Australia's Fires Emitted Half of the Country’s Annual CO2 Emissions
The bushfires that have been tearing through New South Wales and Queensland, decimating koala habitats, taxing the water supply, and choking the air since August have claimed six lives. Now, new NASA data shows that the fires have emitted 250 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of half thee country's annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to The Guardian. In 2018, Australia's total greenhouse has emissions was 532 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Dr. Niels Andela, a scientist at the NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a collaborator in the Global Fire Emissions Database, gave the data to The Guardian Australia.
Usually, bushfires are considered carbon neutral, because when vegetation regrows it absorbs the carbon dioxide the fires have emitted. However, scientists are predicting that the scale of this year's fires coupled with drought-stricken forests will make it impossible for the vegetation to absorb the carbon, as The Guardian reported.
"Drought-stressed trees recover less well – carbohydrates reserves are exhausted – and under climate change tree growth may be slow and fires more frequent, meaning less tree biomass and even loss of forest cover," said David Bowman, a fire ecologist at the University of Tasmania, to the Guardian. "This is a nasty negative feedback cycle of a biosphere carbon sink becoming a source [of carbon]."
Pep Canadell, a senior research scientist at the CSIRO Climate Science Centre, told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Australia's forests had more in common with the Amazon than people would think.
"We're talking about very different sizes, of course. [There] are more carbon-dense forests in Amazonia than in Australia," said Canadell. "Having said that, a lot of [bush areas] burning now in NSW are actually exceptionally carbon-dense — they're very tall and quite dense forests. So from a per square meter or hectare level, we're certainly not shy away from what is happening in the Amazon."
The bushfires have already burned over 6.7 million acres of land and they could last through the Australian summer, until March or longer, as Gizmodo reported.
The fires follow the pattern of the Amazon fires and the California fires that create a carbon feedback loop, where human activity compromises Earth's ability to absorb carbon as we emit more of it, according to Gizmodo. These events are becoming more common as the Earth warms. It's especially evident in melting permafrost, which releases a tremendous amount of trapped carbon as it thaws, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Arctic Report Card found.
"This pulse of fire emissions should indeed be of concern. Any additional carbon emissions to the atmosphere, with no guarantee that it will be removed back by regrowing vegetation in a later stage, is of concern, particularly in an Australia under climate change," said Canadell, as The Guardian reported. He added, "Thus, it is important to understand both risks – the emissions from fires but also the potential long-term loss of CO2 sink capacity of the terrestrial vegetation due to the incomplete recovery of burned landscapes due to permanent degradation. These emissions are very significant."
"The nightmare scenario is that because of climate change, the forest isn't able to recover itself," said Bowman to ABC. "Once we actually know for certain what's happening, it's going to be too late. And this is a big thing to be wrong about."
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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