remaining.

Carbon emissions rebounded quickly after COVID pandemic declined

The sharp drop in global carbon dioxide emissions during the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by government-imposed lockdowns, will be all but erased by the end of this year, reports a consortium of scientists. The group predicts that carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels will reach 36.4 billion tonnes in 2021, a 4.9% increase from last year (see “Pandemic rebound”). It’s faster than many scientists expected. The rapid rebound, driven in part by growing demand for coal in China and India, suggests emissions will start rising again next year unless governments make substantial efforts to bend the curve, the researchers warn.

PANDEMIC REBOUND.  Graph showing historical CO2 emissions.  Researchers predict that rates will rebound in 2021.

Source: Global Carbon Project

“It’s a reality check,” says Corinne Le Quéré, climatologist at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, and member of the Global Carbon Project. The group presented the report last week at the UN climate summit in Glasgow, UK, where countries are debating commitments they will make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “I expect this to really hit the negotiators and make it very clear that action is needed.”

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels fell 5.4% in 2020, as pandemic restrictions closed restaurants and factories, ground planes and borders closed, estimates the Global Carbon Project. Most scientists expected the emissions to rebound to some extent, but questions remained as to how much and how quickly they would.

“What we’ve seen is that the now rebounding demand has been largely met by fossil fuels,” says Steven Davis, Earth Systems Scientist at the University of California, Irvine, and member of Carbon Monitor, a another consortium that tracks global carbon emissions.

But the report is not only pessimistic. Le Quéré sees hope in the data: some 23 countries reduced fossil fuel emissions in more than a decade before the pandemic. “We have the technology and we know what to do,” she says.

Carl Malamud

Technologist Carl Malamud.Credit: Smita Sharma

Index of global research papers published online

An American technologist has published a massive online index of 355 billion words and short sentences contained in more than 100 million journal articles, including many paid journals. This “General Index”, made public on October 7 and to be used free of charge, contains tables of words and fragments of sentences listed next to the articles in which they appear. It’s an effort to help scientists use software to glean information from published work, even if they have no legal access to the underlying documents, says creator Carl Malamud.

Malamud says that because the index does not contain the full text of articles, but only excerpts of up to five words, his publication does not violate publishers’ copyright restrictions on the reuse of paid articles.

Some researchers who had early access to the index say it helped them search literature with software – a procedure known as text mining.

The publication of the database is a “major development for the wealth of information it has unlocked from these 107 million journal articles,” says Arul George Scaria, legal researcher at the National Law University of Delhi.

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