For publications earlier than 2019, view our publications archive.
| Rausch, Lisa L; Bennet, Aoife; Sullivan, Clare; Gibbs, Holly K.: Pathways to zero deforestation oil palm in Peru. In: Gibbs Land Use and Environment Report Series, 2020. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Spawn, Seth A.; Sullivan, Clare; Lark, Tyler J; Gibbs, Holly K: Harmonized global maps of above and belowground biomass carbon density in the year 2010. In: Nature Scientific Data, 7 (1), pp. 112, 2020, ISSN: 2052-4463. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Remotely sensed biomass carbon density maps are widely used for myriad scientific and policy applications, but all remain limited in scope. They often only represent a single vegetation type and rarely account for carbon stocks in belowground biomass. To date, no global product integrates these disparate estimates into an all-encompassing map at a scale appropriate for many modelling or decision-making applications. We developed an approach for harmonizing vegetation-specific maps of both above and belowground biomass into a single, comprehensive representation of each. We overlaid input maps and allocated their estimates in proportion to the relative spatial extent of each vegetation type using ancillary maps of percent tree cover and landcover, and a rule-based decision schema. The resulting maps consistently and seamlessly report biomass carbon density estimates across a wide range of vegetation types in 2010 with quantified uncertainty. They do so for the globe at an unprecedented 300-meter spatial resolution and can be used to more holistically account for diverse vegetation carbon stocks in global analyses and greenhouse gas inventories.
| Goldstein, Allie; Turner, Will R.; Spawn, Seth A.; Anderson-Teixeira, Kristina J.; Cook-Patton, Susan; Fargione, Joseph; Gibbs, Holly K.; Griscom, Bronson; Hewson, Jennifer H.; Howard, Jennifer F.; Ledezma, Juan Carlos; Page, Susan; Koh, Lian Pin; Rockström, Johan; Sanderman, Jonathan; Hole, David G.: Protecting irrecoverable carbon in Earth’s ecosystems. In: Nature Climate Change, 10 (4), pp. 287-295, 2020, ISSN: 1758-6798. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires rapid decarbonization and improved ecosystem stewardship. To achieve the latter, ecosystems should be prioritized by responsiveness to direct, localized action and the magnitude and recoverability of their carbon stores. Here, we show that a range of ecosystems contain ‘irrecoverable carbon’ that is vulnerable to release upon land use conversion and, once lost, is not recoverable on timescales relevant to avoiding dangerous climate impacts. Globally, ecosystems highly affected by human land-use decisions contain at least 260 Gt of irrecoverable carbon, with particularly high densities in peatlands, mangroves, old-growth forests and marshes. To achieve climate goals, we must safeguard these irrecoverable carbon pools through an expanded set of policy and finance strategies.
| Carvalho, Raquel; de Aguiar, Ana Paula Dutra; Amaral, Silvana: Diversity of cattle raising systems and its effects over forest regrowth in a core region of cattle production in the Brazilian Amazon. In: Regional Environmental Change, 20 (2), 2020. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Roughly 60% of all deforested lands in the Brazilian Amazon are covered with pastures, putting cattle raising in evidence as a major driver of deforestation and also of forests’ regrowth. Still, the role of cattle raising diversity in the landscape dynamics of this region remains poorly understood. To contribute to this discussion, we combined data from semi-structured interviews and quantitative spatially explicit methods to characterize and spatialize cattle raising systems and explore the effects of this diversity over secondary vegetation between 2004 and 2014 in Pará, a hotspot of deforestation and core region of cattle production. We quantified the use of different pasture management strategies to classify small- and large-scale operations into systems with high or low impact against pastures’ degradation. High-impact systems were mapped in regions with consolidated infrastructure and high accumulated deforestation, where they expanded. On the contrary, low-impact systems were more widespread and found near forest frontiers, shrinking over time. High-impact systems had less secondary vegetation, while under low-impact systems, as a result of strategies with little or no effect against degradation, the historical pattern of concentration of this cover prevailed. Better infrastructure and access to markets as well as higher accumulated deforestation are underlying conditions related to the emergence of intensification and, as it is still unclear whether intensification is indeed capable of sparing land, the expansion of intensive cattle raising systems has the potential to configure landscapes with reduced forested areas, either primary or secondary.
