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The growing human population and a shift to more resource-intensive habits and behaviours are increasing the demands on global ecosystems. Natural capital is a way to describe Earth’s natural assets, including soil, air, water, and living things, existing as complex ecosystems, which provide a range of services to humans. Depleting and degrading these reserves may irreversibly reduce the availability of benefits to future generations. This In-Depth Report presents an overview of ideas, debates and progress so far in natural capital accounting, in particular in accounting for ecosystems and their services.
Mercury is a heavy metal that is well known for being the only metal that is liquid at room temperature and normal pressure. It is also a potent neurotoxin with severe global human health impacts. It can be converted from one form to another by natural processes, and, once released, actively cycles in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years before being buried in sediment. This In-Depth Report from Science for Environment Policy summarises the latest scientific studies and research results on mercury pollution in the global environment.
Engineering at the nanoscale brings the promise of radical technological development — clean energy, highly effective medicines and space travel. But technology at this scale also brings safety challenges. Nano-sized particles are not inherently more toxic than larger particles, but the effects are complex and vary based on particle properties as well as chemical toxicity. This Report brings together the latest science on environmental safety considerations specific to manufactured nanoscale materials, and some possible implications for policy and research.
Lower socioeconomic status is generally associated with poorer health, and both air and noise pollution contribute to a wide range of other factors influencing human health. But do these health inequalities arise because of increased exposure to pollution, increased sensitivity to exposure, increased vulnerabilities, or some combination? This In-depth Report presents evidence on whether people in deprived areas are more affected by air and noise pollution — and suffer greater consequences — than wealthier populations.
Urban sustainability indicators are tools that allow planners, managers and policymakers to gauge the socio-economic and environmental impact of existing urban designs, infrastructures, policies, waste disposal systems, pollution and citizens’ access to services. They allow cities to monitor the success of sustainability interventions. This In-depth Report aims to provide local government actors and stakeholders with a concise guide to the best indicator tools currently available.
Ecosystems provide a multitude of benefits to humanity, from food to recreation. In our latest In-depth Report, we explore four core facets of the ecosystem services concept: the links between biodiversity and ecosystem services; techniques for mapping and assessing ecosystems and their services; valuation of ecosystem services and the importance of considering all services; and biodiversity as part of an interconnected system.
Social innovation is a powerful and valuable tool in the environmental sector. It involves social groups and communities creating, developing and diffusing ideas and solutions to address pressing social needs. More recently, social innovation has been gaining policy attention, providing a means to stimulate new ideas that address complex issues alongside ensuring citizen participation. Due to its participatory and creative nature, it is well positioned to address environmental challenges, which are multifaceted and often require societal or behavioural shifts towards more sustainable options.
Citizen science's value for science, society, education and environmental policymaking are considered in this In-depth Report, which explores academic research into citizen science practice and theory and outlines a number of case study projects. Overall, the report finds its potential value is high, but that this potential, particularly for citizens and policymakers, remains largely untapped.
The world is confronted by global food security and nutrition challenges on an unprecedented scale. While one in eight of the world's population is undernourished, paradoxically, an even higher number are classified as overweight. Yet it has been estimated that a third to a half of all food produced is thrown away and, furthermore, research has shown the negative effects that modern food production has on the environment, contributing to climate change, water pollution and biodiversity loss. This In-depth Report summarises the vast range of solutions that researchers and agricultural experts have suggested to ensure that the nutritional needs of the world's population are met, while reducing environmental damage.
We are facing a critical phosphorus challenge, as developments in industry, agriculture, waste handling and lifestyle have massively reduced the capacity for this important element to be cycled effectively by society and the environment via natural geological processes. The major source of phosphorus used in fertiliser is phosphate rock, which we mine in vast quantities, more than can be replaced by the slow geological cycle. This In-depth Report examines scientific knowledge on the phosphorus challenge and recent research into the sustainable use of the element.
Nitrogen pollution's wide-ranging impacts include contributions to global warming, acid rain and eutrophication. This In-depth Report summarises scientific studies and research results on nitrogen pollution in the European environment.
After more than 200 years of industrialisation, soil pollution has become a widepread problem in Europe. This In-depth Report draws on current research and case studies from a number of scientific disciplines that investigate the interaction between contaminated soils and human health.
Resource efficiency forms a vital part of Europe 2020, the EU's growth strategy towards a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. This In-depth Report examines the progress in resource efficiency indicators, building on the EU's Resource Efficiency Roadmap.
Green Infrastructure (GI) stands to improve quality of life in many ways, through its environmental, social and economic credentials, based on the multifunctional use of natural capital. This In-depth Report describes the different functions that GI seeks to execute and explores the scientific evidence behind its ability to perform these functions.
Sealing soils with artificial, impenetrable surfaces interferes with the essential environmental, economic and social functions performed by soils. This In-depth Report explores the extent of Soil Sealing and its consequences for the water cycle and city temperatures.
This In-depth Report summarises and collates current research on the ecological and human health impacts of plastic waste in the environment. Using the Drivers Pressures State Impact Response (DPSIR) framework, it highlights major issues and concerns, as well as outlining questions around existing responses and possible strategies for the future.