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Concept: Natural environment


In urban ecosystems, socioeconomics contribute to patterns of biodiversity. The ‘luxury effect’, in which wealthier neighbourhoods are more biologically diverse, has been observed for plants, birds, bats and lizards. Here, we used data from a survey of indoor arthropod diversity (defined throughout as family-level richness) from 50 urban houses and found that house size, surrounding vegetation, as well as mean neighbourhood income best predict the number of kinds of arthropods found indoors. Our finding, that homes in wealthier neighbourhoods host higher indoor arthropod diversity (consisting of primarily non-pest species), shows that the luxury effect can extend to the indoor environment. The effect of mean neighbourhood income on indoor arthropod diversity was particularly strong for individual houses that lacked high surrounding vegetation ground cover, suggesting that neighbourhood dynamics can compensate for local choices of homeowners. Our work suggests that the management of neighbourhoods and cities can have effects on biodiversity that can extend from trees and birds all the way to the arthropod life in bedrooms and basements.

Concepts: Evolution, Life, Species, Ecology, Natural environment, Sustainability, Biome, House


New theoretical and conceptual frameworks are required for evolutionary biology to capitalize on the wealth of data now becoming available from the study of genomes, phenotypes, and organisms - including humans - in their natural environments.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Natural selection, Evolution, Organism, Natural environment, 21st century, Charles Darwin


So far, conservation scientists have paid little attention to synthetic biology; this is unfortunate as the technology is likely to transform the operating space within which conservation functions, and therefore the prospects for maintaining biodiversity into the future.

Concepts: Time, Biodiversity, Evolution, Species, Ecology, Natural environment, Science, Problem solving


Although most organisms thermoregulate behaviorally, biologists still cannot easily predict whether mobile animals will thermoregulate in natural environments. Current models fail because they ignore how the spatial distribution of thermal resources constrains thermoregulatory performance over space and time. To overcome this limitation, we modeled the spatially explicit movements of animals constrained by access to thermal resources. Our models predict that ectotherms thermoregulate more accurately when thermal resources are dispersed throughout space than when these resources are clumped. This prediction was supported by thermoregulatory behaviors of lizards in outdoor arenas with known distributions of environmental temperatures. Further, simulations showed how the spatial structure of the landscape qualitatively affects responses of animals to climate. Biologists will need spatially explicit models to predict impacts of climate change on local scales.

Concepts: Time, Physics, General relativity, Natural environment, Space, Spacetime, Universe, Philosophy of space and time


Many populations have been exposed to environmental lead from paint, petrol, and mining and smelting operations. Lead is toxic to humans and there is emerging evidence linking childhood exposure with later life antisocial behaviors, including delinquency and crime. This study tested the hypothesis that childhood lead exposure in select Australian populations is related to subsequent aggressive criminal behaviors.

Concepts: Biology, Environment, Natural environment, Crime, Lead, Antisocial personality disorder, Juvenile delinquency


Southern stingrays, Dasyatis americana, have been provided supplemental food in ecotourism operations at Stingray City Sandbar (SCS), Grand Cayman since 1986, with this site becoming one of the world’s most famous and heavily visited marine wildlife interaction venues. Given expansion of marine wildlife interactive tourism worldwide, there are questions about the effects of such activities on the focal species and their ecosystems. We used a combination of acoustic telemetry and tag-recapture efforts to test the hypothesis that human-sourced supplemental feeding has altered stingray activity patterns and habitat use at SCS relative to wild animals at control sites. Secondarily, we also qualitatively estimated the population size of stingrays supporting this major ecotourism venue. Tag-recapture data indicated that a population of at least 164 stingrays, over 80% female, utilized the small area at SCS for prolonged periods of time. Examination of comparative movements of mature female stingrays at SCS and control sites revealed strong differences between the two groups: The fed animals demonstrated a notable inversion of diel activity, being constantly active during the day with little movement at night compared to the nocturnally active wild stingrays; The fed stingrays utilized significantly (p<0.05) smaller 24 hour activity spaces compared to wild conspecifics, staying in close proximity to the ecotourism site; Fed stingrays showed a high degree of overlap in their core activity spaces compared to wild stingrays which were largely solitary in the spaces utilized (72% vs. 3% overlap respectively). Supplemental feeding has strikingly altered movement behavior and spatial distribution of the stingrays, and generated an atypically high density of animals at SCS which could have downstream fitness costs for individuals and potentially broader ecosystem effects. These findings should help environmental managers plan mitigating measures for existing operations, and develop precautionary policies regarding proposed feeding sites.

