The year 2024 is expected to be unique in many ways. There are a lot of changes ahead. One of them will most likely be the enactment of the Nature Restoration Law, the researchers write. In doing so, they analyze the consequences of its implementation, including in the context of other EU policies and strategies. Restoring biodiversity is quite a challenge in view of the far-reaching anthropogenic transformation of the environment, including the partitioning of rivers. A review paper on the impact of dams on ichthyofauna habitat deals with this problem. We also present a text on the global standardization of the dictionary of functional traits of aquatic organisms, which aims to ensure comparability of functional ecology research. We will also show how old trees can be used to demonstrate climate change and how alternative compounds to PFAS contribute to the degradation of aquatic ecosystems.

1. securing success for the Nature Restoration Law

Hering D., Schürings Ch., Wenskus F. et al.(2023). Securing success for the Nature Restoration Law. Science, 382, 1248-1250.

June 2022. The European Commission has proposed a new Nature Restoration Law (Nature Restoration Regulation). Nature Restoration Law ), which aims to, among other things. Restoring nature on land, in rivers and in the seas, and achieving the EU’s climate and biodiversity goals. The bill has come under considerable political pressure, and scientists have been actively involved in the discussion. Subsequent trilateral negotiations, between the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Commission, produced a compromise that was approved on November 9, 2023. The final vote for sealing the new law is expected to take place at the European Parliament’s plenary session in early 2024.

Will the new law harmonize with current acts at the EU level? A team of researchers from more than a dozen research centers in Europe tries to answer this question in a review article. They published their findings in mid-December in the pages of Science. The authors assess the potential of the NRL to address the implementation of related European Union legislation, strategies and policies, analyzing such significant documents as the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive, the Water Framework Directive, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Biodiversity Strategy 2030, the Forestry Strategy, the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.

The article itself is a very concise synthesis of the authors’ conclusions and opinions on the impact of the new legislation on current environmental goals. A very interesting part of the work is the extensive supplementary materials (supplements), which analyze in detail the biodiversity targets (and the level of achievement achieved through various laws, strategies and policies), as well as the challenges of achieving the biodiversity targets set by various environmental laws, strategies and policies. A comprehensive and thought-provoking compendium.

2. river damming impacts on fish habitat and associated conservation measures

Chen Q., Li Q., Lin Y. et al. (2023). River damming impacts on fish habitat and associated conservation measures. Reviews of Geophysics, 61, e2023RG000819.

The issue of river damming has continually been a hot topic in the publication space, including in the context of the NRL, which calls for an inventory of barriers for their rationality and the restoration of 25,000. km of free-flowing rivers. The damming of rivers brings great socio-economic benefits, but also has a significant impact on the environment, especially on fish. A global synthesis of key issues concerning the impact of river damming on fish habitat, with a focus on focal species, is presented in an article newly published in Reviews of Geophysics. Based on an extensive literature review, the authors analyze how dams change global river dynamics, including connectivity, hydrological and thermal regimes, sediment and solute transport, and morphology. These changes have a detrimental effect on fish habitat, which in turn affects ichthyofauna populations and communities. The construction of dams is associated with species extinction, highlighting the need to implement effective conservation measures. The conclusions of this review can make the case for ensuring sustainable dam operations and providing appropriate countermeasures to protect aquatic biodiversity.

3. A roadmap to define and select aquatic biological traits at different scales of analysis

Morim T., Henriques S., Vasconcelos R. et al. (2023). A roadmap to define and select aquatic biological traits at different scales of analysis. Sci. Rep. 13, 22947.

Studies of ecosystem biodiversity are often based on taxonomic diversity, but there is growing interest in the functional traits (traits) approach. These are the attributes of an organism that determine its interaction with the environment and its susceptibility to a specific stressor. The analysis of such features allows us to understand the complexity of the functioning of the ecological environment, but also to compare different ecosystems and biogeographic regions. Unfortunately, the typology and nomenclature of the features are not standardized, resulting in different researchers using different terminology and limiting the comparability of results. The challenge of creating a unified dictionary of traits and their global standardization was taken up by a team of hydrobiologists from Portugal, who analyzed more than a thousand traits from 37 datasets on fish, invertebrates and zooplankton from freshwater, marine and transitional water ecosystems. The authors then used this information to create a new dictionary of marine species traits. They based it on Wikipedia’s format and the Marine Species Traits Vocabulary structure. The tool includes a unified designation for all identified features and a list of their commonly used synonyms. It also includes a guide and filters to help you choose the right set of features for your study. The Portuguese scientists’ proposal provides a solid basis for further work on unifying the nomenclature of aquatic organism traits and provides invaluable support for functional ecology research.

