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Selection: with tag anthropogenic-impacts [120 articles] 


Human factors of fire occurrence in the Mediterranean

In Earth Observation of Wildland Fires in Mediterranean Ecosystems (2009), pp. 149-170,
edited by Emilio Chuvieco


The Mediterranean region accounts the larger proportion of human caused fires in the world (95%) followed by South Asia (90%), South America (85%) and Northeast Asia (80%) (FAO 2007). Socio-economic changes which are occurring in Europe along with global warming result in an augment of fire risk. Systematic and reliable information on fire causes is necessary in order to improve wildland fire management. However, collection of information on forest fire causes and motivations is still quite restricted in most countries around ...


Exploring spatial patterns and drivers of forest fires in Portugal (1980–2014)

Science of The Total Environment, Vol. 573 (December 2016), pp. 1190-1202,


[Highlights] [::] Wildfires are irregularly distributed in Portugal, both in ignitions and burnt area. [::] In 80% of the municipality's ignition density reveal a positive trend since the 80s. [::] Geographically Weighted Regression was used to identify relevant municipal drivers of fires. [::] Topography and population density were significant factors in municipal ignitions. [::] Topography and uncultivated land were significant factors in municipal burnt area. [Abstract] Information on the spatial incidence of fire ignition density and burnt area, trends and drivers of wildfires is vitally important in providing ...


Analysis of recent spatial–temporal evolution of human driving factors of wildfires in Spain

Natural Hazards, Vol. 84, No. 3. (2016), pp. 2049-2070,


Fire regimes are strongly dependent on human activities. Understanding the relative influence of human factors on wildfire is an important ongoing task especially in human-dominated landscapes such as the Mediterranean, where anthropogenic ignitions greatly surpass natural ignitions and human activities are modifying historical fire regimes. Most human drivers of wildfires have a temporal dimension, far beyond the appearance of change, and it is for this reason that we require an historical/temporal analytical perspective coupled to the spatial dimension. In this paper, ...


Impacts of future land use/land cover on wildfire occurrence in the Madrid region (Spain)

Regional Environmental Change In Regional Environmental Change, Vol. 16, No. 4. (2016), pp. 1047-1061,


This paper assesses the relative importance of socioeconomic factors linked to fire occurrence through the simulation of future land use/land cover (LULC) change scenarios in the Madrid region (Spain). This region is a clear example of the socioeconomic changes that have been occurring over recent decades in the European Mediterranean as well as their impact on LULC and fire occurrence. Using the LULC changes observed between 1990 and 2006 as a reference, future scenarios were run up to 2025 with the ...


Human influence on California fire regimes

Ecological Applications, Vol. 17, No. 5. (July 2007), pp. 1388-1402,


Periodic wildfire maintains the integrity and species composition of many ecosystems, including the mediterranean-climate shrublands of California. However, human activities alter natural fire regimes, which can lead to cascading ecological effects. Increased human ignitions at the wildland–urban interface (WUI) have recently gained attention, but fire activity and risk are typically estimated using only biophysical variables. Our goal was to determine how humans influence fire in California and to examine whether this influence was linear, by relating contemporary (2000) and historic (1960–2000) ...


Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 114, No. 30. (25 July 2017), pp. E6089-E6096,


[Significance] The strong focus on species extinctions, a critical aspect of the contemporary pulse of biological extinction, leads to a common misimpression that Earth’s biota is not immediately threatened, just slowly entering an episode of major biodiversity loss. This view overlooks the current trends of population declines and extinctions. Using a sample of 27,600 terrestrial vertebrate species, and a more detailed analysis of 177 mammal species, we show the extremely high degree of population decay in vertebrates, even in common “species of ...


