Conservationists made two welcome underwater discoveries, US women brought home the bacon, and the UK rekindled its love affair with literature, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
Ancient coral reefs have been discovered in waters off Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, in a region left devastated by freak weather conditions four decades ago.
The 1982-83 El Niño event was thought to have virtually wiped out reefs around Galapagos, with Wellington reef off the coast of Darwin Island thought to be among the few surviving remnants. However, scientists have now discovered extensive reefs in the middle of the archipelago, bringing hope that others may have survived.
Marine biologist Dr Michelle Taylor from the University of Essex in England was part of the team that found the reefs, the first discovered in the Galapagos Marine Reserve since its creation in 1998.
“They are pristine and teeming with life – pink octopus, batfish, squat lobsters and an array of deep-sea fish, sharks, and rays,” she said. “These newly discovered reefs are potentially of global significance – sites which we can monitor over time to see how pristine habitats evolve with our current climate crisis.”
Image: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
One of the UK’s largest seagrass meadows has been discovered off the Cornish coast. The 359-hectare (887-acre) site was found in St Austell Bay during an acoustic survey as part of the St Austell Bay Blue Carbon Mapping Project.
The find comes as conservationists work to restore the UK’s seagrass meadows, which sequester more carbon than rainforests. As well as being a carbon sink, the newly discovered site is home to an estimated 122 species of plants and animals, including scallops, seahorses (pictured) and pipefish.
“The discovery of extensive surviving seagrass beds in St Austell Bay is a very exciting development,” said Abby Crosby, a marine conservation officer for Cornwall Wildlife Trust. “We look forward to collaborating with a wide range of people, from local residents to marine business and government organisations, to ensure we protect these special marine habitats.”
Image: Project Seagrass
A major study has unravelled the genetic cause of developmental disorders in thousands of children – and could now be used to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnoses around the world.
More than 13,500 families from across the UK and Ireland took part in the Deciphering Developmental Disorders study, a joint effort between the UK’s National Health Service and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, a nonprofit that conducts genetics research.
Genomes in children with severe disorders were sequenced, along with their parents’, providing genetic diagnoses for around 5,500 kids. Around three quarters had spontaneous genetic mutations not inherited from a parent.
“The families in our study were desperate for answers, which can make a huge difference to clinical management and quality of life,” said Caroline Wright, professor of genomic medicine at the University of Exeter. “By sharing our findings, many more families should get answers faster.”
Image: Nathan Dumlao
Husbands and wives are equal breadwinners in a growing number of US marriages, according to a new study.
The Pew Research Centre revealed that women’s financial contributions have grown steadily over the last half a century, and that the share of wives who earn as much as or more than their spouse has tripled in the same period.
However, the report concluded that women still pick up a heavier load when it comes to chores and caregiving at home, with husbands in financially egalitarian marriages enjoying 3.5 times more leisure time than their partners.
Image: Chris Murray
The UK government has injected £12m into a trailblazing research centre for lab-grown meat in a bid to scale up the burgeoning technology and cut agriculture’s emissions.
The Cellular Agriculture Manufacturing Hub, led by the University of Bath, will also investigate using precision fermentation to develop lab-grown alternatives to palm oil, demand for which is a big driver of tropical deforestation.
The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable food systems, hailed the investment, the UK government’s largest to date, as a “seismic move”.
Image: Sander Dalhuisen
Book sales hit a whopping £6.9bn for the UK’s publishing industry last year, with readers snapping up 669m physical books to add to their groaning shelves – the highest ever recorded.
The sector snapshot, compiled this week by the Publishers Association, found that an 8 per cent boost in exports was behind the boom, more than making up for a 1 per cent drop in the home market.
Publishers Association chief executive Dan Conway said social media trends including #BookTok and the rise of ‘bookfluencers’ were reigniting passion for reading.
“The statistics truly are a testament to the timeless appeal of books,” he added. “They offer comfort and escapism for readers, can be a good source of education and learning, and can last a lifetime.”
Image: Florencia Viadana
Work begins this weekend to reforest a barren glacial valley in the Yorkshire Dales, creating one of England’s largest native woodland.
The Woodland Trust is raising £8m to plant 100,000 saplings across 291 hectares (719 acres) in Snaizeholme. The trust said the landscape is “crying out” for more tree cover, which currently amounts to just 5 per cent across the Dales. Ancient woodland covers just 1 per cent of the park.
The project will provide habitat for rare species including red squirrel (pictured) and black grouse. Woodland Trust estate manager Al Nash said: “The work we do here will restore an entire ecosystem, lock away carbon for years to come, and help improve water quality and mitigate flooding in the area.”
Image: Uljana Borodina
While the Brecon Beacons’ name change grabbed headlines this week, most of the mainstream media overlooked the Welsh national park’s bold new vision for a more sustainable future.
Renaming the park Bannau Brycheiniog – and therefore reclaiming its Welsh heritage – is part of a wider five-year plan to ‘halt and reverse’ the ravages of climate change across its 520 square miles.
Out goes the park’s logo of a fiery, carbon-belching brazier, and in come measures, including planting a million new trees, recovering curlew populations, improving water quality, and boosting sustainable farming.
“We want to create thriving and sustainable places celebrated for their cultural and natural heritage,” said park chief executive Catherine Mealing-Jones. “If we get this right, Bannau Brycheiniog can be an exemplar for other national parks to follow.”
Image: Dmitrij Paskevic
The world’s first rewilding centre has opened in the Scottish Highlands, providing a gateway to the UK’s largest nature recovery site.
Dundreggan Rewilding Centre is located on a former deer-stalking estate near Loch Ness. The charity Trees for Life bought the land in 2008 as part of its mission to restore the Caledonian Forest – dubbed Scotland’s ‘rainforest’ – to its former glory.
Already golden eagles (pictured) have returned to the estate, along with other wildlife. The centre will show visitors how large-scale nature recovery sites can create jobs, boost biodiversity and tackle the climate crisis.
Read the full story here.
Main image: LFPuntel/iStock
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