Concepts: Natural environment, Dasyatis, Wildlife, Stingray, Southern stingray, Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman, Dasyatidae


The discipline of sustainability science has emerged in response to concerns of natural and social scientists, policymakers, and lay people about whether the Earth can continue to support human population growth and economic prosperity. Yet, sustainability science has developed largely independently from and with little reference to key ecological principles that govern life on Earth. A macroecological perspective highlights three principles that should be integral to sustainability science: 1) physical conservation laws govern the flows of energy and materials between human systems and the environment, 2) smaller systems are connected by these flows to larger systems in which they are embedded, and 3) global constraints ultimately limit flows at smaller scales. Over the past few decades, decreasing per capita rates of consumption of petroleum, phosphate, agricultural land, fresh water, fish, and wood indicate that the growing human population has surpassed the capacity of the Earth to supply enough of these essential resources to sustain even the current population and level of socioeconomic development.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Agriculture, Ecology, Natural environment, Sustainability, World population, Carrying capacity, Environmental movement


BACKGROUND: The burden of ill-health due to inactivity has recently been highlighted. Better studies on environments that support physical activity are called for, including longitudinal studies of environmental interventions. A programme of residential street improvements in the UK (Sustrans ‘DIY Streets’) allowed a rare opportunity for a prospective, longitudinal study of the effect of such changes on older adults' activities, health and quality of life. METHODS: Pre-post, cross-sectional surveys were carried out in locations across England, Wales and Scotland; participants were aged 65+ living in intervention or comparison streets. A questionnaire covered health and quality of life, frequency of outdoor trips, time outdoors in different activities and a 38-item scale on neighbourhood open space. A cohort study explored changes in self-report activity and well-being postintervention. Activity levels were also measured by accelerometer and accompanying diary records. RESULTS: The cross-sectional surveys showed outdoor activity predicted by having a clean, nuisance-free local park, attractive, barrier-free routes to it and other natural environments nearby. Being able to park one’s car outside the house also predicted time outdoors. The environmental changes had an impact on perceptions of street walkability and safety at night, but not on overall activity levels, health or quality of life. Participants' moderate-to-vigorous activity levels rarely met UK health recommendations. CONCLUSIONS: Our study contributes to methodology in a longitudinal, pre-post design and points to factors in the built environment that support active ageing. We include an example of knowledge exchange guidance on age-friendly built environments for policy-makers and planners.

Concepts: Cohort study, Longitudinal study, Research methods, Epidemiology, Environment, Cross-sectional study, Natural environment, Sociology


Starting at least in the 1970s, empirical work suggested that demographic (population) and economic (affluence) forces are the key drivers of anthropogenic stress on the environment. We evaluate the extent to which politics attenuates the effects of economic and demographic factors on environmental outcomes by examining variation in CO2 emissions across US states and within states over time. We find that demographic and economic forces can in part be offset by politics supportive of the environment-increases in emissions over time are lower in states that elect legislators with strong environmental records.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Environment, Natural environment, Climate change, Natural gas, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming


The nanoparticle industry is expected to become a trillion dollar business in the near future. Therefore, the unintentional introduction of nanoparticles into the environment is increasingly likely. However, currently applied risk-assessment practices require further adaptation to accommodate the intrinsic nature of engineered nanoparticles. Combining a chronic flow-through exposure system with subsequent acute toxicity tests for the standard test organism Daphnia magna, we found that juvenile offspring of adults that were previously exposed to titanium dioxide nanoparticles exhibit a significantly increased sensitivity to titanium dioxide nanoparticles compared with the offspring of unexposed adults, as displayed by lower 96 h-EC(50) values. This observation is particularly remarkable because adults exhibited no differences among treatments in terms of typically assessed endpoints, such as sensitivity, number of offspring, or energy reserves. Hence, the present study suggests that ecotoxicological research requires further development to include the assessment of the environmental risks of nanoparticles for the next and hence not directly exposed generation, which is currently not included in standard test protocols.

Concepts: Environment, Natural environment, Data, Assessment, Titanium dioxide, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Daphnia, Jonathan Frakes