process known as “nitrogen-fixing”. Until recently, this talent has been limited to a relatively small number of crop species such as soya beans and cowpeas. But now scientists are applying modern tools of biology to expand the capabilities by genetically engineering plants to be better able to take up nitrogen and using synthetic biology to create new forms of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. As this capability grows and finds real-world application, it can reduce the adverse environmental consequences of artificial fertiliser use and so reduce their harms to wild plants and animals.
Natural cycling of saltwater through the top layer of the oceans distributes nutrients needed by ocean life and helps determine weather and climate around the world. As the atmosphere, and so the ocean’s surface, warms, this circulation is accelerating and moving toward the surface, modifying the circulation patterns ocean life and coastal communities – including human ones – have evolved to thrive with. Scientists fear the changes will make oceans less able to moderate the changing climate and support marine ecosystems. They also could make ocean movements and temperature regimes less predictable, interfering with fisheries and ocean aquaculture and thus altering how humans affect marine organisms.