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Concept: Subregion


The United Nations Paris Agreement creates a specific need to compare consequences of cumulative emissions for pledged national commitments and aspirational targets of 1.5° to 2°C global warming. We find that humans have already increased the probability of historically unprecedented hot, warm, wet, and dry extremes, including over 50 to 90% of North America, Europe, and East Asia. Emissions consistent with national commitments are likely to cause substantial and widespread additional increases, including more than fivefold for warmest night over ~50% of Europe and >25% of East Asia and more than threefold for wettest days over >35% of North America, Europe, and East Asia. In contrast, meeting aspirational targets to keep global warming below 2°C reduces the area experiencing more than threefold increases to <10% of most regions studied. However, large areas-including >90% of North America, Europe, East Asia, and much of the tropics-still exhibit sizable increases in the probability of record-setting hot, wet, and/or dry events.

Concepts: United States, Europe, Japan, Asia, North America, United Nations, Subregion, Cold War


Sleeping sickness, also called human African trypanosomiasis, is transmitted by the tsetse, a blood-sucking fly confined to sub-Saharan Africa. The form of the disease in West and Central Africa is carried mainly by species of tsetse that inhabit riverine woodland and feed avidly on humans. In contrast, the vectors for the East and Southern African form of the disease are usually savannah species that feed mostly on wild and domestic animals and bite humans infrequently, mainly because the odours produced by humans can be repellent. Hence, it takes a long time to catch many savannah tsetse from people, which in turn means that studies of the nature of contact between savannah tsetse and humans, and the ways of minimizing it, have been largely neglected.

Concepts: Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, African trypanosomiasis, Southern Africa, Subregion, Tsetse fly, Sleeping sickness


We compiled all credible repeated lion surveys and present time series data for 47 lion (Panthera leo) populations. We used a Bayesian state space model to estimate growth rate-λ for each population and summed these into three regional sets to provide conservation-relevant estimates of trends since 1990. We found a striking geographical pattern: African lion populations are declining everywhere, except in four southern countries (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe). Population models indicate a 67% chance that lions in West and Central Africa decline by one-half, while estimating a 37% chance that lions in East Africa also decline by one-half over two decades. We recommend separate regional assessments of the lion in the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species: already recognized as critically endangered in West Africa, our analysis supports listing as regionally endangered in Central and East Africa and least concern in southern Africa. Almost all lion populations that historically exceeded ∼500 individuals are declining, but lion conservation is successful in southern Africa, in part because of the proliferation of reintroduced lions in small, fenced, intensively managed, and funded reserves. If management budgets for wild lands cannot keep pace with mounting levels of threat, the species may rely increasingly on these southern African areas and may no longer be a flagship species of the once vast natural ecosystems across the rest of the continent.

Concepts: Africa, South Africa, Lion, Southern Africa, Subregion, East Africa, Central Africa, Tiger


Similarity between two individuals in the combination of genetic markers along their chromosomes indicates shared ancestry and can be used to identify historical connections between different population groups due to admixture. We use a genome-wide, haplotype-based, analysis to characterise the structure of genetic diversity and gene-flow in a collection of 48 sub-Saharan African groups. We show that coastal populations experienced an influx of Eurasian haplotypes over the last 7000 years, and that Eastern and Southern Niger-Congo speaking groups share ancestry with Central West Africans as a result of recent population expansions. In fact, most sub-Saharan populations share ancestry with groups from outside of their current geographic region as a result of gene-flow within the last 4000 years. Our in-depth analysis provides insight into haplotype sharing across different ethno-linguistic groups and the recent movement of alleles into new environments, both of which are relevant to studies of genetic epidemiology.

Concepts: Genetics, Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa, Subregion, African people, Niger-Congo languages


SUMMARY Identification of high-risk regions of schistosomiasis is important for rational resource allocation and effective control strategies. We conducted the first study to apply the newly developed method of adaptive kernel density estimation (KDE)-based spatial relative risk function (sRRF) to detect the high-risk regions of schistosomiasis in the Guichi region of China and compared it with the fixed KDE-based sRRF. We found that the adaptive KDE-based sRRF had a better ability to depict the heterogeneity of risk regions, but was more sensitive to altering the user-defined smoothing parameters. Specifically, the impact of bandwidths on the estimated risk value and risk significance (P value) was higher for the adaptive KDE-based sRRF, but lower on the estimated risk variation standard error (s.e.) compared with the fixed KDE-based sRRF. Based on this application the adaptive and fixed KDE-based sRRF have their respective advantages and disadvantages and the joint application of the two approaches can warrant the best possible identification of high-risk subregions of diseases.