What causes large fires in Southern France

Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 294 (April 2013), pp. 76-85,


[Highlights] [::] 0.8% Of fires were larger than 100 ha but accounted for 71% of total burned area. [::] On the whole area, the main cause was arson. [::] Occurrence mainly linked to shrubland population, minor road, fall-spring drought. [::] Burned area linked to shrubland fall–winter rain, summer drought, unemployment. [::] The areas the most affected were located to the East on the Mediterranean coast. [Abstract] In Southern France, where most wildfires occur, the fire size has never exceeded 6744 ha since 1991, whereas ...


Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 114, No. 11. (14 March 2017), pp. 2946-2951,


[Significance] Fighting wildfires in the United States costs billions of dollars annually. Public dialog and ongoing research have focused on increasing wildfire risk because of climate warming, overlooking the direct role that people play in igniting wildfires and increasing fire activity. Our analysis of two decades of government agency wildfire records highlights the fundamental role of human ignitions. Human-started wildfires accounted for 84% of all wildfires, tripled the length of the fire season, dominated an area seven times greater than that affected ...


No saturation in the accumulation of alien species worldwide

Nature Communications, Vol. 8 (15 February 2017), 14435,


Although research on human-mediated exchanges of species has substantially intensified during the last centuries, we know surprisingly little about temporal dynamics of alien species accumulations across regions and taxa. Using a novel database of 45,813 first records of 16,926 established alien species, we show that the annual rate of first records worldwide has increased during the last 200 years, with 37% of all first records reported most recently (1970–2014). Inter-continental and inter-taxonomic variation can be largely attributed to the diaspora of ...


Long-term variability of Abies alba in NW Romania: implications for its conservation management

Diversity and Distributions, Vol. 14, No. 6. (November 2008), pp. 1004-1017,


[Aim] Although Abies alba is not yet prioritized for conservation in many European countries, its importance is acknowledged under the EU Directive on the marketing for forest reproductive material. The Apuseni National Park contains one of the largest areas of remnant native A. alba in central eastern Europe. Here, we examine the antiquity of the present A. alba communities in the forests of NW Romania and the drivers behind their variability over the last 6000 years leading to current distribution ...


The impacts of logging on landslide activity at Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia

CATENA, Vol. 38, No. 4. (February 2000), pp. 279-300,


The objective of this study was to investigate the impacts of logging on landslide activity in Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A total of 1004 landslides were documented in order to test the hypothesis that areas affected by logging activities show different density, frequency and magnitude characteristics of landsliding than areas unaffected by logging. The frequency of landslides in logged terrain was found to be nine times higher than in undisturbed forest. An exponential increase ...


Modelling long-term fire occurrence factors in Spain by accounting for local variations with geographically weighted regression

Natural Hazards and Earth System Science, Vol. 13, No. 2. (11 February 2013), pp. 311-327,


Humans are responsible for most forest fires in Europe, but anthropogenic factors behind these events are still poorly understood. We tried to identify the driving factors of human-caused fire occurrence in Spain by applying two different statistical approaches. Firstly, assuming stationary processes for the whole country, we created models based on multiple linear regression and binary logistic regression to find factors associated with fire density and fire presence, respectively. Secondly, we used geographically weighted regression (GWR) to better understand and explore ...


Global urban signatures of phenotypic change in animal and plant populations

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (03 January 2017), 201606034,


[Significance] Ecoevolutionary feedbacks on contemporary timescales were hypothesized over half a century ago, but only recently has evidence begun to emerge. The role that human activity plays in such dynamics is still unclear. Through a metaanalysis of >1,600 phenotypic changes in species across regions and ecosystem types, we examine the evidence that the rate of phenotypic change has an urban signature. Our findings indicate greater phenotypic change in urbanizing systems compared with natural and nonurban anthropogenic systems. By explicitly linking urban development ...


The global methane budget 2000–2012

Earth System Science Data, Vol. 8, No. 2. (12 December 2016), pp. 697-751,


The global methane (CH4) budget is becoming an increasingly important component for managing realistic pathways to mitigate climate change. This relevance, due to a shorter atmospheric lifetime and a stronger warming potential than carbon dioxide, is challenged by the still unexplained changes of atmospheric CH4 over the past decade. Emissions and concentrations of CH4 are continuing to increase, making CH4 the second most important human-induced greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide. Two major difficulties in reducing uncertainties come from the large variety ...


