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Volume 1 Issue 12, December 2018

Solar-powered drinking water

Sea-water desalination is energy-intensive and costly. An attractive alternative is solar desalination, but the performance of current passive devices is not satisfactory. Asinari et al. develop a completely passive, multi-stage and low-cost distiller (pictured) using layers of membranes to achieve twice the yield of recent passive complete distillation systems.

See Asinari et al.

Image: Matteo Fasano, Politecnico di Torino (IT). Cover Design: Alex Wing.


  • Our expert panel on urban science has now delivered its much-awaited report, following more than a year of lively and intensive debate.



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Comment & Opinion

  • Researchers, stakeholders and funding organizations have embraced co-production of knowledge to solve sustainability problems. Research focusing on the practice of co-production can help us understand what works in what contexts and how to avoid potentially undesirable outcomes.

    • Maria Carmen Lemos
    • James C. Arnott
    • Carina Wyborn
  • Urban biodiversity is an unplanned species assemblage. Although promoting native biodiversity should be the primary goal, the built environment often contains optimal habitat for non-natives. With planning and research, we could use cities as semi-natural assurance colonies for endangered species.

    • H. Bradley Shaffer
  • Toby Park leads the Energy and Sustainability work at the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) and talks with us about joint research agendas, co-production and communication of results.

    • Aiora Zabala
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Analyses of protein in our future food supply have focused on the need to reduce animal-based foods and increase plant-based foods. A new analysis describes a parallel possibility — producing and consuming less-considered options, including insect larva, algae and cultured meat.

    • Michael W. Hamm
    News & Views
  • Biofuels became controversial for compromising food production. Forest residue conversion to jet fuel is a second-generation biofuel that doesn’t compete with food. However, it has unexpected implications across the Sustainable Development Goals.

    • Sgouris Sgouridis
    News & Views
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  • Issues around the use of natural resources are often framed in terms of the nexus concept. This Perspective discusses why the nexus concept matters in understanding the link between bio-physical and human dimensions, particularly with regard to the SDGs.

    • Raimund Bleischwitz
    • Catalina Spataru
    • Detlef P. van Vuuren
  • Organizations are social systems different from ecosystems and natural resources. Using social systems theory, and employing the concepts of emergence, resilience and scale, this Perspective presents management principles for pursuing sustainability across an array of organizational contexts.

    • Dror Etzion
  • The wastewater treatment industry contributes approximately 1.6% of greenhouse gas emissions. This Review analyses alternative wastewater treatment pathways for simultaneous CO2 capture and utilization and shows the multiple benefits of microbial electrochemical and phototrophic processes.

    • Lu Lu
    • Jeremy S. Guest
    • Zhiyong Jason Ren
    Review Article
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  • US coastlines that are exposed to hurricanes are subject to a myriad of regulations regarding building and rebuilding of structures, yet satellite imagery shows that the footprint of residential buildings increases after hurricane events for both new and renovated structures. Such an effect poses a challenge for vulnerable coastlines to build resilience in the face of growing hazards and houses.

    • Eli D. Lazarus
    • Patrick W. Limber
    • Scott B. Armstrong
    Brief Communication
  • Solar desalination is an attractive alternative to energy-intensive conventional seawater desalination. In this study, the authors present a completely passive, multi-stage and low-cost distiller using layers of membranes to achieve a distillate flow rate of almost 3 l m–2 h–1.

    • Eliodoro Chiavazzo
    • Matteo Morciano
    • Pietro Asinari
  • Global environmental change complicates the goal of securing adequate nutrition for a growing world population. This study assesses the per capita availability of food nutrients for various scenarios to the year 2050. Results suggest that economic growth will expand food and macronutrient access more than climate change will suppress it, but that micronutrient inadequacies will plague some regions.

    • Gerald Nelson
    • Jessica Bogard
    • Mark Rosegrant
  • Human diets strongly affect prospects for relative sustainability, affecting health, land, water, biodiversity and livelihoods. This study finds that select ‘future foods’, including insects, seaweed and cultured meat, provide major environmental benefits compared with current animal-source foods while safeguarding key micronutrients essential for human health.

    • A. Parodi
    • A. Leip
    • H. H. E. Van Zanten
  • 'No net loss’ biodiversity policies seek to offset biodiversity losses caused by economic development. This study assesses the global extent of such biodiversity offsets, finding that they occupy an area much larger than recognized and that most are small and implemented due to regulatory requirements.

    • Joseph William Bull
    • Niels Strange
  • Reducing direct economic losses from disasters is part of mitigating disaster impacts. This study presents an update to the leading dataset on normalized US hurricane losses in the continental United States from 1900 to 2017.

    • Jessica Weinkle
    • Chris Landsea
    • Roger Pielke Jr
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Amendments & Corrections

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