Research articles

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  • The sheer scale of global development aid projects and funding can be almost impenetrable for researchers and policymakers to derive broad trends, let alone specific topics. This machine learning analysis looks at 3.2 million separate aid activities over the past two decades to find clusters and categories for better targeting of development funds.

    • Malte Toetzke
    • Nicolas Banholzer
    • Stefan Feuerriegel
  • Minority groups are often disproportionately exposed to air pollution, but what drives these disparities is difficult to analyse. Using the economic shutdown associated with the 2020 COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, this study estimates pollution exposure disparities caused by the in-person economy in California.

    • Richard Bluhm
    • Pascal Polonik
    • Jennifer A. Burney
  • Poor availability and access to clean water is a fundamental sustainability challenge facing our society. Here the authors show that covalent organic framework membranes enable excellent performance in seawater desalination including high permeation flux and fouling resistance, providing a promising technological solution.

    • Meidi Wang
    • Penghui Zhang
    • Zhongyi Jiang
  • The environmental effectiveness of procurement incentives for electric vehicle (EV) sales depends on the behaviour of EV adopters. This study explores such a relationship and how procurement policies should be designed in order to achieve emissions reduction and be economically efficient.

    • Ashley Nunes
    • Lucas Woodley
    • Philip Rossetti
    Analysis Open Access
  • Fishing practices and efficiency at catching fish vary across individual operators with implications about the operators’ ability to avoid bycatch. This study analyses variations in threatened species bycatch among individual operators from industrial fisheries across different geographic areas, gear types and target species

    • Leslie A. Roberson
    • Chris Wilcox
  • Controlled use of fire for subsistence and smallholder livelihoods has undoubtedly shaped ecosystems but we have limited research on the practices and extent. This analysis of nearly 600 case study locations finds fire use is changing in ways that could pose risks to smallholder livelihoods as well as wildlife and biodiversity.

    • Cathy Smith
    • Ol Perkins
    • Jayalaxshmi Mistry
  • The development of innovative packaging materials could contribute to greater sustainability in the food and beverage industry. Here the authors report squid-skin-inspired metallized composite materials that show adaptive infrared and dynamic thermoregulatory properties, and could be manufactured in a scalable way.

    • Mohsin Ali Badshah
    • Erica M. Leung
    • Alon A. Gorodetsky
  • Assessing the effectiveness of restoration projects faces challenges due to operational issues and the high costs of gathering on-ground data. This study combines satellite observations with quasi-experimental methods to examine the impacts of the Sustainable Land Management Project in Ethiopia.

    • Susana Constenla-Villoslada
    • Yanyan Liu
    • Shun Chonabayashi
  • Sand for building material is a vital but increasingly scarce resource. Demand for sand is projected to increase substantially in the coming decades, particularly in lower-income countries. Strategic modifications to building practices, however, can reduce global building sand demand by up to 50%.

    • Xiaoyang Zhong
    • Sebastiaan Deetman
    • Paul Behrens
    Brief Communication
  • Artificial intelligence methods can help biodiversity conservation planning in a rapidly evolving world. A framework based on reinforcement learning quantifies the trade-off between the costs and benefits of area and biodiversity protection and achieves better solutions with empirical data than alternative methods.

    • Daniele Silvestro
    • Stefano Goria
    • Alexandre Antonelli
    Article Open Access
  • Modelling studies suggest that large-scale win–win solutions are available, but practitioners confronted with real-world complexity are sceptical. This study shows that increasing the number of objectives, the number of stakeholders or the number of constraints decreases the availability of win–win outcomes.

    • Margaret Hegwood
    • Ryan E. Langendorf
    • Matthew G. Burgess
  • Despite the growing use of biodiversity offsets from major industrial projects, little is known about how effective they are. This study shows that the offsets associated with the Ambatovy mine in Madagascar trying to compensate for deforestation at the mine site are on track to achieve no net loss of forest.

    • Katie Devenish
    • Sébastien Desbureaux
    • Julia P. G. Jones
    Article Open Access
  • In East Africa the emergence of the potato cyst nematode (PCN) Globodera rostochiensis threatens potato production. Wrapping seed potatoes with a lignocellulose banana-paper matrix reduces the impact of PCN and leads to improved yields, suggesting a sustainable solution to crop root pests.

    • Juliet Ochola
    • Laura Cortada
    • Baldwyn Torto
    Article Open Access
  • People living in Bangladesh’s coastal zone face multiple water-related risks. This modelling study finds that rising salinity and waterlogging negate the benefits of rehabilitating embankments for reducing crop loss, with impacts being greatest for the poor. Drainage was found to reduce negative impacts.

    • Emily J. Barbour
    • Mohammed Sarfaraz Gani Adnan
    • Jim W. Hall
  • Carbon inequality mirrors extreme wealth and income inequalities globally, with a high level of consumption-based carbon emissions in rich nations. This study shows that lifting people out of poverty does not impact much emissions globally, though in poorer countries emissions could more than double.

    • Benedikt Bruckner
    • Klaus Hubacek
    • Kuishuang Feng