Although it is well established that soils are the dominating source for atmospheric nitrous oxide (N2O), we are still struggling to fully understand the complexity of the underlying microbial production and consumption processes and the links to biotic (e.g. inter- and intraspecies competition, food webs, plant-microbe interaction) and abiotic (e.g. soil climate, physics and chemistry) factors. Recent work shows that a better understanding of the composition and diversity of the microbial community across a variety of soils in different climates and under different land use, as well as plant-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere, may provide a key to better understand the variability of N2O fluxes at the soil-atmosphere interface. Moreover, recent insights into the regulation of the reduction of N2O to dinitrogen (N-2) have increased our understanding of N2O exchange. This improved process understanding, building on the increased use of isotope tracing techniques and metagenomics, needs to go along with improvements in measurement techniques for N2O (and N-2) emission in order to obtain robust field and laboratory datasets for different ecosystem types. Advances in both fields are currently used to improve process descriptions in biogeo-chemical models, which may eventually be used not only to test our current process understanding from the microsite to the field level, but also used as tools for up-scaling emissions to landscapes and regions and to explore feed-backs of soil N2O emissions to changes in environmental conditions, land management and land use.
Prior work shows western US forest wildfire activity increased abruptly in the mid-1980s. Large forest wildfires and areas burned in them have continued to increase over recent decades, with most of the increase in lightning-ignited fires. Northern US Rockies forests dominated early increases in wildfire activity, and still contributed 50% of the increase in large fires over the last decade. However, the percentage growth in wildfire activity in Pacific northwestern and southwestern US forests has rapidly increased over the last two decades. Wildfire numbers and burned area are also increasing in non-forest vegetation types. Wildfire activity appears strongly associated with warming and earlier spring snowmelt. Analysis of the drivers of forest wildfire sensitivity to changes in the timing of spring demonstrates that forests at elevations where the historical mean snow-free season ranged between two and four months, with relatively high cumulative warm-season actual evapotranspiration, have been most affected. Increases in large wildfires associated with earlier spring snowmelt scale exponentially with changes in moisture deficit, and moisture deficit changes can explain most of the spatial variability in forest wildfire regime response to the timing of spring. This article is part of the themed issue ' The interaction of fire and mankind'.
Global nitrogen fixation contributes 413 Tg of reactive nitrogen (N-r) to terrestrial and marine ecosystems annually of which anthropogenic activities are responsible for half, 210 Tg N. The majority of the transformations of anthropogenic Nr are on land (240 Tg N yr(-1)) within soils and vegetation where reduced Nr contributes most of the input through the use of fertilizer nitrogen in agriculture. Leakages from the use of fertilizer Nr contribute to nitrate (NO3-) in drainage waters from agricultural land and emissions of trace N-r compounds to the atmosphere. Emissions, mainly of ammonia (NH3) from land together with combustion related emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), contribute 100 Tg N yr(-1) to the atmosphere, which are transported between countries and processed within the atmosphere, generating secondary pollutants, including ozone and other photochemical oxidants and aerosols, especially ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) and ammonium sulfate (NH4)(2)SO4. Leaching and riverine transport of NO3 contribute 40-70 Tg N yr(-1) to coastal waters and the open ocean, which together with the 30 Tg input to oceans from atmospheric deposition combine with marine biological nitrogen fixation (140 TgN yr(-1)) to double the ocean processing of Nr. Some of the marine Nr is buried in sediments, the remainder being denitrified back to the atmosphere as N-2 or N2O. The marine processing is of a similar magnitude to that in terrestrial soils and vegetation, but has a larger fraction of natural origin. The lifetime of N-r in the atmosphere, with the exception of N2O, is only a few weeks, while in terrestrial ecosystems, with the exception of peatlands (where it can be 102-103 years), the lifetime is a few decades. In the ocean, the lifetime of Nr is less well known but seems to be longer than in terrestrial ecosystems and may represent an important long-term source of N2O that will respond very slowly to control measures on the sources of Nr from which it is produced.
