Environmental impact

  • Article |

    A global inventory of utility-scale solar photovoltaic generating units, produced by combining remote sensing imagery with machine learning, has identified 68,661 facilities — an increase of over 400% on previously available asset-level data —  the majority of which were sited on cropland.

    • L. Kruitwagen
    • , K. T. Story
    •  & C. Hepburn
  • Article |

    The amount of carbon dioxide released by the Australian wildfires of 2019–2020 is uncertain, but is estimated here using satellite observations of carbon monoxide to be more than twice the amount suggested by fire inventories.

    • Ivar R. van der Velde
    • , Guido R. van der Werf
    •  & Ilse Aben
  • Article |

    A range of environmental stressors are estimated for farmed and wild capture blue foods, including bivalves, seaweed, crustaceans and finfish, with the potential to inform more sustainable diets.

    • Jessica A. Gephart
    • , Patrik J. G. Henriksson
    •  & Max Troell
  • Article |

    A revised date for the Laacher See eruption using measurements of subfossil trees shifts the chronology of European varved lakes relative to the Greenland ice core record, synchronizing the onset of the Younger Dryas across the North Atlantic–European sector.

    • Frederick Reinig
    • , Lukas Wacker
    •  & Ulf Büntgen
  • Review Article |

    The volume of global aquaculture production has tripled since 2000 with positive trends in environmental performance, but the sector faces mounting challenges including pathogen management, pollution, climate change, and increasing dependence on land-based resource systems.

    • Rosamond L. Naylor
    • , Ronald W. Hardy
    •  & Max Troell
  • Article |

    Data from the ICESat-2 satellite quantifying the variability of water levels in natural and human-managed water bodies show that a disproportionate majority of global water storage variability occurs in human-managed reservoirs.

    • Sarah W. Cooley
    • , Jonathan C. Ryan
    •  & Laurence C. Smith
  • Article |

    Atmospheric concentration measurements at remote sites around the world reveal an accelerated decline in the global mean CFC-11 concentration during 2018 and 2019, reversing recent trends and building confidence in the timely recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer.

    • Stephen A. Montzka
    • , Geoffrey S. Dutton
    •  & Christina Theodoridi
  • Article |

    Observations and air-quality modelling reveal that the sources of particulate matter and oxidative potential in Europe are different, implying that reducing mass concentrations of particulate matter alone may not reduce oxidative potential.

    • Kaspar R. Daellenbach
    • , Gaëlle Uzu
    •  & André S. H. Prévôt
  • Article |

    To promote the recovery of the currently declining global trends in terrestrial biodiversity, increases in both the extent of land under conservation management and the sustainability of the global food system from farm to fork are required.

    • David Leclère
    • , Michael Obersteiner
    •  & Lucy Young
  • Article |

    Fine-scale satellite data are used to quantify forest harvest rates in 26 European countries, finding an increase in harvested forest area of 49% and an increase in biomass loss of 69% between 2011–2015 and 2016–2018.

    • Guido Ceccherini
    • , Gregory Duveiller
    •  & Alessandro Cescatti
  • Article |

    This analysis of the exchange of air pollution amongst the contiguous United States finds that, on average, around half of the early deaths caused by a state’s air pollution occurs outside that state, with different contributions by different emission sectors and chemical species.

    • Irene C. Dedoussi
    • , Sebastian D. Eastham
    •  & Steven R. H. Barrett
  • Perspective |

    This Perspective examines the global production ecosystem through the lenses of connectivity, diversity and feedback, and proposes measures that will increase its stability and sustainability.

    • M. Nyström
    • , J.-B. Jouffray
    •  & C. Folke
  • Letter |

    Estimates for when critical environmental streamflow limits will be reached—with potentially devastating economic and environmental effects—are obtained using a global model that links groundwater pumping with the groundwater flow to rivers.

    • Inge E. M. de Graaf
    • , Tom Gleeson
    •  & Marc F. P. Bierkens
  • Letter |

    Estimates of spatial patterns of nitrogen discharge into water bodies across China between 1955 and 2014 show that current discharge rates are almost three times the acceptable threshold, and ways to restore a clean water environment are suggested.

    • ChaoQing Yu
    • , Xiao Huang
    •  & James Taylor
  • Article |

    A global model finds that the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 60–90% by 2050, and that dietary changes, improvements in technologies and management, and reductions in food loss and waste will all be needed to mitigate these impacts.

    • Marco Springmann
    • , Michael Clark
    •  & Walter Willett
  • Letter |

    A global modelling approach shows that in response to rises in global sea level, gains of up to 60% in coastal wetland areas are possible, if appropriate coastal management solutions are developed to help support wetland resilience.

    • Mark Schuerch
    • , Tom Spencer
    •  & Sally Brown
  • Letter |

    Isotopic and sedimentary analyses of soils at Pastoral Neolithic archaeological sites in Kenya demonstrate the long-term influence of nutrient enrichment on savannah environments that has accompanied pastoralist settlement over the past three millennia.

    • Fiona Marshall
    • , Rachel E. B. Reid
    •  & Stanley H. Ambrose
  • Letter |

    Satellite data for the period 1982–2016 reveal changes in land use and land cover at global and regional scales that reflect patterns of land change indicative of a human-dominated Earth system.

    • Xiao-Peng Song
    • , Matthew C. Hansen
    •  & John R. Townshend
  • Perspective |

    The future of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean by 2070 is described under two scenarios, one in which action is taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and one in which no action is taken.

    • S. R. Rintoul
    • , S. L. Chown
    •  & J. C. Xavier
  • Letter |

    A global analysis of gross primary productivity reveals that drought recovery is driven by climate and carbon cycling, with recovery longest in the tropics and high northern latitudes, and with impacts increasing over the twentieth century.

    • Christopher R. Schwalm
    • , William R. L. Anderegg
    •  & Hanqin Tian
  • Letter |

    Deforestation increases the odds of a species being threatened by extinction, and this effect is disproportionately strong in relatively intact landscapes, suggesting that efforts are needed to protect intact forest landscapes and prevent a new wave of extinctions.

    • Matthew G. Betts
    • , Christopher Wolf
    •  & Taal Levi
  • Article |

    Investigations of an Icelandic volcanic eruption confirm that sulfate aerosols caused a discernible yet transient brightening effect, as predicted, but their effect on the liquid water path was unexpectedly negligible.

    • Florent F. Malavelle
    • , Jim M. Haywood
    •  & Thorvaldur Thordarson
  • Perspective |

    The current and expected environmental consequences of built dams and proposed dam constructions in the Amazon basin are explored with the help of a Dam Environmental Vulnerability Index.

    • Edgardo M. Latrubesse
    • , Eugenio Y. Arima
    •  & Jose C. Stevaux
  • Letter |

    Global food consumption drives irrigation for crops, which depletes aquifers in some regions; here we quantify the volumes of groundwater depletion associated with global food production and international trade.

    • Carole Dalin
    • , Yoshihide Wada
    •  & Michael J. Puma
  • Article |

    During much of the last ice age, continental ice sheets prevented humans from migrating into North America from Siberia; an environmental reconstruction of the corridor that opened up between the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets reveals that it would have been inhospitable to the initial colonizing humans, who therefore probably entered North America by a different route.

    • Mikkel W. Pedersen
    • , Anthony Ruter
    •  & Eske Willerslev