4. recent human-induced atmospheric drying across Europe unprecedented in the last 400 years

Treydte K., Liu L., Padrón R.S. et al. (2023). Recent human-induced atmospheric drying across Europe unprecedented in the last 400 years. Nat. Geosci.

At the end of the year, the journal Nature Geoscience published an article that may help “open the eyes of unbelievers” for whom climate change and global drying of the Earth are not yet obvious. An international team of nearly 70 researchers (including from Poland), led by Kerstin Treydte of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), used a novel method based on the analysis of oxygen isotope ratios (18O/16O) in tree rings from 45 European forest areas to reconstruct changes in atmospheric humidity in Europe over the period from 1600. by 2020. They used the vapor pressure deficit (VPD), which describes the “thirst of the atmosphere,” or the difference between the actual and maximum possible water content of the air, as a measure of humidity.

Old trees don’t lie! Their jars indicate that since the beginning of the 21st century. The air over large areas of Europe has become drier compared to any previous period, and this trend continues. What’s more, they show that VDP would not have reached modern values without greenhouse gas emissions, i.e. the human impact is obvious, as demonstrated with a probability of 98 percent. A particularly strong increase in VPD was observed in the Central European lowlands and the Alps and Pyrenees, where it reached its highest values in 2003, 2015 and 2018. The lowest deficit compared to pre-industrial times was found in Northern Europe. Further growth in VPD threatens many important ecosystem services. The findings will help improve simulations of future climate scenarios and assess the threat that high VPD levels pose to ecosystems, the economy and society.

5 The untold story of PFAS alternatives: Insights into the occurrence, ecotoxicological impacts, and removal strategies in the aquatic environment

Hamid N., Junaid M., Sultan M. et al, (2024). The untold story of PFAS alternatives: Insights into the occurrence, ecotoxicological impacts, and removal strategies in the aquatic environment. Water Research, 250, 121044.

Tightening regulation of the production and use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS) has contributed to a global increase in interest in alternative compounds (PFAS substitutes). Numerous reports indicate that freshwater is contaminated with alternative PFASs around the world, but most studies are from Asia, Europe, America, Australia and South Africa. The scale of the use of such substances and their impact on the environment are still very poorly understood. An analysis of this issue by a team of Asian scientists has just been published in Water Research. The paper summarizes the spatial distribution of alternative PFASs and their associated ecological risks in freshwater and marine ecosystems. Their toxicological effects on various aquatic species were also determined, and different degradation mechanisms of alternative PFASs were compared and discussed for their removal from the aquatic environment. The compounds were commonly detected in water samples, mainly from rivers in China and Germany, with average concentrations ranging from 2.7 ng l-1 (Alz River, Germany) to 420,000 ng l-1 (Xiaoqing River, China). In freshwater, of the 24 PFAS substitutes identified, chlorinated polyfluorinated 6:2 ether sulfonate (6:2 CI-PFAES, also known as F-53B) was the most commonly detected. Studies have shown that PFAS alternatives bioaccumulate and cause oxidative stress, hepatotoxicity, neurotoxicity, histopathological changes, behavioral, growth and reproductive disorders, and metabolic disorders in freshwater and marine species. Most PFAS substitutes showed low risk to invertebrates and fish, but elevated risk to phytoplankton. Alternative PFASs, due to their high carbon and fluorine bonding strengths, are resistant to degradation, but many techniques for removing them from the environment are now available. These are bioremediation, chemical oxidation, adsorption and photocatalytic degradation. It appears that not only per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds themselves, but also their substitutes, are a serious environmental problem that needs urgent regulation.

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