Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Ambio


Globally, greenhouse gas budgets are dominated by natural sources, and aquatic ecosystems are a prominent source of methane (CH4) to the atmosphere. Beaver (Castor canadensis and Castor fiber) populations have experienced human-driven change, and CH4 emissions associated with their habitat remain uncertain. This study reports the effect of near extinction and recovery of beavers globally on aquatic CH4 emissions and habitat. Resurgence of native beaver populations and their introduction in other regions accounts for emission of 0.18-0.80 Tg CH4 year(-1) (year 2000). This flux is approximately 200 times larger than emissions from the same systems (ponds and flowing waters that became ponds) circa 1900. Beaver population recovery was estimated to have led to the creation of 9500-42 000 km(2) of ponded water, and increased riparian interface length of >200 000 km. Continued range expansion and population growth in South America and Europe could further increase CH4 emissions.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Natural gas, Beaver, Methane, Americas, Greenhouse gas, European Beaver, Beavers


Olympic shooters discharge, annually, thousands of tons of lead shot which pose toxic risks to animals and may pollute both surface and ground waters. Non-toxic steel shot is an acceptable and effective substitute, but International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) rules prevent its adoption. The present policy and rules of the ISSF on lead shot use contravene the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter position on environmental protection. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a formal Olympic partner on environmental protection, has no stated policy on contamination from lead ammunition, despite having declared lead a Priority Area for remedial action, and is pressing to remove lead from the global human environment. The IOC Sport and Environment Commission and UNEP could examine the continued use of lead shot ammunition and advise the IOC Executive Board on appropriate changes in policy and rules that could halt the massive lead shot contamination of shooting range environments world-wide.

Concepts: Natural environment, Olympic Games, Environmentalism, 2008 Summer Olympics, International Olympic Committee, International Shooting Sport Federation, ISSF shooting events, Shooting sports


The root causes and impacts of three severe accidents at large civilian nuclear power plants are reviewed: the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, the Chernobyl accident in 1986, and the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011. Impacts include health effects, evacuation of contaminated areas as well as cost estimates and impacts on energy policies and nuclear safety work in various countries. It is concluded that essential objectives for reactor safety work must be: (1) to prevent accidents from developing into severe core damage, even if they are initiated by very unlikely natural or man-made events, and, recognizing that accidents with severe core damage may nevertheless occur; (2) to prevent large-scale and long-lived ground contamination by limiting releases of radioactive nuclides such as cesium to less than about 100 TBq. To achieve these objectives the importance of maintaining high global standards of safety management and safety culture cannot be emphasized enough. All three severe accidents discussed in this paper had their root causes in system deficiencies indicative of poor safety management and poor safety culture in both the nuclear industry and government authorities.

Concepts: Chernobyl disaster, Uranium, Nuclear fission, Nuclear power, Nuclear safety, Three Mile Island accident, RBMK, Nuclear meltdown


We present a historical overview of forest concepts and definitions, linking these changes with distinct perspectives and management objectives. Policies dealing with a broad range of forest issues are often based on definitions created for the purpose of assessing global forest stocks, which do not distinguish between natural and planted forests or reforests, and which have not proved useful in assessing national and global rates of forest regrowth and restoration. Implementing and monitoring forest and landscape restoration requires additional approaches to defining and assessing forests that reveal the qualities and trajectories of forest patches in a spatially and temporally dynamic landscape matrix. New technologies and participatory assessment of forest states and trajectories offer the potential to operationalize such definitions. Purpose-built and contextualized definitions are needed to support policies that successfully protect, sustain, and regrow forests at national and global scales. We provide a framework to illustrate how different management objectives drive the relative importance of different aspects of forest state, dynamics, and landscape context.

Concepts: Philosophy of language, Ecosystem


Reports of the damage from wolf attacks have increased considerably over the last decade in Georgia (in the Caucasus). We interviewed locals about this problem in two focal regions: the Lanchkhuti area (in western Georgia) and Kazbegi District (in eastern Georgia) where livestock numbers had increased by an order of magnitude owing to dramatic shifts in the local economies over the last decade. This coincided with expanding habitats for wolves (abandoned plantations, for example). We found that the perceived damage from wolves was positively correlated with a poor knowledge of wolf habits and inappropriate livestock husbandry practices. Our results suggest a loss of traditional knowledge contributes strongly to the wolf-human conflicts in Georgia. Restoring traditional, simple but good practices-such as protecting herds using shepherd dogs and introducing bulls into the herds-can help one solve this problem.

