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Over 99 % of the Earth’s fresh water exists in ice formations or underground. IRD geophysicists, aiming to find ways of detecting this resource, are at the spearhead in the development of an innovatory method based on nuclear magnetic resonance. To date, it is the only technique applicable for detecting liquid water underground or under a glacier from the surface and for estimating the volume.
This method recently found an original application as an aid for warning of glacier hazard. It successfully detected the presence of an immense water pocket of 55 000 m3 sitting under the Tête Rousse glacier in Haute-Savoie. This posed a flooding threat to people living in the valley below. Warning was given and the local authorities conducted a draining operation.
This technique is adaptable to glacier risk management, but it can also help for water supply provision. It can benefit both tropical mountain areas, such as the Andes or the Himalaya where glacial water can be a major threat, given the context of climate change, and semi-arid regions where water resources lie stored deep underground.
Can weather forecasting help improve crop yields in West Africa? IRD scientists and their research partner( 1), bringing together their experience in studying climate, agronomy and economics, have shown recently that millet producers in Niger could increase their income by up to 30%. They do this despite the fact that they often have no option to use other varieties of that cereal. How? Simply by adjusting their strategies in line with forecasts for coming rainy seasons. Previous research investigations have highlighted the advantage of such predictions, but the true impact of climate forecasts on the agricultural economy remains to be determined.
Improvement of the accuracy of predictions and communicating them to farmers can therefore prove to be a strong boost for agricultural development, even in countries of the Sahel like Niger, where low irregular rainfall lend themselves only to crops giving low profitability. Such advances would make West African farming communities more resistant to food insecurity in the forthcoming years and also reduce the poverty of a many small-scale producers.
There is not enough oxygen in the ocean. Over 50 years, climate change and human activities have been causing the expansion of oxygen minimum zones (OMZ). These now cover almost 10 % of the world’s ocean and exert a strong constraint on the vertical habitat for marine pelagic organisms. To monitor how these zones change, IRD and their partners 1 have developed an innovatory acoustic method. It is straightforward to put into operation and yields data on the upper limit of these anoxic zones 2 every second. Applying the technique off Peru, the team established maps about 100 000 times more detailed than those obtained with standard hydrological profiles. Scientists can thus produce very high-resolution estimates of the available surface habitat for fish. This research opens great prospects especially for fisheries management.
Examination of a time series of aerial photographs taken on a 500km2 study area in the Niger Sahel, selected as representative of the ecosystem as a whole, has yielded the first comprehensive picture of the changes that have taken place from the early 1950s to the present day. The surveys, ...
Irrigated agriculture makes a substantial contribution to the food security of many countries. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) figures indicate that irrigation involves just under 20% of cultivated land and supplies 40% of world agricultural production. An estimated ...