Involve social scientists in defining the Anthropocene

Nature, Vol. 540, No. 7632. (7 December 2016), pp. 192-193,


The causes of Earth's transition are human and social, write Erle Ellis and colleagues, so scholars from those disciplines must be included in its formalization. ...


The human dimension of fire regimes on Earth

Journal of Biogeography, Vol. 38, No. 12. (2011), pp. 2223-2236,


Humans and their ancestors are unique in being a fire-making species, but ‘natural’ (i.e. independent of humans) fires have an ancient, geological history on Earth. Natural fires have influenced biological evolution and global biogeochemical cycles, making fire integral to the functioning of some biomes. Globally, debate rages about the impact on ecosystems of prehistoric human-set fires, with views ranging from catastrophic to negligible. Understanding of the diversity of human fire regimes on Earth in the past, present and future remains rudimentary. ...


Driving forces of global wildfires over the past millennium and the forthcoming century

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 107, No. 45. (09 November 2010), pp. 19167-19170,


Recent bursts in the incidence of large wildfires worldwide have raised concerns about the influence climate change and humans might have on future fire activity. Comparatively little is known, however, about the relative importance of these factors in shaping global fire history. Here we use fire and climate modeling, combined with land cover and population estimates, to gain a better understanding of the forces driving global fire trends. Our model successfully reproduces global fire activity record over the last millennium and ...


Land-use intensification causes multitrophic homogenization of grassland communities

Nature (30 November 2016),


Land-use intensification is a major driver of biodiversity loss1, 2. Alongside reductions in local species diversity, biotic homogenization at larger spatial scales is of great concern for conservation. Biotic homogenization means a decrease in β-diversity (the compositional dissimilarity between sites). Most studies have investigated losses in local (α)-diversity1, 3 and neglected biodiversity loss at larger spatial scales. Studies addressing β-diversity have focused on single or a few organism groups (for example, ref. 4), and it is thus unknown whether land-use intensification ...


Modeling temporal changes in human-caused wildfires in Mediterranean Europe based on Land Use-Land Cover interfaces

Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 378 (October 2016), pp. 68-78,


[Highlights] [::] LULC interfaces between forest and other land uses modeled human-caused wildfire. [::] Euro Mediterranean Europe was analyzed in two time periods, 1990s and 2000s. [::] Models positive related interface density to an increase in fire density. [::] At country-level analysis did not revealed significant differences in the models. [::] A ten year period can be scarce to detect significant LULC changes linked to fire. [Abstract] In the period 1980s–2010s, 95% of wildfires in Mediterranean Europe were due to human causes. In this highly populated region, socio-economic ...


Global and regional analysis of climate and human drivers of wildfire

Science of The Total Environment, Vol. 409, No. 18. (August 2011), pp. 3472-3481,


Identifying and quantifying the statistical relationships between climate and anthropogenic drivers of fire is important for global biophysical modelling of wildfire and other Earth system processes. This study used regression tree and random forest analysis on global data for various climatic and human variables to establish their relative importance. The main interactions found at the global scale also apply regionally: greatest wildfire burned area is associated with high temperature (> 28 °C), intermediate annual rainfall (350–1100 mm), and prolonged dry periods (which varies by ...


Anthropogenic effects on global mean fire size

International Journal of Wildland Fire, Vol. 24, No. 5. (2015), 589,


Wildland fires are an important agent in the earth’s system. Multiple efforts are currently in progress to better represent wildland fires in earth system models. Although wildland fires are a natural disturbance factor, humans have an important effect on fire occurrence by directly igniting and suppressing fires and indirectly influencing fire behaviour by changing land cover and landscape structure. Although these factors are recognised, their quantitative effect on fire growth and burned area are not well understood and therefore only partly ...


