Concept: Environmental science
Green, natural environments may ameliorate adverse environmental exposures (e.g. air pollution, noise, and extreme heat), increase physical activity and social engagement, and lower stress.
A 0.6 hectare artificial reef of local rock and recycled concrete sleepers was constructed in December 2006 at Parker Point in the industrial port of Dampier, western Australia, with the aim of providing an environmental offset for a nearshore coral community lost to land reclamation. Corals successfully colonised the artificial reef, despite the relatively harsh environmental conditions at the site (annual water temperature range 18-32°C, intermittent high turbidity, frequent cyclones, frequent nearby ship movements). Coral settlement to the artificial reef was examined by terracotta tile deployments, and later stages of coral community development were examined by in-situ visual surveys within fixed 25 x 25 cm quadrats on the rock and concrete substrates. Mean coral density on the tiles varied from 113 ± 17 SE to 909 ± 85 SE per m(2) over five deployments, whereas mean coral density in the quadrats was only 6.0 ± 1.0 SE per m(2) at eight months post construction, increasing to 24.0 ± 2.1 SE per m(2) at 62 months post construction. Coral taxa colonising the artificial reef were a subset of those on the surrounding natural reef, but occurred in different proportions-Pseudosiderastreatayami, Mycediumelephantotus and Leptastreapurpurea being disproportionately abundant on the artificial reef. Coral cover increased rapidly in the later stages of the study, reaching 2.3 ± 0.7 SE % at 62 months post construction. This study indicates that simple materials of opportunity can provide a suitable substrate for coral recruitment in Dampier Harbour, and that natural colonisation at the study site remains sufficient to initiate a coral community on artificial substrate despite ongoing natural and anthropogenic perturbations.
Understanding the distribution of taxa and associated traits across different environments is one of the central questions in microbial ecology. High-throughput sequencing (HTS) studies are presently generating huge volumes of data to address this biogeographical topic. However, these studies are often focused on specific environment types or processes leading to the production of individual, unconnected datasets. The large amounts of legacy sequence data with associated metadata that exist can be harnessed to better place the genetic information found in these surveys into a wider environmental context. Here we introduce a software program, seqenv, to carry out precisely such a task. It automatically performs similarity searches of short sequences against the “nt” nucleotide database provided by NCBI and, out of every hit, extracts-if it is available-the textual metadata field. After collecting all the isolation sources from all the search results, we run a text mining algorithm to identify and parse words that are associated with the Environmental Ontology (EnvO) controlled vocabulary. This, in turn, enables us to determine both in which environments individual sequences or taxa have previously been observed and, by weighted summation of those results, to summarize complete samples. We present two demonstrative applications of seqenv to a survey of ammonia oxidizing archaea as well as to a plankton paleome dataset from the Black Sea. These demonstrate the ability of the tool to reveal novel patterns in HTS and its utility in the fields of environmental source tracking, paleontology, and studies of microbial biogeography. To install seqenv, go to: https://github.com/xapple/seqenv.
Few people would deny an intuitive sense of increased wellbeing when spending time in beautiful locations. Here, we ask: can we quantify the relationship between environmental aesthetics and human health? We draw on data from Scenic-Or-Not, a website that crowdsources ratings of “scenicness” for geotagged photographs across Great Britain, in combination with data on citizen-reported health from the Census for England and Wales. We find that inhabitants of more scenic environments report better health, across urban, suburban and rural areas, even when taking core socioeconomic indicators of deprivation into account, such as income, employment and access to services. Our results provide evidence in line with the striking hypothesis that the aesthetics of the environment may have quantifiable consequences for our wellbeing.
Human activities have substantially changed the world’s oceans in recent decades, altering marine food webs, habitats and biogeochemical processes . Cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopuses) have a unique set of biological traits, including rapid growth, short lifespans and strong life-history plasticity, allowing them to adapt quickly to changing environmental conditions [2-4]. There has been growing speculation that cephalopod populations are proliferating in response to a changing environment, a perception fuelled by increasing trends in cephalopod fisheries catch [4,5]. To investigate long-term trends in cephalopod abundance, we assembled global time-series of cephalopod catch rates (catch per unit of fishing or sampling effort). We show that cephalopod populations have increased over the last six decades, a result that was remarkably consistent across a highly diverse set of cephalopod taxa. Positive trends were also evident for both fisheries-dependent and fisheries-independent time-series, suggesting that trends are not solely due to factors associated with developing fisheries. Our results suggest that large-scale, directional processes, common to a range of coastal and oceanic environments, are responsible. This study presents the first evidence that cephalopod populations have increased globally, indicating that these ecologically and commercially important invertebrates may have benefited from a changing ocean environment.
Coastal and shelf environments support high levels of biodiversity that are vital in mediating ecosystem processes, but they are also subject to noise associated with mounting levels of offshore human activity. This has the potential to alter the way in which species interact with their environment, compromising the mediation of important ecosystem properties. Here, we show that exposure to underwater broadband sound fields that resemble offshore shipping and construction activity can alter sediment-dwelling invertebrate contributions to fluid and particle transport - key processes in mediating benthic nutrient cycling. Despite high levels of intra-specific variability in physiological response, we find that changes in the behaviour of some functionally important species can be dependent on the class of broadband sound (continuous or impulsive). Our study provides evidence that exposing coastal environments to anthropogenic sound fields is likely to have much wider ecosystem consequences than are presently acknowledged.
The widespread occurrence and accumulation of plastic waste in the environment have become a growing global concern over the past decade. Although some marine organisms have been shown to ingest plastic, few studies have investigated the ecological effects of plastic waste on animals. Here we show that exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of microplastic polystyrene particles (90 micrometers) inhibits hatching, decreases growth rates, and alters feeding preferences and innate behaviors of European perch (Perca fluviatilis) larvae. Furthermore, individuals exposed to microplastics do not respond to olfactory threat cues, which greatly increases predator-induced mortality rates. Our results demonstrate that microplastic particles operate both chemically and physically on larval fish performance and development.
Human pressures on the environment are changing spatially and temporally, with profound implications for the planet’s biodiversity and human economies. Here we use recently available data on infrastructure, land cover and human access into natural areas to construct a globally standardized measure of the cumulative human footprint on the terrestrial environment at 1 km(2) resolution from 1993 to 2009. We note that while the human population has increased by 23% and the world economy has grown 153%, the human footprint has increased by just 9%. Still, 75% the planet’s land surface is experiencing measurable human pressures. Moreover, pressures are perversely intense, widespread and rapidly intensifying in places with high biodiversity. Encouragingly, we discover decreases in environmental pressures in the wealthiest countries and those with strong control of corruption. Clearly the human footprint on Earth is changing, yet there are still opportunities for conservation gains.
Sterilized packaging systems are designed to maintain the sterility of surgical instruments and devices from the time of sterilization until use. This study evaluated the effectiveness of rigid containers versus wrapped instrument trays, sterilized using North American sterilization protocols, to maintain a sterile internal environment poststerilization when challenged with aerosolized bacteria under dynamic environmental conditions.
We tested the hypothesis that an environment with fewer toys will lead to higher quality of play for toddlers. Each participant (n=36) engaged in supervised, individual free play sessions under two conditions: Four Toy and Sixteen Toy. With fewer toys, participants had fewer incidences of toy play, longer durations of toy play, and played with toys in a greater variety of ways (Z=-4.448, p<0.001, r=-0.524; Z=2.828, p=0.005, r=0.333; and Z=4.676, p<0.001, r=0.55, respectively). This suggests that when provided with fewer toys in the environment, toddlers engage in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively. This can be offered as a recommendation in many natural environments to support children's development and promote healthy play.