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News Alert

The fortnightly News Alert forms the cornerstone of the Science for Environment Policy service.

Subscribers receive a regular news bulletin by email, free of charge, which summarises scientific studies in easy-to-read language with policy implications clearly highlighted. The studies are carefully selected for quality and European policy relevance.

Full details of the research paper that each article is based on are provided, along with contact details for the lead author of the original study, should subscribers wish to find out more.

Latest Alert

Issue 513


Vertebrate population losses and declines: Earth’s ongoing mass extinction may be more severe than previously estimated

A new study suggests that Earth’s ongoing mass extinction episode is more severe than generally perceived. Rather than focusing on the complete extinction of entire species, researchers analysed the losses and declines of populations in a sample of 27 600 vertebrate species. Population declines and losses are often a prelude to species extinctions. Researchers also conducted a more in-depth analysis of population losses between 1900–2015 in 177 mammal species. The results reveal that rates of population loss and decline in vertebrates are extremely high, even in common “species of low concern”. The data indicates that, in addition to significant species extinction rates, the Earth is experiencing a huge episode of population decline and loss, which will have a significant effect on ecosystem functioning and services. The researchers warn that the window for effective action is closing rapidly and emphasise the need for an urgent response.

How to control and mitigate the effects of pollution on public health: Six Lancet Commission recommendations

Pollution is the world’s largest environmental cause of disease and premature death. The Lancet Commission on pollution and health brought together leaders, researchers and practitioners from the fields of pollution management, environmental health and sustainable development to elucidate the full health and economic costs of air, water, chemical and soil pollution worldwide. By analysing existing and emerging data, the Commission reveals that pollution makes a significant and underreported contribution to the global burden of disease, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The Commission also provides six recommendations to policymakers and other stakeholders looking for efficient, cost-effective and actionable approaches to pollution mitigation and prevention.

New treatment system able to remove at least 95% of pharmaceuticals from waste water

The release of pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs) in waste water from treatment plants (WWTPs) is currently not regulated anywhere in the world, with the exception of a few plants in Switzerland. Yet thousands of PhACs or their by-products — excreted by humans — can be found in waste water and some of these may harm biodiversity when released into waterways. For example diclofenac and oxazepam may have negative effects on aquatic species.

How to prevent alien plant invasions in the global ornamental horticulture trade?

Alien plant invasions can have significant environmental, ecosystem and economic implications. Since ornamental horticulture is the primary pathway for invasive alien plant introductions, it is a suitable focus for prevention policies. A recent review of published evidence has examined the effectiveness of four major instruments: pre-border import restrictions, post-border sales bans, industry codes of conduct, and consumer education. The study highlights that, while each instrument has the potential to contribute to a reduction in plant invasion risk, none is sufficient to achieve this goal alone. The researchers, therefore, describe how the four instruments can be integrated along the ornamental horticulture industry supply chain to reduce risk more effectively, and outlines the role that government, industry and other stakeholders must play to achieve this goal.