Readers' choice: DW's top 10 environment stories of 2018

From water shortages to sustainable tourism, plastic pollution to the impacts of climate change — these are your favorite environmental stories from DW in 2018.

10.  To fly or not to fly? The environmental cost of air travel

Though air travel is more popular than ever, the vast majority of people in the world have never been on a plane. As that dynamic slowly changes, the environment stands to suffer. Is flying less the only solution? 

Nature and Environment | 23.11.2018

 9. Is the 'Saudi Arabia of water' wasting its most valuable resource?

The Guarani aquifer in South America is the second-largest body of subterranean freshwater on the planet — but drought, heightened usage and privatization rumors underscore the need to protect it.

 8. Climate-induced sea-level rise to worsen tsunami impacts

In the wake of the latest tsunami to hit the Indonesian coast, research shows how even slight sea-level rises linked to climate change could significantly increase the devastating effects of tidal waves.

 7. Hydropower supply dries up with climate change

Water power is the largest renewable energy source in the world, but some plants are running out of water due to severe droughts. Is climate change jeopardizing the future of hydropower?

Nature and Environment | 01.08.2018
Indien Allahabad Trockenheit Wassermangel Wasserreservoir

An Indian man walks on the dry reservoir bed next to Gunda Dam

 6. Arctic warmer than much of Europe is a worrying sign of climate change

As frigid air swept across Europe, the Arctic itself saw an unprecedented warm spell. What was going on and did it relate to global warming?

 5. Krill can digest ocean plastics: 'That is certainly not good news at all'

Scientists have shown for the first time that krill can break down plastic through digestion. But what might sound like a solution to marine plastic pollution is actually very concerning, says the study's co-author.

 4. Cape Town water crisis: adapting to a water-scarce future

Cape Town might have dodged Day Zero, but a new hyper-consciousness of water use looks set to be the new normal — and not just for the drought-hit African city.

Südafrika Trockenheit in Cape Town

Cape Town residents queue to collect water

 3. The Burmese python and the fight for the Florida Everglades

The Florida Everglades are famous throughout the world, with alligators as their best-known inhabitants. However, there’s a new predator in town — and it is wreaking havoc on this remarkable ecosystem.

 2. Tiny Tulum goes from beach paradise to eco nightmare

With its eco-chic hotels, yoga retreats, Mayan ruins, luscious jungles and turquoise ocean, the Mexican town of Tulum has become the new bohemian hotspot. But at a devastating cost to the environment.

 1. Supply chains at risk as pollinators die out

Intensive modern agriculture still relies on wild birds, bees and beasts for pollination. But these species — and the whole industrial supply chains that depend on them — are at risk, according to a new global survey.

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Nature and Environment

The golden couple

The 2018 Grand Title Winner shows male and female Qinling golden snub-nosed monkeys watching intently as an altercation takes place down the valley between males of two other groups. It was spring in the temperate forest of China's Qinling Mountains — the only place where these endangered monkeys live.

Nature and Environment

Dream duel

As storm clouds gathered over Belgium's Ardennes forest, the sound of two red deer stags — roaring in competition over females — echoed through the trees. Well matched, neither challenger was giving way, and the contest escalated into a noisy clash of antlers. At last, the stags appeared on the ridge in silhouette, antlers locked.

Nature and Environment

Lounging leopard

Skye Meaker captured Mathoja, a leopard dozing on the branch of a nyala tree. Mathoja's home is Botswana's Mashatu Game Reserve. In Bantu, Mathoja means "the one that walks with a limp." Skye calls her this because she limps from an injury she suffered as a cub. Mathoja is an otherwise healthy 8-year-old.

Nature and Environment

Duck of dreams

On the Varanger Peninsula, on the northern coast of the Barents Sea in Norway, this young photographer captured a quiet moment with a long-tailed duck. Getting close enough to snap the ducks meant an early-morning boat ride. Still bitterly cold in March, eider ducks and long-tailed ducks flew into the harbor as the morning light broke.

Nature and Environment

Pipe owls

Huddled together at the opening of an old waste-pipe, two spotted owlets look into this young photographer's lens. He and his dad spotted the owls when driving in Kapurthala, a city in the Indian state of Punjab. The owlet — less than 20 centimeters (8 inches) tall — popped its head out, followed by the larger female. This image shows a species that has adapted to urban life.

Nature and Environment

Bed of seals

Crabeater seals rest on an ice floe in the Errera Channel at the tip of Antarctica. This seal species is considered to be relatively abundant, and there is no evidence they're in decline. Regardless, they are dependent on sea ice — in short supply in the Antarctic summer — for resting, breeding and avoiding predators. Their name is a misnomer as the seals feed almost exclusively on krill.

Nature and Environment

Mud-rolling mud-dauber

The water hole at Walyormouring Nature Reserve in Western Australia buzzed in the summer heat. These industrious female slender mud-dauber wasps were busy digging egg chambers for their nearby nests. The wasps provision each of the dozen or more cocoon-like nest chambers with the paralyzed bodies of orb‑weaver spiders for their newly hatched larva to eat.

Nature and Environment

Blood thirsty

When seeds and insects dry up on Wolf Island in the Galapagos, sharp-beaked ground finches become vampires. Their sitting targets are Nazca boobies, which thrive here. Finches have a tougher time. Pecking at the booby's feathers with their beaks, they drink blood to survive. Rather than expose eggs and chicks, boobies tolerate it. The blood loss doesn't seem to cause permanent harm.

Nature and Environment

Kuhirwa mourns her baby

This female mountain gorilla in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest wouldn't give up on her dead baby. Weeks later, she ate what was left of the corpse. Her reactions to bereavement echo responses to death in other species. Elephants stroke the bones of dead family members and dolphins try to keep dead companions afloat. There is evidence that many animals behave in ways that reflects grief.

Nature and Environment

Hell-bent

A northern water snake is clamped tightly in the jaws of this hungry hellbender. In Tennessee's Tellico River, North America's largest aquatic salamander, the hellbender, has declined significantly because habitat degradation. Its presence indicates a healthy freshwater ecosystem. The snake eventually escaped the hellbender's bite.

Nature and Environment

The sad clown

Timbul, a young long-tailed macaque, instinctively puts his hand to his face to try to relieve the discomfort from his mask. His owner is training him for a street show. When he's not training or performing, Timbul lives chained up next to a railway track in Surabaya, on the Indonesian island of Java. Animal-welfare charities work to reduce the suffering of these monkeys.

Nature and Environment

Desert relic

A welwitschia reaches for the sky over the Namib Desert. With a slow growth rate and the largest specimens spanning more than 8 meters (26 feet), these desert survivors can live for more than a 1,000 years. Endemic to Namibia and Angola, welwitschia endure harsh, arid conditions, usually within 150 kilometers (93 miles) of the coast, so they can capture moisture from sea fog.

Nature and Environment

Night flight

Off Florida's Palm Beach, this photographer captured a flying fish at night. By day, these fish are nearly impossible to approach. Although, they are prey for many animals, they have the ability to sprint away from danger, rapidly beating their unevenly forked tails to build enough speed to soar up and out of the water. Spreading their pointed pectoral fins, they can glide for hundreds of meters.

Nature and Environment

Mother defender

A large Alchisme treehopper guards her nymphs as they feed on a nightshade plant in El Jardin de los Suenos reserve in Ecuador. She lays her eggs on a nightshade leaf and shields them. Once the eggs hatch, they develop through five stages and she watches over them for the duration, wielding spines at any attackers she senses or is alerted to by her nymphs' vibrations or pheromones.

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