Agriculture is often viewed as a source of problems needing innovative solutions. But agriculture can actually be a source of innovations for the bioeconomy, if researchers embrace the cultural changes needed.
Pollution, climate change, depleted water reserves and a reduction in biodiversity are among the most alarming consequences of the harm inflicted on the environment by humans’ uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources. The extent of damage is huge and will affect the well-being of future generations. This selection of News, Comment, Review and Research articles from Nature and relevant Nature Research Journals explores the priorities for building a sustainable future.
Soil microorganisms have long been known to aid plants through nitrogen fixation and water and nutrient exchange. Now researchers are unearthing new ways in which this subterranean biome affects plant performance.
Plant science has an important part to play in meeting the global food security challenge. But, advances will be most effective if better coupled with agronomic science and the broader food security agenda.
Raising the water productivity of crops, such that they yield more with less water, is one route to raising food production over the coming century. To achieve this goal, breeders must look beyond the conservative strategies that plants employ to cope with drought in the wild.
The history of attempts to spread scientific know-how beyond western centres of excellence is littered with failures. Capacity building needs long-term commitment, a critical mass of trainees, and a supportive home environment.
Transgenic American cotton resistant to lepidopteran pests increases yields and revenues while reducing pesticide use compared to non-GM varieties. However, when grown without artificial irrigation the economic benefits over Asiatic cotton are less clear.
Consistent with their historical focus on the functional utility of plants, botanical gardens have an important opportunity to help ensure global food and ecosystem security by expanding their living collections, research and education programmes to emphasize agriculture and its impacts.
Lawrence D. Burns explains how networks of driverless, shared cars will revolutionize motoring.
Agricultural research is experiencing a resurgence. The Gates Foundation is leading the charge in the hopes of solving food security in the developing world.
An effort aimed at protecting ecosystems, modelled on the agency battling climate change, will need protecting from powerful enemies, warns Ehsan Masood.
The increase in amplitude of the atmospheric carbon dioxide cycle over the past fifty years can be attributed in part to the intensification of agriculture in the Northern Hemisphere.
Increases in agricultural productivity are shown, using production statistics and a carbon accounting model, to explain as much as a quarter of the observed increase in the seasonal amplitude of the Northern Hemisphere atmospheric carbon dioxide cycle.
Evolving agricultural practices dramatically increased crop production in the twentieth century. Two studies now find that this has altered the seasonal flux of atmospheric carbon dioxide. See Letters p.394 & p.398
The closure of a 40-year project to understand and protect seabirds shows the false priorities of funders, warns Tim Birkhead.
As rainfall patterns shift, technological and legislative changes are needed to address water shortages, says Moshe Alamaro.
In order to limit climate warming, CO2 emissions must remain below fixed quota. An evaluation of past emissions suggests that at 2014 emissions rates, the total quota will probably be exhausted within the next 30 years.
Scientists must step up and secure meaningful objectives if they are to protect both people and planet, says Mark Stafford-Smith.
A focus on carbon intensity alone will allow emissions to grow with the economy, argues Qiang Wang.
Businesses and the public can keep watch when governments fail to provide environmental data, say Angel Hsu and colleagues.
Sixteen years into the mysterious ‘global-warming hiatus’, scientists are piecing together an explanation.
Recycling cannot meet the demand for rare metals used in digital and green technologies, says Andrew Bloodworth. A more holistic approach is needed.
Without drastic action, population growth and urbanization will outpace waste reduction, warn Daniel Hoornweg, Perinaz Bhada-Tata and Chris Kennedy.
Renewable energy requires infrastructures built with metals whose extraction requires more and more energy. More mining is unavoidable, but increased recycling, substitution and careful design of new high-tech devices will help meet the growing demand.
An analysis reveals the huge impact of human activity on the nitrogen cycle in China. With global use of Earth's resources rising per head, the findings call for a re-evaluation of the consumption patterns of developed societies. See Letter p.459
Data on bulk nitrogen deposition, plant foliar nitrogen and crop nitrogen uptake in China between ad 1980 and ad 2010 show that the average annual bulk deposition of nitrogen increased by approximately 8 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare during that period and that nitrogen deposition rates in the industrialized and agriculturally intensified regions of China are as high as the peak levels of deposition in northwestern Europe in the 1980s.
An index assessing the health of the oceans gives a global score of 60 out of 100. But the idea that a single number can encompass both environmental status and the benefits that the oceans provide for humans may prove controversial. See Article p.615
This study develops a wide-ranging index to assess the many factors that contribute to the health and benefits of the oceans, and the scores for all costal nations are assessed.
A comprehensive carbon dioxide mass balance analysis shows that net global carbon uptake has increased by about 0.05 billion tonnes per year over the past 50 years and that in that time the global carbon uptake has almost doubled, making it unlikely that land and ocean carbon sinks have decreased on a global scale.
Careful analysis reveals that the global uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions by carbon sinks has doubled during the past 50 years — but the fractions of this absorbed by land and by sea remain unclear. See Letter p.70
If architecture is 'design for living', one of its greatest challenges is how to live with the masses of waste we excrete. Four pioneers in green sanitation design outline solutions to a dilemma too often shunted down the pan.
Two decades ago the first Earth Summit raised the question of how biological diversity loss alters ecosystem functioning and affects humanity; this Review looks at the progress made towards answering this question.
International trade is the underlying cause of 30% of threatened animal species extinctions, according to a modelling analysis of the impact of global supply chains and consumption patterns on biodiversity. See Letter p.109
There is evidence that human influence may be forcing the global ecosystem towards a rapid, irreversible, planetary-scale shift into a state unknown in human experience.
Biodiversity threats from Red Lists are linked with patterns of international trade, identifying the ultimate instigators of the threats; developed countries tend to be net importers of implicated commodities, driving biodiversity decline in developing countries.
Wendy Wolford hails a perceptive take on the people and organizations behind modern big land acquisitions.
A meta-analysis of agricultural systems shows that organic yields are mostly lower than those from conventional farming, but that organic crops perform well in some contexts. Agricultural scientists discuss whether the conclusions of the study should change farming practices and management. See Letter p.229
Pathogenic fungi are increasingly contributing to the global emerging disease burden, threatening biodiversity and imposing increasing costs on ecosystem health, hence steps must be taken to tighten biosecurity worldwide to reduce the rate of fungal disease emergence.
An overview of resource-guzzling US cities has lessons for us all, finds David Orr.