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Volume 2 Issue 5, May 2019

Air pollution from maize production

Agriculture sustains humanity but impacts the environment. This study finds that air pollution from maize production leads to 4,300 premature deaths annually in the United States, akin to US$39 billion in damages, and causes climate-change damages of US$4.9 billion.

See Hill et al.

Image: David Hansen, University of Minnesota. Cover Design: David Shand.


  • Protecting Madagascar’s unique biodiversity can improve the life of many in the country.



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Comment & Opinion

  • Madagascar’s recently elected president ran on a platform of improving the economy and raising people out of poverty. We suggest that addressing the precipitous decline of biodiversity will help to deliver this commitment, and we lay out ways in which President Rajoelina could firmly put the country on a trajectory towards sustainable growth.

    • Julia P. G. Jones
    • Jonah Ratsimbazafy
    • Patricia C. Wright
  • Ming Hung Wong of the Southern University of Science and Technology, China, leads an international team investigating e-waste recycling impacts, and chaired the Waste Management Sub-Committee in the Hong Kong Advisory Council on the Environment.

    • Aiora Zabala
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Research Highlights

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News & Views

  • Protected areas, such as parks and marine reserves, are a vital conservation tools. A new study models the trade-offs between using limited resources for acquiring new protected areas and managing existing ones.

    • Donald L. DeAngelis
    News & Views
  • The Millennium Development Goal target 7c, to halve the proportion of the global population without access to safe drinking water by 2015, is the first international drinking water target ever met. Understanding how this was achieved is critical to replicating success.

    • Mark Everard
    News & Views
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  • Addressing sustainability challenges requires attention to the material basis of society. This Perspective illustrates how a Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education framework could help to integrate knowledge about the molecular world with the sustainability of Earth and societal systems.

    • Peter G. Mahaffy
    • Stephen A. Matlin
    • Jennifer MacKellar
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  • Drylands cover over 40% of Earth’s surface and will probably expand with warming climates. This study found that metallic micronutrients, essential for life, are low in dryland soils globally and are affected negatively by aridity, a threat to ecosystems and food production going forward.

    • Eduardo Moreno-Jiménez
    • César Plaza
    • Fernando T. Maestre
  • ‘Eating organic’ requires farming differently. Organic agriculture manages crop varieties and rotations to manage pests and nutrients. This study analyses different scenarios of organic conversion, finding that a smaller area worldwide planted with wheat, rice and maize must be offset by more nitrogen-fixing crops, such as beans, alfalfa and clover. Even then, caloric energy would fall by about 27% from current production.

    • Pietro Barbieri
    • Sylvain Pellerin
    • Thomas Nesme
  • Urgent action is needed to ensure food security and mitigate climate change. Through a multi-model comparison exercise, this study shows the potential negative trade-offs between food security and climate change mitigation if mitigation policies are carelessly designed.

    • Shinichiro Fujimori
    • Tomoko Hasegawa
    • Detlef van Vuuren
  • Agriculture sustains a large and growing human population, but generates widespread impacts. This study assesses the health effects of air pollution caused by maize production. Reduced air quality leads to 4,300 premature deaths annually in the United States, akin to US$39 billion in damages, and climate change damages of US$4.9 billion.

    • Jason Hill
    • Andrew Goodkind
    • Julian Marshall
  • Protected areas are vital for conserving biodiversity, but limited funds must be allocated between acquiring new areas and managing existing ones. Using a landscape model, this study finds that management is often the better first investment and is always a necessary complement to acquisition.

    • Vanessa M. Adams
    • Gwenllian D. Iacona
    • Hugh P. Possingham
  • Modelling the network of power plants that supply a given city, and the amount of energy drawn from each plant, shows a city’s energy mix and demonstrates which other cities it shares most energy suppliers with.

    • Christopher R. DeRolph
    • Ryan A. McManamay
    • Sujithkumar Surendran Nair
  • Rural communities manage much of the world’s forests, but the effects on both landscapes and people are still unclear. This study estimates the impacts of such community-based forest management in Nepal from 2000–2012 and finds significant net reductions in both deforestation and poverty.

    • Johan A. Oldekop
    • Katharine R. E. Sims
    • Arun Agrawal
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