| Spawn, S A; Gibbs, H K: Global Aboveground and Belowground Biomass Carbon Density Maps for the Year 2010. 2020. (Type: Miscellaneous | )|
| Rausch, Lisa L; Munger, Jacob; Gibbs, Holly: Amazon deforestation linked to European imports via specially licensed ranches and their suppliers. In: Gibbs Land Use and Environment Report Series, 2020. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Patz, Jonathan A; Stull, Valerie J; Limaye, Vijay S: A Low-Carbon Future Could Improve Global Health and Achieve Economic Benefits. In: JAMA, 323 (13), pp. 1247-1248, 2020, ISSN: 0098-7484. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
The 25th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Madrid ended in December 2019, with disappointingly little progress. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres lamented, “The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.”This political gridlock has occurred despite scientific reports that have highlighted the urgency of actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuel burning and large-scale deforestation. The planet has warmed approximately 2 °F since preindustrial times, and 2019 was the second warmest year on record.
| Rausch, Lisa L; Munger, Jacob; Schelly, Ian; Gibbs, Holly: The role of Brazil’s cattle sector in the 2019 fire season. In: Gibbs Land Use and Environment Report Series, 2020. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Soto-Navarro, C; Ravilious, C; Arnell, A; de Lamo, X; Harfoot, M; Hill, S L L; Wearn, O R; Santoro, M; Bouvet, A; Mermoz, S; Toan, T Le; Xia, J; Liu, S; Yuan, W; Spawn, S A; Gibbs, H K; Ferrier, S; Harwood, T; Alkemade, R; Schipper, A M; Schmidt-Traub, G; Strassburg, B; Miles, L; Burgess, N D; Kapos, V: Mapping co-benefits for carbon storage and biodiversity to inform conservation policy and action. In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 375 (1794), pp. 20190128, 2020. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Integrated high-resolution maps of carbon stocks and biodiversity that identify areas of potential co-benefits for climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation can help facilitate the implementation of global climate and biodiversity commitments at local levels. However, the multi-dimensional nature of biodiversity presents a major challenge for understanding, mapping and communicating where and how biodiversity benefits coincide with climate benefits. A new integrated approach to biodiversity is therefore needed. Here, we (a) present a new high-resolution map of global above- and below-ground carbon stored in biomass and soil, (b) quantify biodiversity values using two complementary indices (BIp and BIr) representing proactive and reactive approaches to conservation, and (c) examine patterns of carbon–biodiversity overlap by identifying 'hotspots' (20% highest values for both aspects). Our indices integrate local diversity and ecosystem intactness, as well as regional ecosystem intactness across the broader area supporting a similar natural assemblage of species to the location of interest. The western Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia capture the last strongholds of highest local biodiversity and ecosystem intactness worldwide, while the last refuges for unique biological communities whose habitats have been greatly reduced are mostly found in the tropical Andes and central Sundaland. There is 38 and 5% overlap in carbon and biodiversity hotspots, for proactive and reactive conservation, respectively. Alarmingly, only around 12 and 21% of these proactive and reactive hotspot areas, respectively, are formally protected. This highlights that a coupled approach is urgently needed to help achieve both climate and biodiversity global targets. This would involve (1) restoring and conserving unprotected, degraded ecosystems, particularly in the Neotropics and Indomalaya, and (2) retaining the remaining strongholds of intactness. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Climate change and ecosystems: threats, opportunities and solutions’.
| Anderson, Scott; Barford, Carol; Barford, Paul: Five Alarms: Assessing the Vulnerability of US Cellular Communication Infrastructure to Wildfires. In: Proceedings of the ACM Internet Measurement Conference, pp. 162–175, Association for Computing Machinery, Virtual Event, USA, 2020, ISBN: 9781450381383. (Type: Inproceedings | | )|
Natural disasters can wreak havoc on Internet infrastructure. Short term impacts include impediments to first responders and long term impacts include requirements to repair or replace damaged physical components. In this paper, we present an analysis of the vulnerability of cellular communication infrastructure in the US to one type of natural disaster - wildfires. Three data sets are the basis for our study: historical wildfire records, wildfire risk projections, and cellular infrastructure deployment. We utilize the geographic features in each data set to assess the spatial overlap between historical wildfires and cellular infrastructure and to analyze current vulnerability. We find wide variability in the number of cell transceivers that were within wildfire perimeters over the past 18 years. In a focused analysis of the California wildfires of 2019, we find that the primary risk to cellular communication is power outage rather than cellular equipment damage. Our analysis of future risk based on wildfire hazard potential identifies California, Florida and Texas as the three states with the largest number of cell transceivers at risk. Importantly, we find that many of the areas at high risk are quite close to urban population centers, thus outages could have serious impacts on a large number of cell users. We believe that our study has important implications for governmental communication assurance efforts and for risk planning by cell infrastructure owners and service providers.
