Special |

Sustainability

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.

News & Comment

  • Nature News | News Feature

    Climate change is a major threat to food production, so researchers are working with farmers to make agriculture more resilient.

    • Quirin Schiermeier
  • Nature News | News Feature

    A charcoal-rich product called biochar could boost agricultural yields and control pollution. Scientists are putting the trendy substance to the test.

    • Rachel Cernansky
  • Nature News | News Feature

    Researchers are exploring unconventional sources of fresh water to quench the globe's growing thirst.

    • Quirin Schiermeier
  • Nature News | News Feature

    Polluting biomass stoves, used by one-third of the global population, take a terrible toll. But efforts to clean them up are failing.

    • Meera Subramanian

News & Views and Books & Arts

  • Nature | News & Views

    Carbon dioxide is an abundant resource, but difficult for industry to use effectively. A simple reaction might allow it to be used to make commercial products more sustainably than with current processes. See Letter p.215

    • Eric J. Beckman
  • Nature | News & Views

    Pollution from atmospheric nitrogen deposition is a major threat to biodiversity. The 160-year-old Park Grass experiment has uniquely documented this threat and demonstrated how nitrogen reductions lead to recovery. See Letter p.401

    • David Tilman
    •  &  Forest Isbell
  • Nature | News & Views

    A modelling study argues that comprehensive policy change could limit Australia's environmental pollution while maintaining a materials-intensive path to economic growth. But other paths are worth considering. See Article p.49

    • Benjamin L. Bodirsky
    •  &  Alexander Popp
  • Nature | News & Views

    A genetically modified rice with more starch in its grains also provides fewer nutrients for methane-producing soil microbes. This dual benefit might help to meet the urgent need for globally sustainable food production. See Letter p.602

    • Paul L. E. Bodelier
  • Nature | News & Views

    Two studies provide evidence that bees cannot taste or avoid neonicotinoid pesticides, and that exposure to treated crops affects reproduction in solitary bees as well as bumblebee colony growth and reproduction. See Letters p.74 & p.77

    • Nigel E. Raine
    •  &  Richard J. Gill
  • Nature | News & Views

    A meta-analysis at a local scale reveals that land-use change has caused species richness to decline by approximately 8.1% on average globally, mainly as a result of large increases in croplands and pastures. See Article p.45

    • Brian McGill

Research & Reviews

  • Nature Geoscience | Perspective

    Many governments agreed to limit global mean temperature change to below 2 °C, yet this level has not been assessed scientifically. A synthesis of the literature suggests that temperature is the best available target quantity, but a safe level is uncertain.

    • Reto Knutti
    • , Joeri Rogelj
    • , Jan Sedláček
    •  &  Erich M. Fischer
  • Nature | Review Article

    Recent research has shown that while large fauna and flowering plants in the Antarctic are scarce, there are considerable levels of marine and terrestrial biodiversity, particularly the microbiota; what drives it, and how the Antarctic can meet conservation targets, are the subject of this review.

    • Steven L. Chown
    • , Andrew Clarke
    • , Ceridwen I. Fraser
    • , S. Craig Cary
    • , Katherine L. Moon
    •  &  Melodie A. McGeoch
  • Nature | Perspective

    Formal criteria must be met to define a new human-driven epoch; the geological evidence appears to do so, with 1610 and 1964 both likely to satisfy the requirements for the start of the Anthropocene.

    • Simon L. Lewis
    •  &  Mark A. Maslin
  • Nature | Article

    As incomes grow, diets change, with varying impacts on human health and the environment; here the links are examined and suggestions made for diets that both improve health and minimize environmental impacts.

    • David Tilman
    •  &  Michael Clark

From the archive

  • Nature Plants | Comment

    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.

    • Angela Karp
    • , Michael H. Beale
    • , Frédéric Beaudoin
    • , Peter J. Eastmond
    • , Andrew L. Neal
    • , Ian F. Shield
    • , Belinda J. Townsend
    •  &  Achim Dobermann
  • Nature Plants | News

    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.

    • Karl Gruber
  • Nature Plants | Comment

    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.

    • John S. I. Ingram
    •  &  John R. Porter
  • Nature Plants | Comment

    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.

    • William J. Davies
    •  &  Malcolm J. Bennett
  • Nature Geoscience | Commentary

    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.

    • Bruce Hewitson