Harmonized classification scheme of fire causes in the EU adopted for the European Fire Database of EFFIS



The information on the causes of forest fires is of paramount importance to support the environmental and civil protection policies and design appropriate prevention measure. At the European level a simple common scheme with 4 fire causes classes (deliberate, accident/negligence, natural and unknown) has been used to record information on fire causes since 1992. European countries use national schemes which in most cases are much more detailed than the simple 4 common classes, but they are not harmonized and detailed cross ...


Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (10 October 2016), 201607171,


[Significance] Increased forest fire activity across the western United States in recent decades has contributed to widespread forest mortality, carbon emissions, periods of degraded air quality, and substantial fire suppression expenditures. Although numerous factors aided the recent rise in fire activity, observed warming and drying have significantly increased fire-season fuel aridity, fostering a more favorable fire environment across forested systems. We demonstrate that human-caused climate change caused over half of the documented increases in fuel aridity since the 1970s and doubled the ...


An Anthropocene map of genetic diversity

Science, Vol. 353, No. 6307. (29 September 2016), pp. 1532-1535,


The Anthropocene is witnessing a loss of biodiversity, with well-documented declines in the diversity of ecosystems and species. For intraspecific genetic diversity, however, we lack even basic knowledge on its global distribution. We georeferenced 92,801 mitochondrial sequences for >4500 species of terrestrial mammals and amphibians, and found that genetic diversity is 27% higher in the tropics than in nontropical regions. Overall, habitats that are more affected by humans hold less genetic diversity than wilder regions, although results for mammals are sensitive ...


The maximum climate ambition needs a firm research backing

Nature, Vol. 537, No. 7622. (28 September 2016), pp. 585-586,


We need to know what the 1.5 °C warming target will involve — even if we don’t reach it. [Excerpt] [...] The 2015 Paris climate agreement commits governments to keeping average global surface temperatures to between 1.5 °C and 2 °C above the preindustrial level. But warming has already passed the 1-degree mark, and some estimates suggest that even if current commitments are fully implemented, they would allow temperatures to rise nearly 3 °C. If the 2-degree goal seems implausible, given current politics, 1.5 °C is ...


Modelling the spatial patterns of ignition causes and fire regime features in southern France: implications for fire prevention policy

International Journal of Wildland Fire, Vol. 25, No. 7. (2016), 785,


A good knowledge of the spatiotemporal patterns of the causes of wildfire ignition is crucial to an effective fire policy. However, little is known about the situation in south-eastern France because the fire database contains unreliable data. We used data for cases with well-established causes from 1973–2013 to determine the location of spatial hotspots, the seasonal distribution, the underlying anthropogenic and environmental drivers and the tendency of five main causes to generate large fires. Anthropogenic ignitions were predominant (88%) near human ...


The impact of charcoal production on forest degradation: a case study in Tete, Mozambique

Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 11, No. 9. (01 September 2016), 094020,


Charcoal production for urban energy consumption is a main driver of forest degradation in sub Saharan Africa. Urban growth projections for the continent suggest that the relevance of this process will increase in the coming decades. Forest degradation associated to charcoal production is difficult to monitor and commonly overlooked and underrepresented in forest cover change and carbon emission estimates. We use a multitemporal dataset of very high-resolution remote sensing images to map kiln locations in a representative study area of tropical ...


Human-caused wildfire risk rating for prevention planning in Spain

Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 90, No. 2. (February 2009), pp. 1241-1252,


This paper identifies human factors associated with high forest fire risk in Spain and analyses the spatial distribution of fire occurrence in the country. The spatial units were 6,066 municipalities of the Spanish peninsular territory and Balearic Islands. The study covered a 13-year series of fire occurrence data. One hundred and eight variables were generated and input to a dedicated Geographic Information System (GIS) to model different factors related to fire ignition. After exploratory analysis, 29 were selected to build a ...