| Burivalova, Zuzana; Game, Edward T; Wahyudi, Bambang; Ruslandi,; Rifqi, Mohamad; MacDonald, Ewan; Cushman, Samuel; Voigt, Maria; Wich, Serge; Wilcove, David S: Does biodiversity benefit when the logging stops? An analysis of conservation risks and opportunities in active versus inactive logging concessions in Borneo. In: Biological Conservation, 241 , pp. 108369, 2020, ISSN: 0006-3207. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
The island of Borneo is a biodiversity hotspot of global importance that continues to suffer from one of the highest deforestation rates in the tropics. Selective logging concessions overlay a third of the remaining natural forests in the Indonesian part of Borneo, but many of these concessions have become inactive in recent years. Whereas the cessation of logging could be beneficial to biodiversity, the absence of a logging company's presence in the forest could also leave the concession open to deforestation by other actors. Using remote sensing analyses, we evaluate 1) whether inactive concessions are more likely to suffer from deforestation than active ones, 2) the possible reasons why concessions become inactive, and 3) which inactive concessions hold the most potential for biodiversity conservation, if protected from deforestation. Our analysis shows that, counterintuitively, inactive concessions overall suffer a higher rate of forest loss than active ones. We find that small concession size and high elevation are correlated with inactive status. We identified several inactive concessions that, if maintained as natural forest, could significantly contribute to biodiversity conservation, as exemplified by their importance to two umbrella species: Bornean orangutan (Critically Endangered) and Sunda clouded leopard (Vulnerable). Because timber operations in other tropical regions are likely to experience similar cycles of activity and inactivity, the fate of inactive timber concessions and the opportunities they create for conservation deserve much greater attention from conservation scientists and practitioners.
| Lark, Tyler J: Protecting our prairies: Research and policy actions for conserving America’s grasslands. In: Land Use Policy, 97 , pp. 104727, 2020, ISSN: 0264-8377. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Grasslands are among the most endangered ecosystems in the world. They supply vital resources for society, support an abundance of wildlife species, and store rich carbon reserves beneath their surfaces. Despite this, only a fraction of original grasslands in the United States now remains, and their rate of conversion to cropland has recently reaccelerated. This paper discusses opportunities that are immediately available to reduce the loss of U.S. native grasslands (i.e., prairie) and advance toward collective goals in grassland conservation. Potential solution-oriented actions include inventorying and monitoring remaining prairie, reconsidering public and private incentives for conversion and conservation, and establishing an industry-led moratorium on natural ecosystem loss. There is also a need among the engaged communities to develop unified messaging and a shared vision for grassland conservation in the U.S., such as “no prairie conversion” or “zero net loss of grasslands.” Additional tangible steps for action are outlined across the science, policy, and public-driven support arenas and offered for multiple stakeholder groups, including agricultural producers, policymakers, academics, and conservation organizations.