Concepts: Statistics, Non-parametric statistics, Histogram, Subregion, Density estimation, Kernel density estimation, Kernel, Mean integrated squared error


Today, farmers in many regions of eastern Asia sow their barley grains in the spring and harvest them in the autumn of the same year (spring barley). However, when it was first domesticated in southwest Asia, barley was grown between the autumn and subsequent spring (winter barley), to complete their life cycles before the summer drought. The question of when the eastern barley shifted from the original winter habit to flexible growing schedules is of significance in terms of understanding its spread. This article investigates when barley cultivation dispersed from southwest Asia to regions of eastern Asia and how the eastern spring barley evolved in this context. We report 70 new radiocarbon measurements obtained directly from barley grains recovered from archaeological sites in eastern Eurasia. Our results indicate that the eastern dispersals of wheat and barley were distinct in both space and time. We infer that barley had been cultivated in a range of markedly contrasting environments by the second millennium BC. In this context, we consider the distribution of known haplotypes of a flowering-time gene in barley, Ppd-H1, and infer that the distributions of those haplotypes may reflect the early dispersal of barley. These patterns of dispersal resonate with the second and first millennia BC textual records documenting sowing and harvesting times for barley in central/eastern China.

Concepts: Agriculture, Europe, Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Subregion, Barley, Central Asia


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) has a long history of emergence into urban transmission cycles from its ancestral, enzootic, sylvatic foci in Sub-Saharan Africa, most recently in the Americas beginning in 2013. Since 2004, reemergence has resulted in millions of cases of severe, debilitating and often chronic arthralgia on five continents. Here, we review this history based on phylogenetic studies, and discuss probable future spread and disease in the Americas. We also discuss a series of mutations in the recently emerged Indian Ocean Lineage that have adapted the virus for transmission for the first time by the Aedes albopictus urban mosquito vector, and compare CHIKV to other arboviruses with and without similar histories of urbanization. This article forms part of a symposium in Antiviral Research on “Chikungunya discovers the New World.”

Concepts: Evolution, Malaria, Africa, Asia, Aedes aegypti, North America, South America, Subregion


Human-mediated biological exchange has had global social and ecological impacts. In sub-Saharan Africa, several domestic and commensal animals were introduced from Asia in the pre-modern period; however, the timing and nature of these introductions remain contentious. One model supports introduction to the eastern African coast after the mid-first millennium CE, while another posits introduction dating back to 3000 BCE. These distinct scenarios have implications for understanding the emergence of long-distance maritime connectivity, and the ecological and economic impacts of introduced species. Resolution of this longstanding debate requires new efforts, given the lack of well-dated fauna from high-precision excavations, and ambiguous osteomorphological identifications. We analysed faunal remains from 22 eastern African sites spanning a wide geographic and chronological range, and applied biomolecular techniques to confirm identifications of two Asian taxa: domestic chicken (Gallus gallus) and black rat (Rattus rattus). Our approach included ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis aided by BLAST-based bioinformatics, Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) collagen fingerprinting, and direct AMS (accelerator mass spectrometry) radiocarbon dating. Our results support a late, mid-first millennium CE introduction of these species. We discuss the implications of our findings for models of biological exchange, and emphasize the applicability of our approach to tropical areas with poor bone preservation.

Concepts: DNA, Mass spectrometry, Africa, Chicken, Southern Africa, Subregion, East Africa, Accelerator mass spectrometry


Human height variation is determined by genetic and environmental factors, but it remains unclear whether their influences differ across birth-year cohorts. We conducted an individual-based pooled analysis of 40 twin cohorts including 143,390 complete twin pairs born 1886-1994. Although genetic variance showed a generally increasing trend across the birth-year cohorts, heritability estimates (0.69-0.84 in men and 0.53-0.78 in women) did not present any clear pattern of secular changes. Comparing geographic-cultural regions (Europe, North America and Australia, and East Asia), total height variance was greatest in North America and Australia and lowest in East Asia, but no clear pattern in the heritability estimates across the birth-year cohorts emerged. Our findings do not support the hypothesis that heritability of height is lower in populations with low living standards than in affluent populations, nor that heritability of height will increase within a population as living standards improve.

Concepts: Genetics, Human height, Europe, Asia, East Asia, North America, Subregion, Heritability


Multivariate statistical techniques such as principal components analysis (PCA) and multidimensional scaling (MDS) have been widely used to summarize the structure of human genetic variation, often in easily visualized two-dimensional maps. Many recent studies have reported similarity between geographic maps of population locations and MDS or PCA maps of genetic variation inferred from single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). However, this similarity has been evident primarily in a qualitative sense; and, because different multivariate techniques and marker sets have been used in different studies, it has not been possible to formally compare genetic variation datasets in terms of their levels of similarity with geography. In this study, using genome-wide SNP data from 128 populations worldwide, we perform a systematic analysis to quantitatively evaluate the similarity of genes and geography in different geographic regions. For each of a series of regions, we apply a Procrustes analysis approach to find an optimal transformation that maximizes the similarity between PCA maps of genetic variation and geographic maps of population locations. We consider examples in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, East Asia, and Central/South Asia, as well as in a worldwide sample, finding that significant similarity between genes and geography exists in general at different geographic levels. The similarity is highest in our examples for Asia and, once highly distinctive populations have been removed, Sub-Saharan Africa. Our results provide a quantitative assessment of the geographic structure of human genetic variation worldwide, supporting the view that geography plays a strong role in giving rise to human population structure.

Concepts: DNA, Scientific method, Sociology, Qualitative research, Population genetics, Social sciences, Subregion, World population