Nature Climate Change is one year old. Here we reflect on the aims and scope of the journal, using articles from this issue as illustrative examples.
In celebration of the journal's first anniversary, we are giving free access for a limited period to one article selected from each of the first twelve issues, reflecting the breadth and depth of the journal's content (http://www.nature.com/nclimate/focus/1st-anniversary/index.html). It has certainly been an interesting year, in which the journal has built on the solid foundation set in place by the inaugural editor, Olive Heffernan, with the commitment of the Nature Publishing Group to provide a serious forum for the exposition and open discussion of climate change research and policy.
From the outset, our aim has been to publish outstanding research of immediate interest to the broad climate change community. A key focus has been to attract studies that illuminate the physical processes responsible for climate change, whether related to natural variability in the climate system or resulting from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land cover.
An example in this issue is the study by Joeri Rogelj and colleagues (page 248), which provides a consistent framework for comparing the results of climate models used in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR4) with results from the new generation of models, which will contribute to IPCC AR5 (due in 2013/2014). The modelling approach adopted by Rogelj et al. takes into account current thinking about climate sensitivity and the dynamics of the global carbon cycle, and is constrained by observed historical climate warming. As discussed by Sarah Raper in an accompanying News & Views (page 232), the study provides new information that should inform international negotiations over mitigation measures believed by many to be essential if dangerous future climate change is to be avoided.
Another major interest of the journal is in studies exploring the actual or potential impacts of climate change on ecosystems, whether natural or managed. On page 239, Kari Saikkonen and colleagues review the role of day length in modulating changes in geographical ranges of species in response to climate change, and how an understanding of the phenomenon should help predict future range expansions.
Of course changes in species ranges can have genetic consequences. An example is provided by Emily Rubidge and colleagues (page 285), who show that climate-driven contraction of suitable mountainside habitat is associated with reduced genetic diversity and increased genetic subdivision in a species of alpine chipmunk in Yosemite National Park, USA.
In another study (page 271), Graeme Hays and colleagues document changes in the relative dominance of two important groups of planktonic marine algae in the northeast Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea. Based on over 90,000 plankton samples collected over a 50-year period, they find that dinoflagellates — including both harmful algal bloom (HAB) and non-HAB species — have undergone recent declines in abundance, whereas diatoms have not shown this decline. Indeed, the observations show that some HAB and non-HAB diatoms have actually increased in abundance. The researchers find that these changes are linked to higher sea surface temperatures and increasingly windy summer conditions. An obvious concern is the potential for these changes to disrupt ecosystem processes, which could be accompanied by an increased threat to human health and damage to fisheries.
Human-managed terrestrial ecosystems are also affected by climate change. On page 276, Franciska de Vries and colleagues show how agricultural land use affects both the resistance and resilience of the soil food web to drought. They found that fungal-based food webs of extensively managed grassland were more resistant than bacterial-based food webs of intensively managed wheat when subjected to experimental drought. The significance of the findings for sustainable land management and the maintenance of ecosystem services are discussed in an accompanying News & Views by Johan Six (page 234). Meanwhile, wine lovers may be disturbed to learn that the marked trend towards earlier maturation of wine grapes in Australian vineyards can be attributed to climate warming and reduction in soil water content, in addition to changes in management practice (page 259).
In an intriguing study (page 281), Alexandru Milcu and colleagues study feedbacks between the biotic and abiotic components of the carbon cycle using scaled-down ratios of the terrestrial carbon stocks in materially closed, but energetically open experimental systems. The direction and magnitude of such feedbacks remain a source of uncertainty in climate–carbon cycle models. Although fascinating in its own right, the extent to which the study provides a suitable analogue for the Earths' biotic feedbacks is likely to be hotly debated.
A further important aim of the journal has been to address societal issues surrounding climate change — focusing on issues such as adaptation and mitigation policies, how humans are affected by changing climate, how we perceive risk, the factors that shape beliefs about the causes of climate change and our behavioural responses. For example, Ezra Markowitz and Azim Shariff (page 243) draw on a wealth of research from psychology and related fields to explain why the climate crisis often fails to elicit the same moral response as many other comparable and lesser threats. In a separate News & Views (page 236), Steven Brechin discusses research showing how US citizens' views on climate change are largely affected by existing political divides, with the availability of scientific information having less influence. Also in this issue (page 289), Pascal Peduzzi and colleagues present a global risk trend analysis for the likely impact of expected future changes in the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, taking into account demographic and socio-economic factors. Meanwhile, Cunrui Huang and colleagues (page 265) consider temperature-dependent human mortality in Brisbane, Australia, factoring in both number of deaths and life expectancy to estimate years of life lost; their findings are discussed by Patrick Kinney (page 233).
Several articles in the issue build on the human theme. In an Interview (page 225), Kate Raworth of Oxfam considers how societal goals — food security, health, employment and so on — can be achieved given the existence of 'planetary boundaries' such as climate change, biodiversity loss and ocean acidification. Sonja van Renssen scrutinizes the funding behind commitments by the European Union to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions (page 227), while Anna Petherick looks critically at the national costs of adaptation measures (page 228).
We take this opportunity to thank our readers and authors and we look forward to contributing further to the climate change debate over future years.