| Yin, He; Junior, Amintas Brandão; Buchner, Johanna; Helmers, David; Iuliano, Ben; Kimambo, Niwaeli; Lewińska, Katarzyna; Razenkova, Elena; Rizayeva, Afag; Rogova, Natalia; Spawn-Lee, Seth; Xie, Yanhua; Radeloff, Volker: Monitoring cropland abandonment with Landsat time series. In: Remote Sensing of Environment, 246 , pp. 111873, 2020. (Type: Journal Article | )|
| Klemun, Magdalena M.; Edwards, Morgan R.; Trancik, Jessika E.: Research priorities for supporting subnational climate policies. In: WIREs Climate Change, 11 (6), pp. e646, 2020. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Abstract Growing momentum for decentralized climate policy and the falling costs of low-carbon technologies are creating new climate change mitigation opportunities for subnational actors. Here we discuss how research can best support these subnational efforts to allow limited resources to stretch further. To stimulate this discussion, we identify four research priorities. (1) Innovation mechanisms examines local policy opportunities for technology improvement to achieve high returns on investments. (2) Co-benefits analyzes the non-climate benefits of emissions reductions to highlight how local policies can affect communities directly. (3) Emissions monitoring develops rapid, low-cost, local measurement strategies to allow communities to assess and weigh in on the emissions impacts of local energy systems. (4) Decision levers reframes large-scale analyses into more targeted and actionable metrics for local policy decisions. This piece was informed and inspired by a set of interviews we conducted with representatives in business, government, NGOs, and educational institutions actively engaged in local climate action, and by our own research. This article is categorized under: The Carbon Economy and Climate Mitigation > Policies, Instruments, Lifestyles, Behavior Policy and Governance > Private Governance of Climate Change
| Cui, Ryna Yiyun; Hultman, Nathan; Edwards, Morgan R.; He, Linlang; Sen, Arijit; Surana, Kavita; McJeon, Haewon; Iyer, Gokul; Patel, Pralit; Yu, Sha; Nace, Ted; Shearer, Christine: Quantifying operational lifetimes for coal power plants under the Paris goals. In: Nature Communications, 10 (1), pp. 4759, 2019, ISSN: 2041-1723. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
A rapid transition away from unabated coal use is essential to fulfilling the Paris climate goals. However, many countries are actively building and operating coal power plants. Here we use plant-level data to specify alternative trajectories for coal technologies in an integrated assessment model. We then quantify cost-effective retirement pathways for global and country-level coal fleets to limit long-term temperature change. We present our results using a decision-relevant metric: the operational lifetime limit. Even if no new plants are built, the lifetimes of existing units are reduced to approximately 35 years in a well-below 2thinspacetextdegreeC scenario or 20 years in a 1.5thinspacetextdegreeC scenario. The risk of continued coal expansion, including the near-term growth permitted in some Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), is large. The lifetime limits for both 2thinspacetextdegreeC and 1.5thinspacetextdegreeC are reduced by 5 years if plants under construction come online and 10 years if all proposed projects are built.
| Diao, Minghui; Holloway, Tracey; Choi, Seohyun; O’Neill, Susan M; Al-Hamdan, Mohammad Z; Donkelaar, Aaron Van; Martin, Randall V; Jin, Xiaomeng; Fiore, Arlene M; Henze, Daven K; Lacey, Forrest; Kinney, Patrick L; Freedman, Frank; Larkin, Narasimhan K; Zou, Yufei; Kelly, James T; Vaidyanathan, Ambarish: Methods, availability, and applications of PM2.5 exposure estimates derived from ground measurements, satellite, and atmospheric models. In: Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 69 (12), pp. 1391-1414, 2019. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
ABSTRACTFine particulate matter (PM2.5) is a well-established risk factor for public health. To support both health risk assessment and epidemiological studies, data are needed on spatial and temporal patterns of PM2.5 exposures. This review article surveys publicly available exposure datasets for surface PM2.5 mass concentrations over the contiguous U.S., summarizes their applications and limitations, and provides suggestions on future research needs. The complex landscape of satellite instruments, model capabilities, monitor networks, and data synthesis methods offers opportunities for research development, but would benefit from guidance for new users. Guidance is provided to access publicly available PM2.5 datasets, to explain and compare different approaches for dataset generation, and to identify sources of uncertainties associated with various types of datasets. Three main sources used to create PM2.5 exposure data are ground-based measurements (especially regulatory monitoring), satellite retrievals (especially aerosol optical depth, AOD), and atmospheric chemistry models. We find inconsistencies among several publicly available PM2.5 estimates, highlighting uncertainties in the exposure datasets that are often overlooked in health effects analyses. Major differences among PM2.5 estimates emerge from the choice of data (ground-based, satellite, and/or model), the spatiotemporal resolutions, and the algorithms used to fuse data sources.Implications: Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) has large impacts on human morbidity and mortality. Even though the methods for generating the PM2.5 exposure estimates have been significantly improved in recent years, there is a lack of review articles that document PM2.5 exposure datasets that are publicly available and easily accessible by the health and air quality communities. In this article, we discuss the main methods that generate PM2.5 data, compare several publicly available datasets, and show the applications of various data fusion approaches. Guidance to access and critique these datasets are provided for stakeholders in public health sectors.
