Major research results – University of Copenhagen

Research > Strengths > Interdisciplinary strengths > Water > Major research results

Major research results

En oversvømmet gade Water management in cities

The growing number of floods caused by heavy rains has concentrated minds on the management of surface water in cities. A research team at the University of Copenhagen focuses on devising innovative solutions based on local drainage systems and cleansing and quality of surface water.

Pesticides in the aquatic environment can cause unintended consequences
Pesticides from agriculture find their way into the aquatic environment, including groundwater. There is a need to examine how these pesticides affect people, animals and plants. But if the overall effect of the pesticides is to be mapped, it is not sufficient to examine the toxins separately. It has been shown that pesticides interact and may exhibit so-called synergetic effects when acting as a pesticide cocktail. This can lead to the overall impact being much greater than would be expected from the isolated effect of individual substances.

Future irrigation systems must ensure sustainable rice production
Rice is the world's oldest cultivated crop and still the staple food for over half of the world's population. However, the pressure on world rice production is exacerbated with increased flooding due to climate change and heavier pressure on the planet's precious water resources. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have studied water systems designed to make rice production both profitable and sustainable without increasing, for example, nitrogen emissions into the atmosphere. Field studies have been carried out in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, for example. The researchers are also studying crops other than rice and their tolerance to flooding, e.g. wheat and barley.

Tradition sejlbåd ud for Mozambique. foto: Steve EvansClimate change challenges the human race on all fronts

Climate change is accompanied by more extreme weather events such as floods, fiercer storms and drought. However, these changes not only mean alterations to the physical living conditions for many people, they also lead to changes in social, economic, cultural and political conditions. Anthropologists and geographers have examined climate effects in local communities all over the world. Fieldwork has been done in Greenland, Peru, the Pacific area and in several African countries.

Almindeligt forekommende Ørnebregne. Foto: David MonniauxToxins from ferns can end up in the groundwater

It is not only the chemical, industrial world that manufactures pesticides for plant protection. Nature does it too . Nature's own pesticides have long been an overlooked factor when it comes to pollution of groundwater. Researchers have now studied the natural toxin ptaquiloside, which is produced in large quantities by the extremely common plant – the fern. The toxin is one of the few plant-produced carcinogenic substances in existence. The results indicate that ptaquiloside is a critical component of groundwater contamination and that the substance, because of its toxicity and the ease with which it spreads, should be monitored in the groundwater.