Since the early 1980s, remotely sensed data has shown the Earth to be slowly greening. Climate change, CO2 fertilization and land-use change are competing explanations. Using satellite data from 2000–2017, this study finds striking greening of both China and India, driven primarily by land-use change, with forest growth and cropland intensification more important in China and cropland more important in India.
Nature Sustainability's 2nd Anniversary
Nature Sustainability is celebrating two years of publishing great research from the natural and social sciences and engineering. Contributions ranged from empirical and experimental work to policy-relevant conceptual analysis. Topics included land-use management, air pollution, food production, urban ecology and battery recycling, among many others. In addition, the journal's Reviews and opinion pieces have fostered discussion across sustainability scholars and practitioners. Multiple other formats, such as News & Views and Q&A, have brought important topics to broader audiences.
Life sciences and ecology
Soil-based initiatives to mitigate climate change and restore soil fertility both rely on rebuilding soil organic carbon. Controversy about the role soils might play in climate change mitigation is, consequently, undermining actions to restore soils for improved agricultural and environmental outcomes.
A study of over 250,000 pregnant women in Beijing, China, finds that missed abortion is associated with the concentration of four major air pollutants. The association is not linear but becomes stronger with higher concentrations.
Recently, ecologists have begun discussing an idea for setting aside half of the Earth for conservation purposes. This study provides some of the first analysis of the impacts of doing so on society, based on assumptions about ecoregions and human footprint.
The Sustainable Development Goals require profound national and societal changes. This Perspective introduces six Transformations as building blocks for achieving the SDGs and an agenda for science to provide the requisite knowledge.
A scenario simulation to tackle hunger globally reveals that improving food availability for the under-nourished through better distribution has a better environmental performance than increasing overall food availability.
The number of environmental activists and defenders killed per week around the world over the past 15 years has doubled. Countries with the most corruption and weakest rule of law have the highest correlation with deaths but environmental rights face threats even in industrialized countries.
The value of ecosystem services in cities around the world is highly uncertain. This Review focuses on ten of the most commonly cited urban ecosystem services and presents a synthesis of the scholarship on the factors that moderate the value and equitable distribution of such services.
Engineering and technology
Substantial water savings can be achieved by coating toilet bowl surfaces to repel liquids, bacteria and viscoelastic solids such as human faeces. In this Article, the authors develop a sprayable, non-fouling coating that can reduce cleaning water consumption by ~90% compared with untreated surfaces.
Various battery recycling processes exist, but the related environmental and economic implications can vary by specific battery chemistry. This study examines the greenhouse gas emissions, energy inputs and costs associated with producing and recycling lithium-ion cells with different cathode chemistries.
Precision farming enabled by big data and gene-editing technologies are accelerating progress toward increasing nitrogen-use efficiency. However, farmer engagement, public–private partnerships and sound public policies are critical to harness the potential of such technologies to reduce hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.
Floating treatment wetlands can improve wastewater treatment plant performance. In this Analysis, the authors conducted a three-year study of full-scale floating treatment wetlands in stabilization ponds and showed substantially improved water quality and reduced heavy metal concentrations.