A recently developed integrative framework proposes that the vulnerability of a species to environmental change depends on the species' exposure and sensitivity to environmental change, its resilience to perturbations and its potential to adapt to change. These vulnerability criteria require behavioural, physiological and genetic data. With this information in hand, biologists can predict organisms most at risk from environmental change. Biologists and managers can then target organisms and habitats most at risk. Unfortunately, the required data (e.g. optimal physiological temperatures) are rarely available. Here, we evaluate the reliability of potential proxies (e.g. critical temperatures) that are often available for some groups. Several proxies for ectotherms are promising, but analogous ones for endotherms are lacking. We also develop a simple graphical model of how behavioural thermoregulation, acclimation and adaptation may interact to influence vulnerability over time. After considering this model together with the proxies available for physiological sensitivity to climate change, we conclude that ectotherms sharing vulnerability traits seem concentrated in lowland tropical forests. Their vulnerability may be exacerbated by negative biotic interactions. Whether tropical forest (or other) species can adapt to warming environments is unclear, as genetic and selective data are scant. Nevertheless, the prospects for tropical forest ectotherms appear grim.
Food waste in the global food supply chain is reviewed in relation to the prospects for feeding a population of nine billion by 2050. Different definitions of food waste with respect to the complexities of food supply chains (FSCs)are discussed. An international literature review found a dearth of data on food waste and estimates varied widely; those for post-harvest losses of grain in developing countries might be overestimated. As much of the post-harvest loss data for developing countries was collected over 30 years ago, current global losses cannot be quantified. A significant gap exists in the understanding of the food waste implications of the rapid development of 'BRIC' economies. The limited data suggest that losses are much higher at the immediate post-harvest stages in developing countries and higher for perishable foods across industrialized and developing economies alike. For affluent economies, post-consumer food waste accounts for the greatest overall losses. To supplement the fragmentary picture and to gain a forward view, interviews were conducted with international FSC experts. The analyses highlighted the scale of the problem, the scope for improved system efficiencies and the challenges of affecting behavioural change to reduce post-consumer waste in affluent populations.
The coming decades are likely to see increasing pressures on the global food system, both on the demand side from increasing population and per capita consumption, and on the supply side from greater competition for inputs and from climate change. This paper argues that the magnitude of the challenge is such that action is needed throughout the food system, on moderating demand, reducing waste, improving governance and producing more food. It discusses in detail the last component, arguing that more food should be produced using sustainable intensification (SI) strategies, and explores the rationale behind, and meaning of, this term. It also investigates how SI may interact with other food policy agendas, in particular, land use and biodiversity, animal welfare and human nutrition.
Agricultural ecosystems provide humans with food, forage, bioenergy and pharmaceuticals and are essential to human wellbeing. These systems rely on ecosystem services provided by natural ecosystems, including pollination, biological pest control, maintenance of soil structure and fertility, nutrient cycling and hydrological services. Preliminary assessments indicate that the value of these ecosystem services to agriculture is enormous and often underappreciated. Agroecosystems also produce a variety of ecosystem services, such as regulation of soil and water quality, carbon sequestration, support for biodiversity and cultural services. Depending on management practices, agriculture can also be the source of numerous disservices, including loss of wildlife habitat, nutrient runoff, sedimentation of waterways, greenhouse gas emissions, and pesticide poisoning of humans and non-target species. The tradeoffs that may occur between provisioning services and other ecosystem services and disservices should be evaluated in terms of spatial scale, temporal scale and reversibility. As more effective methods for valuing ecosystem services become available, the potential for 'win–win' scenarios increases. Under all scenarios, appropriate agricultural management practices are critical to realizing the benefits of ecosystem services and reducing disservices from agricultural activities.