| Abel, David W; Holloway, Tracey; Martínez-Santos, Javier; Harkey, Monica; Tao, Madankui; Kubes, Cassandra; Hayes, Sara: Air Quality-Related Health Benefits of Energy Efficiency in the United States. In: Environmental Science & Technology, 53 (7), pp. 3987-3998, 2019. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
While it is known that energy efficiency (EE) lowers power sector demand and emissions, study of the air quality and public health impacts of EE has been limited. Here, we quantify the air quality and mortality impacts of a 12% summertime (June, July, and August) reduction in baseload electricity demand. We use the AVoided Emissions and geneRation Tool (AVERT) to simulate plant-level generation and emissions, the Community Multiscale Air Quality (CMAQ) model to simulate air quality, and the Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP) to quantify mortality impacts. We find EE reduces emissions of NOx by 13.2%, SO2 by 12.6%, and CO2 by 11.6%. On a nationwide, summer average basis, ambient PM2.5 is reduced 0.55% and O3 is reduced 0.45%. Reduced exposure to PM2.5 avoids 300 premature deaths annually (95% CI: 60 to 580) valued at $2.8 billion ($0.13 billion to $9.3 billion), and reduced exposure to O3 averts 175 deaths (101 to 244) valued at $1.6 billion ($0.15 billion to $4.5 billion). This translates into a health savings rate of $0.049/kWh ($0.031/kWh for PM2.5 and $0.018/kWh for O3). These results illustrate the importance of capturing the health benefits of EE and its potential as a strategy to achieve air standards.
| Stull, Valerie J; Patz, Jonathan A: Research and policy priorities for edible insects. In: Sustainability Science, 15 (2), pp. 1-13, 2019, ISBN: 1862-4057. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Global communities increasingly struggle to provide ample healthful food for growing populations in the face of social and environmental pressures. Insect agriculture is one underexplored and innovative approach. Sustainable cultivation of nutrient-dense edible insects could help boost food access, support human nutrition, and mitigate key drivers of climate change. The edible insects industry is in its nascent stages, as relatively few entities have committed resources towards optimizing farming methods. Nevertheless, insect farming is poised to benefit food insecure populations, and the planet as a whole if more targeted research and conducive policies are implemented. The purpose of this paper is to outline the state of the science regarding edible insects, define a research agenda, and recommend policy action to support the growing industry. Edible insects are not a panacea for current challenges, but they have the potential to confer numerous benefits to people and the environment. Rigorous research is needed to establish optimal farming methods, strengthen food safety, understand health impacts of consumption, explore consumer acceptance, tackle ethical considerations, and investigate economic viability. A clear definition for insects as food, industry guidance support for obtaining generally regarded as safe designation, and collaboration by industry stakeholders to develop production standards will also help move the industry forward. Generating and galvanizing knowledge sharing networks, investing in critical interdisciplinary research, and advocating for conducive policies that support emerging entrepreneurs will be necessary to capitalize on the benefits of edible insects in the future.
| Limaye, Vijay S; Schöpp, Wolfgang; Amann, Markus: Applying Integrated Exposure-Response Functions to PM2.5 Pollution in India. In: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16 (1), 2019, ISSN: 1660-4601. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
Fine particulate matter (PM2.5, diameter ≤2.5 μm) is implicated as the most health-damaging air pollutant. Large cohort studies of chronic exposure to PM2.5 and mortality risk are largely confined to areas with low to moderate ambient PM2.5 concentrations and posit log-linear exposure-response functions. However, levels of PM2.5 in developing countries such as India are typically much higher, causing unknown health effects. Integrated exposure-response functions for high PM2.5 exposures encompassing risk estimates from ambient air, secondhand smoke, and active smoking exposures have been posited. We apply these functions to estimate the future cause-specific mortality risks associated with population-weighted ambient PM2.5 exposures in India in 2030 using Greenhouse Gas-Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) model projections. The loss in statistical life expectancy (SLE) is calculated based on risk estimates and baseline mortality rates. Losses in SLE are aggregated and weighted using national age-adjusted, cause-specific mortality rates. 2030 PM2.5 pollution in India reaches an annual mean of 74 μg/m3, nearly eight times the corresponding World Health Organization air quality guideline. The national average loss in SLE is 32.5 months (95% Confidence Interval (CI): 29.7–35.2, regional range: 8.5–42.0), compared to an average of 53.7 months (95% CI: 46.3–61.1) using methods currently applied in GAINS. Results indicate wide regional variation in health impacts, and these methods may still underestimate the total health burden caused by PM2.5 exposures due to model assumptions on minimum age thresholds of pollution effects and a limited subset of health endpoints analyzed. Application of the revised exposure-response functions suggests that the most polluted areas in India will reap major health benefits only with substantial improvements in air quality.