Global fire size distribution is driven by human impact and climate

Global Ecology and Biogeography, Vol. 24, No. 1. (January 2015), pp. 77-86,


[Aim] In order to understand fire's impacts on vegetation dynamics, it is crucial that the distribution of fire sizes be known. We approached this distribution using a power-law distribution, which derives from self-organized criticality theory (SOC). We compute the global spatial variation in the power-law exponent and determine the main factors that explain its spatial distribution. [Location] Global, at 2° grid resolution. [Methods] We use satellite-derived MODIS burned-area data (MCD45) to obtain global individual fire size data for 2002–2010, grouped together for each 2° grid. A ...


A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2016

Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Vol. 31, No. 1. (January 2016), pp. 44-53,


This paper presents the results of our seventh annual horizon scan, in which we aimed to identify issues that could have substantial effects on global biological diversity in the future, but are not currently widely well known or understood within the conservation community. Fifteen issues were identified by a team that included researchers, practitioners, professional horizon scanners, and journalists. The topics include use of managed bees as transporters of biological control agents, artificial superintelligence, electric pulse trawling, testosterone in the aquatic ...


Define the Anthropocene in terms of the whole Earth

Nature, Vol. 536, No. 7616. (17 August 2016), pp. 251-251,


Researchers must consider human impacts on entire Earth systems and not get trapped in discipline-specific definitions, says Clive Hamilton. [Excerpt] The Anthropocene was conceived by Earth-system scientists to capture the very recent rupture in Earth’s history arising from the impact of human activity on the Earth system as a whole. Read that again. Take special note of the phrases ‘very recent rupture’ and ‘the Earth system as a whole’. Understanding the Anthropocene, and what humanity now confronts, depends on a firm grasp of ...


Human activity differentially redistributes large mammals in the Canadian Rockies national parks

Ecology and Society, Vol. 16, No. 3. (2011),


National parks are important for conservation of species such as wolves (Canis lupus) and elk (Cervus canadensis). However, topography, vegetation conditions, and anthropogenic infrastructure within parks may limit available habitat. Human activity on trails and roads may lead to indirect habitat loss, further limiting available habitat. Predators and prey may respond differentially to human activity, potentially disrupting ecological processes. However, research on such impacts to wildlife is incomplete, especially at fine spatial and temporal scales. Our research investigated the relationship between ...


Curbing an onslaught of 2 billion cars



Nature could soon be imperiled by twice as many vehicles and enough new roads to encircle the planet more than 600 times. [Excerpt] By 2010, our planet had reached a remarkable milestone: one billion cars—or, to be precise, one billion motorized vehicles, including cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles but excluding off-road vehicles such as tractors and bulldozers. Of course, the overwhelming majority of these vehicles are powered by fossil fuels. And if that figure isn’t troubling enough, by 2030, it’s projected that ...


A planet with two billion cars

Current Biology, Vol. 26, No. 8. (April 2016), pp. R307-R310,


Projections indicate there will be two billion motor vehicles on the roads by 2030, most of them still powered by fossil fuels. Apart from the obvious implications for climate change, this trend also spells public health as well as environmental problems on an unprecedented scale. Michael Gross reports. ...


Effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity

Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, Vol. 34, No. 1. (2003), pp. 487-515,


The literature on effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity is huge. It is also very diverse, with different authors measuring fragmentation in different ways and, as a consequence, drawing different conclusions regarding both the magnitude and direction of its effects. Habitat fragmentation is usually defined as a landscape-scale process involving both habitat loss and the breaking apart of habitat. Results of empirical studies of habitat fragmentation are often difficult to interpret because (a) many researchers measure fragmentation at the patch scale, ...