One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics. Within just a few decades since mass production of plastic products commenced in the 1950s, plastic debris has accumulated in terrestrial environments, in the open ocean, on shorelines of even the most remote islands and in the deep sea. Annual clean-up operations, costing millions of pounds sterling, are now organized in many countries and on every continent. Here we document global plastics production and the accumulation of plastic waste. While plastics typically constitute approximately 10 per cent of discarded waste, they represent a much greater proportion of the debris accumulating on shorelines.,Mega- and macro-plastics have accumulated in the highest densities in the Northern Hemisphere, adjacent to urban centres, in enclosed seas and at water convergences (fronts). We report lower densities on remote island shores, on the continental shelf seabed and the lowest densities (but still a documented presence) in the deep sea and Southern Ocean. The longevity of plastic is estimated to be hundreds to thousands of years, but is likely to be far longer in deep sea and non-surface polar environments. Plastic debris poses considerable threat by choking and starving wildlife, distributing non-native and potentially harmful organisms, absorbing toxic chemicals and degrading to micro-plastics that may subsequently be ingested. Well-established annual surveys on coasts and at sea have shown that trends in mega- and macro-plastic accumulation rates are no longer uniformly increasing: rather stable, increasing and decreasing trends have all been reported. The average size of plastic particles in the environment seems to be decreasing, and the abundance and global distribution of micro-plastic fragments have increased over the last few decades. However, the environmental consequences of such microscopic debris are still poorly understood.
Deterministic theories in community ecology suggest that local, niche-based processes, such as environmental filtering, biotic interactions and interspecific trade-offs largely determine patterns of species diversity and composition. In contrast, more stochastic theories emphasize the importance of chance colonization, random extinction and ecological drift. The schisms between deterministic and stochastic perspectives, which date back to the earliest days of ecology, continue to fuel contemporary debates (e.g. niches versus neutrality). As illustrated by the pioneering studies of Robert H. MacArthur and co-workers, resolution to these debates requires consideration of how the importance of local processes changes across scales. Here, we develop a framework for disentangling the relative importance of deterministic and stochastic processes in generating site-to-site variation in species composition (β-diversity) along ecological gradients (disturbance, productivity and biotic interactions) and among biogeographic regions that differ in the size of the regional species pool. We illustrate how to discern the importance of deterministic processes using nullmodel approaches that explicitly account for local and regional factors that inherently create stochastic turnover. By embracing processes across scales, we can build a more synthetic framework for understanding how niches structure patterns of biodiversity in the face of stochastic processes that emerge from local and biogeographic factors.
A picture of food consumption (availability) trends and projections to 2050, both globally and for different regions of the world, along with the drivers largely responsible for these observed consumption trends are the subject of this review. Throughout the world, major shifts in dietary patterns are occurring, even in the consumption of basic staples towards more diversified diets. Accompanying these changes in food consumption at a global and regional level have been considerable health consequences. Populations in those countries undergoing rapid transition are experiencing nutritional transition. The diverse nature of this transition may be the result of differences in socio-demographic factors and other consumer characteristics. Among other factors including urbanization and food industry marketing, the policies of trade liberalization over the past two decades have implications for health by virtue of being a factor in facilitating the 'nutrition transition' that is associated with rising rates of obesity and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Future food policies must consider both agricultural and health sectors, thereby enabling the development of coherent and sustainable policies that will ultimately benefit agriculture, human health and the environment.
The livestock sector globally is highly dynamic. In developing countries, it is evolving in response to rapidly increasing demand for livestock products. In developed countries, demand for livestock products is stagnating, while many production systems are increasing their efficiency and environmental sustainability. Historical changes in the demand for livestock products have been largely driven by human population growth, income growth and urbanization and the production response in different livestock systems has been associated with science and technology as well as increases in animal numbers. In the future, production will increasingly be affected by competition for natural resources, particularly land and water, competition between food and feed and by the need to operate in a carbon-constrained economy. Developments in breeding, nutrition and animal health will continue to contribute to increasing potential production and further efficiency and genetic gains. Livestock production is likely to be increasingly affected by carbon constraints and environmental and animal welfare legislation. Demand for livestock products in the future could be heavily moderated by socio-economic factors such as human health concerns and changing socio-cultural values. There is considerable uncertainty as to how these factors will play out in different regions of the world in the coming decades.
