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Biodiversity in crisis

This week’s UN biodiversity assessment paints a grim picture for species loss worldwide. However scientists are looking at ways to ensure conservation can be done in a way that works with economic development. We focus on examples from Africa.

Africa is well known for its conservation work with large animals – but what about peat bogs? Recently discovered in the Congo region is a bog containing 3 times the amount of carbon emitted by the entire world in a year.

And from Australia how some farmers are turning to ‘weeds’ to help conserve their land. In areas hit by drought deliberately planting and encouraging wild plants has been shown to retain moisture in the land.

(Picture: Gorilla in the jungle in Congo. Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

What is behind the Indian Ocean Cyclones?

First there was cyclone Idai, then cyclone Kenneth and now cyclone Fani. As we go to air Fani is still developing, but the earlier two were unprecedented, occurring in a manner rarely if ever seen before. What is behind these extreme events? We look at the current state of weather patterns in the region and the influence of climate change.

And from Tibet a jawbone from an ancient giant provides new insight into the development of humanity.

Astronomers join forces to search for evidence of a black hole swallowing a neutron star, and why atmospheric pollution might have reduced the severity of past droughts.

(Image: A man ferries a residents through a flooded road in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba. Credit: Reuters)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

Turning brain waves into speech

Neuroscientists have recorded the brain activity of patients while talking and used this to develop computer programmes that can simulate speech. The neural activity they monitored is associated with the muscle movements needed to talk and form words rather than the meaning of the words themselves. They say a refined version of the system should be able to generate speech for people who cannot talk.

Data collected from a long running study of plankton is proving useful for research into historic ocean plastic pollution. Records of plastic accidentally entangled in the ocean going plankton samplers now provides a snapshot of contamination dating back to the 1950s.

Rewilding, letting nature take its course has romantic appeal. Perhaps counter intuitively a review of methods from around the world shows the key to successful projects is often how well they interact with local people.

And over 600 scientists have called for the European Union to put indigenous rights and deforestation to the fore of its trade negotiations with Brazil. We look at why they made this political call.

(Picture: Researchers implanted electrodes similar to these in participants’ skulls to record their brain signals. Credit: UCSF)

Presenter: Roland Pease
Producer: Julian Siddle

3 episodes