Changes to plant species richness in forest fragments: fragment age, disturbance and fire history may be as important as area

Journal of Biogeography, Vol. 29, No. 5-6. (May 2002), pp. 749-765,


[Aim] The impact of fragmentation on a eucalypt forest was investigated by examining the effects of fragment size, time since fragmentation, degree of anthropogenic disturbance to fragment interiors, and time since fire, on native and exotic plant species richness per unit area. [Location] Two areas of dry open-forest were studied on the central coast of New South Wales in south-eastern Australia. Fifty forest fragments were located at Tomago, an area progressively fragmented over the last 60 years, most recently by clearing for sand-mining. Also ...


Landownership is an unexplored determinant of forest understory plant composition in Northern France

Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 306 (October 2013), pp. 281-291,


[Highlights] [::] Few studies have investigated the influence of forest landownership on biodiversity. [::] We analysed the effect of landownership on plant species and plant traits in 38,751 plots. [::] 70% of the species showed significant differences in frequency among landownerships. [::] Species in public forests were more often urbanophobic and ancient forest species. [::] Implications for large-scaled biodiversity conservation strategies are discussed. [Abstract] Few studies have investigated the influence of landownership on biodiversity. Therefore we analysed how the presence of forest understory plant species varied according to ...


Understorey plant species richness and composition in metropolitan forest archipelagos: effects of forest size, adjacent land use and distance to the edge

Global Ecology and Biogeography, Vol. 15, No. 1. (January 2006), pp. 50-62,


[Aim] To address the relative role of adjacent land use, distance to forest edge, forest size and their interactions on understorey plant species richness and composition in perimetropolitan forests. [Location] The metropolitan area of Barcelona, north-eastern Spain. [Methods]  Twenty sampling sites were distributed in two forest size-categories: small forest patches (8–90 ha) and large forest areas (> 18,000 ha). For each forest-size category, five sites were placed adjacent to crops and five sites adjacent to urban areas. Vascular plant species were recorded and human ...


Habitat destruction: death by a thousand cuts

In Conservation Biology for All (01 January 2010), pp. 73-87,


[Excerpt] Humankind has dramatically transformed much of the Earth’s surface and its natural ecosystems. This process is not new—it has been ongoing for millennia—but it has accelerated sharply over the last two centuries, and especially in the last several decades. [\n] Today, the loss and degradation of natural habitats can be likened to a war of attrition. Many natural ecosystems are being progressively razed, bulldozed, and felled by axes or chainsaws, until only small scraps of their original extent survive. Forests have been hit especially hard: the global area of forests has been reduced ...


Anthropogenic aerosols and the weakening of the South Asian summer monsoon

Science, Vol. 334, No. 6055. (2011), pp. 502-505,


Observations show that South Asia underwent a widespread summertime drying during the second half of the 20th century, but it is unclear whether this trend was due to natural variations or human activities. We used a series of climate model experiments to investigate the South Asian monsoon response to natural and anthropogenic forcings. We find that the observed precipitation decrease can be attributed mainly to human-influenced aerosol emissions. The drying is a robust outcome of a slowdown of the tropical meridional ...


Flow and storage in groundwater systems

Science, Vol. 296, No. 5575. (2002), pp. 1985-1990,


The dynamic nature of groundwater is not readily apparent, except where discharge is focused at springs or where recharge enters sinkholes. Yet groundwater flow and storage are continually changing in response to human and climatic stresses. Wise development of groundwater resources requires a more complete understanding of these changes in flow and storage and of their effects on the terrestrial environment and on numerous surface-water features and their biota. ...


Humanity's unsustainable environmental footprint

Science, Vol. 344, No. 6188. (2014), pp. 1114-1117,


Within the context of Earth’s limited natural resources and assimilation capacity, the current environmental footprint of humankind is not sustainable. Assessing land, water, energy, material, and other footprints along supply chains is paramount in understanding the sustainability, efficiency, and equity of resource use from the perspective of producers, consumers, and government. We review current footprints and relate those to maximum sustainable levels, highlighting the need for future work on combining footprints, assessing trade-offs between them, improving computational techniques, estimating maximum sustainable ...


