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      Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for transformative change

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          Abstract

          The human impact on life on Earth has increased sharply since the 1970s, driven by the demands of a growing population with rising average per capita income. Nature is currently supplying more materials than ever before, but this has come at the high cost of unprecedented global declines in the extent and integrity of ecosystems, distinctness of local ecological communities, abundance and number of wild species, and the number of local domesticated varieties. Such changes reduce vital benefits that people receive from nature and threaten the quality of life of future generations. Both the benefits of an expanding economy and the costs of reducing nature’s benefits are unequally distributed. The fabric of life on which we all depend—nature and its contributions to people—is unravelling rapidly. Despite the severity of the threats and lack of enough progress in tackling them to date, opportunities exist to change future trajectories through transformative action. Such action must begin immediately, however, and address the root economic, social, and technological causes of nature’s deterioration.

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          Most cited references 52

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          The status of the world's land and marine mammals: diversity, threat, and knowledge.

          Knowledge of mammalian diversity is still surprisingly disparate, both regionally and taxonomically. Here, we present a comprehensive assessment of the conservation status and distribution of the world's mammals. Data, compiled by 1700+ experts, cover all 5487 species, including marine mammals. Global macroecological patterns are very different for land and marine species but suggest common mechanisms driving diversity and endemism across systems. Compared with land species, threat levels are higher among marine mammals, driven by different processes (accidental mortality and pollution, rather than habitat loss), and are spatially distinct (peaking in northern oceans, rather than in Southeast Asia). Marine mammals are also disproportionately poorly known. These data are made freely available to support further scientific developments and conservation action.
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            Is Open Access

            Climate change, adaptation, and phenotypic plasticity: the problem and the evidence

            Many studies have recorded phenotypic changes in natural populations and attributed them to climate change. However, controversy and uncertainty has arisen around three levels of inference in such studies. First, it has proven difficult to conclusively distinguish whether phenotypic changes are genetically based or the result of phenotypic plasticity. Second, whether or not the change is adaptive is usually assumed rather than tested. Third, inferences that climate change is the specific causal agent have rarely involved the testing – and exclusion – of other potential drivers. We here review the various ways in which the above inferences have been attempted, and evaluate the strength of support that each approach can provide. This methodological assessment sets the stage for 11 accompanying review articles that attempt comprehensive syntheses of what is currently known – and not known – about responses to climate change in a variety of taxa and in theory. Summarizing and relying on the results of these reviews, we arrive at the conclusion that evidence for genetic adaptation to climate change has been found in some systems, but is still relatively scarce. Most importantly, it is clear that more studies are needed – and these must employ better inferential methods – before general conclusions can be drawn. Overall, we hope that the present paper and special issue provide inspiration for future research and guidelines on best practices for its execution.
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              A new scenario framework for climate change research: the concept of shared socioeconomic pathways

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Science
                Science
                American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
                0036-8075
                1095-9203
                December 12 2019
                December 13 2019
                December 12 2019
                December 13 2019
                : 366
                : 6471
                : eaax3100
                Article
                10.1126/science.aax3100
                © 2019

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