The pace-of-life syndrome (POLS) hypothesis specifies that closely related species or populations experiencing different ecological conditions should differ in a suite of metabolic, hormonal and immunity traits that have coevolved with the life-history particularities related to these conditions. Surprisingly, two important dimensions of the POLS concept have been neglected: (i) despite increasing evidence for numerous connections between behavioural, physiological and life-history traits, behaviours have rarely been considered in the POLS yet; (ii) the POLS could easily be applied to the study of covariation among traits between individuals within a population. In this paper, we propose that consistent behavioural differences among individuals, or personality, covary with life history and physiological differences at the within-population, interpopulation and interspecific levels. We discuss how the POLS provides a heuristic framework in which personality studies can be integrated to address how variation in personality traits is maintained within populations.
There is ample evidence for ecological responses to recent climate change. Most studies to date have concentrated on the effects of climate change on individuals and species, with particular emphasis on the effects on phenology and physiology of organisms as well as changes in the distribution and range shifts of species. However, responses by individual species to climate change are not isolated; they are connected through interactions with others at the same or adjacent trophic levels. Also from this more complex perspective, recent case studies have emphasized evidence on the effects of climate change on biotic interactions and ecosystem services. This review highlights the 'knowns' but also 'unknowns' resulting from recent climate impact studies and reveals limitations of (linear) extrapolations from recent climate-induced responses of species to expected trends and magnitudes of future climate change. Hence, there is need not only to continue to focus on the impacts of climate change on the actors in ecological networks but also and more intensively to focus on the linkages between them, and to acknowledge that biotic interactions and feedback processes lead to highly complex, nonlinear and sometimes abrupt responses.
We review a recent shift in conceptions of interoception and its relationship to hierarchical inference in the brain. The notion of interoceptive inference means that bodily states are regulated by autonomic reflexes that are enslaved by descending predictions from deep generative models of our internal and external milieu. This re-conceptualization illuminates several issues in cognitive and clinical neuroscience with implications for experiences of selfhood and emotion. We first contextualize interoception in terms of active (Bayesian) inference in the brain, highlighting its enactivist (embodied) aspects. We then consider the key role of uncertainty or precision and how this might translate into neuromodulation. We next examine the implications for understanding the functional anatomy of the emotional brain, surveying recent observations on agranular cortex. Finally, we turn to theoretical issues, namely, the role of interoception in shaping a sense of embodied self and feelings. We will draw links between physiological homoeostasis and allostasis, early cybernetic ideas of predictive control and hierarchical generative models in predictive processing. The explanatory scope of interoceptive inference ranges from explanations for autism and depression, through to consciousness. We offer a brief survey of these exciting developments. This article is part of the themed issue 'Interoception beyond homeostasis: affect, cognition and mental health'.