Impact of shale gas development on regional water quality

Science, Vol. 340, No. 6134. (2013),


[Structured Abstract] [::Background] Natural gas has recently emerged as a relatively clean energy source that offers the opportunity for a number of regions around the world to reduce their reliance on energy imports. It can also serve as a transition fuel that will allow for the shift from coal to renewable energy resources while helping to reduce the emissions of CO2, criteria pollutants, and mercury by the power sector. Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing make the extraction of tightly bound natural gas from ...


Monte Verde: seaweed, food, medicine, and the peopling of South America

Science, Vol. 320, No. 5877. (2008), pp. 784-786,


The identification of human artifacts at the early archaeological site of Monte Verde in southern Chile has raised questions of when and how people reached the tip of South America without leaving much other evidence in the New World. Remains of nine species of marine algae were recovered from hearths and other features at Monte Verde II, an upper occupational layer, and were directly dated between 14,220 and 13,980 calendar years before the present (~12,310 and 12,290 carbon-14 years ago). These ...


Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet

Science, Vol. 347, No. 6223. (2015),


[Editor summary: Crossing the boundaries in global sustainability] The planetary boundary (PB) concept, introduced in 2009, aimed to define the environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate. This approach has proved influential in global sustainability policy development. Steffen et al. provide an updated and extended analysis of the PB framework. Of the original nine proposed boundaries, they identify three (including climate change) that might push the Earth system into a new state if crossed and that also have a pervasive influence ...


The challenge of micropollutants in aquatic systems

Science, Vol. 313, No. 5790. (2006), pp. 1072-1077,


The increasing worldwide contamination of freshwater systems with thousands of industrial and natural chemical compounds is one of the key environmental problems facing humanity. Although most of these compounds are present at low concentrations, many of them raise considerable toxicological concerns, particularly when present as components of complex mixtures. Here we review three scientific challenges in addressing water-quality problems caused by such micropollutants. First, tools to assess the impact of these pollutants on aquatic life and human health must be further ...


Leverage points for improving global food security and the environment

Science, Vol. 345, No. 6194. (2014), pp. 325-328,


[How to optimize global food production] Keeping societies stable and managing Earth's resources sustainably depend on doing a good, steady job producing and distributing food. West et al. asked what combinations of crops and regions offer the best chance of progress. Their analysis focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient pollution, water use, and food waste. They identify regions that are likely to yield the best balance between applying fertilizer to increase crop yields versus the resulting environmental impact. [Abstract] Achieving sustainable global food ...


Model projections of an imminent transition to a more arid climate in Southwestern North America

Science, Vol. 316, No. 5828. (2007), pp. 1181-1184,


How anthropogenic climate change will affect hydroclimate in the arid regions of southwestern North America has implications for the allocation of water resources and the course of regional development. Here we show that there is a broad consensus among climate models that this region will dry in the 21st century and that the transition to a more arid climate should already be under way. If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought or the Dust ...


Taking the “waste” out of “wastewater” for human water security and ecosystem sustainability

Science, Vol. 337, No. 6095. (2012), pp. 681-686,


Humans create vast quantities of wastewater through inefficiencies and poor management of water systems. The wasting of water poses sustainability challenges, depletes energy reserves, and undermines human water security and ecosystem health. Here we review emerging approaches for reusing wastewater and minimizing its generation. These complementary options make the most of scarce freshwater resources, serve the varying water needs of both developed and developing countries, and confer a variety of environmental benefits. Their widespread adoption will require changing how freshwater is ...


Out of the blue and into the black - new views of the Earth at night

(December 2012)


[Excerpt] The night is nowhere near as dark as most of us think. In fact, the Earth is never really dark. And we don’t have to be in the dark about what is happening at night anymore either. —Steven Miller, atmospheric scientist, Colorado State University [\n] The night side of Earth twinkles with light. The first thing to stand out is the cities. “Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights,” asserts Chris Elvidge, a ...

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