Flood Defences, the Southern Ocean, and Whiter Clouds

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This podcast from the Planet Earth Online collection and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) looks at why removing some man-made coastal flood defences might not be such a bad idea, what it is like studying gas exchange in the wilds of the Southern Ocean, and – in what could be the first case of 'natural' geoengineering – how forests could be whitening the clouds right above them.

For decades, the only way to protect low-lying coastlines against the incoming sea was to build concrete sea walls. The disadvantage of this is that they are extremely expensive both to build and to maintain. So, researchers at the University of East Anglia have been looking at cheaper solutions: like using the natural defences Nature gives us free of charge.

Richard Hollingham goes to Sea Palling in Norfolk to talk to researchers who are putting a monetary value on these so-called ecosystem services, and finds out that in some places getting rid of coastal defences might not be such a bad idea.

In an audio diary, David Tupman from the University of Leeds is on a research ship in the wilds of the Southern Ocean to attempt to measure how fast rough seas take up carbon dioxide compared with calm seas.

Finally, it turns out that trees don't just provide us with oxygen, make your local park look nice and provide a habitat for wildlife; they also have another benefit. Forests could be turning the clouds above them whiter and brighter, and so reflecting sunlight and keeping the Earth cooler. Sue Nelson goes to Leeds to find out more.

A transcript of the recording is provided to assist those who find text-based content more accessible than audio.

This podcast is dated 18 May 2011

NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.

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