Concepts: Caucasus, Europe, Livestock, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Sheep husbandry, Animal husbandry


There is an ongoing debate on what constitutes sustainable intensification of agriculture (SIA). In this paper, we propose that a paradigm for sustainable intensification can be defined and translated into an operational framework for agricultural development. We argue that this paradigm must now be defined-at all scales-in the context of rapidly rising global environmental changes in the Anthropocene, while focusing on eradicating poverty and hunger and contributing to human wellbeing. The criteria and approach we propose, for a paradigm shift towards sustainable intensification of agriculture, integrates the dual and interdependent goals of using sustainable practices to meet rising human needs while contributing to resilience and sustainability of landscapes, the biosphere, and the Earth system. Both of these, in turn, are required to sustain the future viability of agriculture. This paradigm shift aims at repositioning world agriculture from its current role as the world’s single largest driver of global environmental change, to becoming a key contributor of a global transition to a sustainable world within a safe operating space on Earth.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Agriculture, Earth, Natural environment, World, Sustainability, Food security, Environmental movement


Unmanned aerial vehicles, or ‘drones’, appear to offer a flexible, accurate and affordable solution to some of the technical challenges of nature conservation monitoring and law enforcement. However, little attention has been given to their possible social impacts. In this paper, I review the possible social impacts of using drones for conservation, including on safety, privacy, psychological wellbeing, data security and the wider understanding of conservation problems. I argue that negative social impacts are probable under some circumstances and should be of concern for conservation for two reasons: (1) because conservation should follow good ethical practice; and (2) because negative social impacts could undermine conservation effectiveness in the long term. The paper concludes with a call for empirical research to establish whether the identified social risks of drones occur in reality and how they could be mitigated, and for self-regulation of drone use by the conservation sector to ensure good ethical practice and minimise the risk of unintended consequences.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Risk, Empiricism, Natural resource, Habitat conservation, Police, Unmanned aerial vehicle


Climate change and related adaptation strategies have gender-differentiated impacts. This paper reviews how gender is framed in 41 papers on climate change adaptation through an intersectionality lens. The main findings show that while intersectional analysis has demonstrated many advantages for a comprehensive study of gender, it has not yet entered the field of climate change and gender. In climate change studies, gender is mostly handled in a men-versus-women dichotomy and little or no attention has been paid to power and social and political relations. These gaps which are echoed in other domains of development and gender research depict a ‘feminization of vulnerability’ and reinforce a ‘victimization’ discourse within climate change studies. We argue that a critical intersectional assessment would contribute to unveil agency and emancipatory pathways in the adaptation process by providing a better understanding of how the differential impacts of climate change shape, and are shaped by, the complex power dynamics of existing social and political relations.

Concepts: Psychology, Sociology, Greek loanwords, Logic, Dichotomy


The growing complexity and global nature of wildlife poaching threaten the survival of many species worldwide and are outpacing conservation efforts. Here, we reviewed proximal and distal factors, both social and ecological, driving illegal killing or poaching of large carnivores at sites where it can potentially occur. Through this review, we developed a conceptual social-ecological system framework that ties together many of the factors influencing large carnivore poaching. Unlike most conservation action models, an important attribute of our framework is the integration of multiple factors related to both human motivations and animal vulnerability into feedbacks. We apply our framework to two case studies, tigers in Laos and wolverines in northern Sweden, to demonstrate its utility in disentangling some of the complex features of carnivore poaching that may have hindered effective responses to the current poaching crisis. Our framework offers a common platform to help guide future research on wildlife poaching feedbacks, which has hitherto been lacking, in order to effectively inform policy making and enforcement.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Species, Predation, Animal, The Current, Wildlife management, Tiger


In this paper, a brief overview is presented of natural gas as a fuel resource with subsequent carbon capture and re-use as a means to facilitate reduction and eventual elimination of man-made carbon emissions. A particular focus is shale gas and, to a lesser extent, methane hydrates, with the former believed to provide the most reasonable alternative as a transitional fuel toward a low-carbon future. An emphasis is placed on the gradual elimination of fossil resource usage as a fuel over the coming 35 to 85 years and its eventual replacement with renewable resources and nuclear power. Furthermore, it is proposed that synthesis of chemical feedstocks from recycled carbon dioxide and hydrogen-rich materials should be undertaken for specific applications in the transport sector which require access to high energy density fuels. To achieve the latter, carbon dioxide capture is imperative and possible synthetic routes for chemical feedstock production are briefly reviewed.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Petroleum, Nitrogen, Carbon, Natural gas, Methane, Coal