As world leaders gather in Egypt for the next COP27 summit, organised by the United Nations, four Swansea experts who conduct research on various aspects of the climate crisis are to feature in a showcase of Welsh collaborations with African universities.
The COP 27 summit, which begins on 6 November, follows the COP 26 event held in Glasgow in autumn 2021.
The Low Carbon Energy and Environment Research Network, based at Bangor University in Wales, is gathering and promoting examples of collaboration between researchers based in Wales and Africa, to mark COP27 and also Wales Climate Week, which runs from 21 November.
Recyclable solar panels:
Professor Matthew Davies and his team at Swansea University’s SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre have been working with researchers at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa to develop a solar energy testing centre.
Their aim is develop solar panels which are not only highly efficient but also derived from materials that can be reused and fully recycled, reducing the need to mine and use new materials.
Professor Davies explains:
Our research is geared towards creating a product with closed-loop recycling so that we can decouple primary materials from the economy. Using these secondary materials we can grow the economy without also growing Co2
Tree rings, climate evidence and drought:
Tree rings can tell us about the climate of the past, providing crucial evidence about long-term trends. Dr Iain Robertson of Swansea University’s geography department with colleagues from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia led an international team which identified a sample of juniper trees in Ethiopia that provided high quality climate records in their rings.
Taking cores from these trees allowed the team to see patterns of climate activity stretching back 300 years, providing firm evidence that less water was coming into the country from the Congo Basin, with increasing risk of drought.
Dr Robertson said:
“Until now, the best longer term climate records we had for Ethiopia were archives on the flow of the River Nile which originates here. By comparing these records, we now have a better understanding of what to expect as the Indian Ocean continues to heat up.”
African wild dogs under threat:
Animals around the world are being affected by changes linked to the climate crisis, including African wild dogs, one of the top predators in central and southern Africa.
Professor Luca Borger and members of the Swansea Laboratory for Animal Movement of the Biosciences Department at Swansea University have been studying their behaviour, with colleagues from the University of Pretoria in South Africa and the Zoological Society of London. They have fitted tags on wild dogs to track their movements, behaviours, temperatures and energy expenditure.
The data will help understand if and how wild dogs are adapting to rising temperatures through behavioural changes, for example by hunting different prey or using more shaded habitats.
Professor Borger said:
African wild dogs are already one of the world’s most endangered mammals and their population dynamics are further affected by higher temperatures. By understanding their detailed behavioural and physiological responses we aim to help devise improved conservation initiatives.
Connecting Communities in Liberia:
Dr Krijn Peters of the School of Social Sciences at Swansea University along with colleagues in Liberia, including LIDA-Research, has looked into a novel solution to improve access to rural communities.
With greater rainfall during the wet season predicted due to climate change in Liberia, there is an increased risk that access routes will be cut off, limiting access to local markets, educational and health facilities.
The research team have developed a new bridge design adapted for the local environment and suitable for motorcycle taxis, a popular form of transport. This will keep rural communities connected during the wet season, while due to its limited width, limits illegal loggers entering the area with their equipment and trucks.
Dr Peters said:
As climate changes, Liberia is expecting a wetter rainy season. Promoting reinforced routes and bridges will help keep access open throughout the year, whilst also attempting to prevent deforestation of primary forests.