to mg l,Plastics debris in the marine environment, including resin pellets, fragments and microscopic plastic fragments, contain organic contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides (2,2′-bis(,to µg g,and were correlated with the level of economic development.,chlorophenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane, hexachlorinated hexanes), polybrominated diphenylethers, alkylphenols and bisphenol A, at concentrations from sub ng g,. Some of these compounds are added during plastics manufacture, while others adsorb from the surrounding seawater. Concentrations of hydrophobic contaminants adsorbed on plastics showed distinct spatial variations reflecting global pollution patterns. Model calculations and experimental observations consistently show that polyethylene accumulates more organic contaminants than other plastics such as polypropylene and polyvinyl chloride. Both a mathematical model using equilibrium partitioning and experimental data have demonstrated the transfer of contaminants from plastic to organisms. A feeding experiment indicated that PCBs could transfer from contaminated plastics to streaked shearwater chicks. Plasticizers, other plastics additives and constitutional monomers also present potential threats in terrestrial environments because they can leach from waste disposal sites into groundwater and/or surface waters. Leaching and degradation of plasticizers and polymers are complex phenomena dependent on environmental conditions in the landfill and the chemical properties of each additive. Bisphenol A concentrations in leachates from municipal waste disposal sites in tropical Asia ranged from sub µg l
For over 100 years, endosymbiotic theories have figured in thoughts about the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. More than 20 different versions of endosymbiotic theory have been presented in the literature to explain the origin of eukaryotes and their mitochondria. Very few of those models account for eukaryotic anaerobes. The role of energy and the energetic constraints that prokaryotic cell organization placed on evolutionary innovation in cell history has recently come to bear on endosymbiotic theory. Only cells that possessed mitochondria had the bioenergetic means to attain eukaryotic cell complexity, which is why there are no true intermediates in the prokaryote-to-eukaryote transition. Current versions of endosymbiotic theory have it that the host was an archaeon (an archaebacterium), not a eukaryote. Hence the evolutionary history and biology of archaea increasingly comes to bear on eukaryotic origins, more than ever before. Here, we have compiled a survey of endosymbiotic theories for the origin of eukaryotes and mitochondria, and for the origin of the eukaryotic nucleus, summarizing the essentials of each and contrasting some of their predictions to the observations. A new aspect of endosymbiosis in eukaryote evolution comes into focus from these considerations: the host for the origin of plastids was a facultative anaerobe.
The science of consciousness has made great strides by focusing on the behavioural and neuronal correlates of experience. However, while such correlates are important for progress to occur, they are not enough if we are to understand even basic facts, for example, why the cerebral cortex gives rise to consciousness but the cerebellum does not, though it has even more neurons and appears to be just as complicated. Moreover, correlates are of little help in many instances where we would like to know if consciousness is present: patients with a few remaining islands of functioning cortex, preterm infants, non-mammalian species and machines that are rapidly outperforming people at driving, recognizing faces and objects, and answering difficult questions. To address these issues, we need not only more data but also a theory of consciousness one that says what experience is and what type of physical systems can have it. Integrated information theory (ITT) does so by starting from experience itself via five phenomenological axioms: intrinsic existence, composition, information, integration and exclusion. From these it derives five postulates about the properties required of physical mechanisms to support consciousness. The theory provides a principled account of both the quantity and the quality of an individual experience (a quale), and a calculus to evaluate whether or not a particular physical system is conscious and of what. Moreover, IIT can explain a range of clinical and laboratory findings, makes a number of testable predictions and extrapolates to a number of problematic conditions. The theory holds that consciousness is a fundamental property possessed by physical systems having specific causal properties. It predicts that consciousness is graded, is common among biological organisms and can occur in some very simple systems. Conversely, it predicts that feed-forward networks, even complex ones, are not conscious, nor are aggregates such as groups of individuals or heaps of sand. Also, in sharp contrast to widespread functionalist beliefs, ITT implies that digital computers, even if their behaviour were to be functionally equivalent to ours, and even if they were to run faithful simulations of the human brain, would experience next to nothing.
New techniques have identified a wide range of organisms with the capacity to carry out biological nitrogen fixation (BNF)-greatly expanding our appreciation of the diversity and ubiquity of N fixers-but our understanding of the rates and controls of BNF at ecosystem and global scales has not advanced at the same pace. Nevertheless, determining rates and controls of BNF is crucial to placing anthropogenic changes to the N cycle in context, and to understanding, predicting and managing many aspects of global environmental change. Here, we estimate terrestrial BNF for a pre-industrial world by combining information on N fluxes with N-15 relative abundance data for terrestrial ecosystems. Our estimate is that pre-industrial N fixation was 58 (range of 40-100) TgN fixed yr(-)1; adding conservative assumptions for geological N reduces our best estimate to 44 TgNyr(-)1. This approach yields substantially lower estimates than most recent calculations; it suggests that the magnitude of human alternation of the N cycle is substantially larger than has been assumed.