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Science for
Environment Policy

Thematic Issues

Each Thematic Issue takes an in-depth look at a key area of environmental research with policy relevance, providing a guide to the latest research in the field.

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Issue 57

Agri-environment schemes: impacts on the agricultural environment – June 2017

What has been the impact of Agricultural Environment Schemes (AES) on European farming? These schemes provide payments to farmers in return for the implementation of agri-environmental measures to encourage positive environmental outcomes and as a counterbalance to the profit incentive. The schemes might concentrate on low-intensity production, organic or integrated management or enhancement of biodiversity on farmland. This Thematic Issue presents recent peer-reviewed research examining the impacts AES have had on European farm ecosystems, biodiversity and farmers – and to what extent AES have benefited a range of animals and plants by increasing the number of individuals and species.

Agri-environment schemes: impacts on the agricultural environment June 2017

Issue 57

What has been the impact of Agricultural Environment Schemes (AES) on European farming? These schemes provide payments to farmers in return for the implementation of agri-environmental measures to encourage positive environmental outcomes and as a counterbalance to the profit incentive. The schemes might concentrate on low-intensity production, organic or integrated management or enhancement of biodiversity on farmland. This Thematic Issue presents recent peer-reviewed research examining the impacts AES have had on European farm ecosystems, biodiversity and farmers – and to what extent AES have benefited a range of animals and plants by increasing the number of individuals and species.

Environmental compliance assurance and combatting environmental crime July 2016

Issue 56

How does the law protect the environment? The responsibility for the legal protection of the environment rests largely with public authorities such as the police, local authorities or specialised regulatory agencies. However, more recently, attention has been focused on the enforcement of environmental law — how it should most effectively be implemented, how best to ensure compliance, and how best to deal with breaches of environmental law where they occur. This Thematic Issue presents recent research into the value of emerging networks of enforcement bodies, the need to exploit new technologies and strategies, the use of appropriate sanctions and the added value of a compliance assurance conceptual framework.

Ship recycling: reducing human and environmental impacts – June 2016

Issue 55

The ship-recycling industry — which dismantles old and decommissioned ships, enabling the re-use of valuable materials — is a major supplier of steel and an important part of the economy in many countries, such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Turkey. However, mounting evidence of negative impacts undermines the industry’s contribution to sustainable development. This Thematic Issue presents a selection of recent research on the environmental and human impacts of shipbreaking.

Research for environmental policymaking: how to prioritise, communicate and measure impact - March 2016

Issue 54

Up-to date scientific and technological research is vital to allow humans to adapt appropriately to our changing global environment, and current rates of environmental degradation and resource depletion. Effective research policies are essential to maintain or improve the standard of life for future populations – in Europe and globally.

Integrating Environmental Risk Assessment - December 2015

Issue 53

Environmental risk assessment is challenging because of the complexity of the physical and ecological systems around us. Natural disasters, the spread of dangerous substances, ecosystem changes leading to food and health security issues, and the emergence of new materials, new events and new knowledge make it essential to update our understanding continually, to be able to identify threats and opportunities for timely action. This Thematic Issue presents some collaborative and integrated paths towards forward-thinking assessment and management of environmental risks.

Soil and Water: a larger perspective - November 2015

Issue 52

Land use changes over time have altered relations between soils and water cycles throughout the world. Soils have been lost and degraded, and the closely interlinked processes of soils and water have become an urgent issue for European policymakers. This Thematic Issue aims to provide a review of new research into the links between soil and water issues in Europe, including a message that the soil-water links must be considered at their proper spatial scales.

Migration in response to environmental change - September 2015

Issue 51

Links between environmental changes and migration are extremely complex. This Thematic Issue presents key pieces of research examining the causes of environmental migration and identifying policy options for Europe in dealing with forced and voluntary relocations. The sources also examine the current state of human rights for environmental migrants and how much evidence currently exists for action at local and regional levels.

Monitoring Nature: Research Developments – June 2015

Issue 50

This Thematic Issue provides a flavour of recent work by scientists in the area of biodiversity monitoring to highlight both up-to-date approaches to conservation and evaluation, and how long-term monitoring data could be used more effectively in management and policy decisions.

Exploring the Links Between Energy Efficiency and Resource Efficiency - June 2015

Issue 49

Energy efficiency is at the centre of EU policy for achieving a fundamental transformation of Europe’s energy systems by 2030. This Thematic Issue reveals the complexity of the issue of energy efficiency, its links with resource efficiency and the wide range of factors influencing it, from technology to social practices.

Nanomaterials' functionality – February 2015

Issue 48

This Thematic Issue explores recent developments in nanomaterials research, and possibilities for safe, practical and resource-efficient applications.

Noise impacts on health – January 2015

Issue 47

Exposure to excessive noise is recognised as a major environmental health concern. This Thematic Issue examines the impact of noise on human health and outlines how policy initiatives may limit health effects from noise annoyance - and improve wellbeing.

Coastal zones: achieving sustainable management – December 2014

Issue 46

Linking land and the sea, coastal zones are unique areas, highly diverse in species, habitats and ecosystems and very important to human activities. But there is a mounting stress on these valuable ecosystems from economic, social and environmental pressures. This Thematic Issue presents key pieces of research that demonstrate tools and experiences for achieving more sustainable coastal ecosystems, and highlights that policy action must continue to strive for significantly improved management.

Seafloor Damage – December 2013

Issue 45

During the last century, large areas of the seafloor have been damaged by human activities such as fishing, sand and gravel extraction and navigational dredging. This Thematic Issue presents quality research exploring the physical damage to the seafloor, new methods for providing seabed information and pressures on Marine and coastal from activities such as deep-sea mining.

Global Environmental Impacts of EU Trade in Commodities – November 2013

Issue 44

Goods consumed in Europe are commonly produced and harvested in other parts of the world where the highest short-term returns on investment can be achieved. However, the environmental costs of this international trade in commodities are frequently ignored. This Thematic Issue highlights research into international trade and related economic activities to help readers gain a better understanding of the environmental implications of the EU's import and consumption of commodities.

LIFE Projects - October 2013

Issue 43

The EU's LIFE programme has played an important part in applied environmental research and science-based nature conservation over the past 20 years, benefitting Europe's wildlife and natural resources through the work of the projects that it co-finances. This Thematic Issue presents the findings of research which has taken place under just a selection of these projects; these have helped tackle important issues including biodiversity decline, habitat loss, resource efficiency, water protection and climate action.

Working with nature, for people – September 2013

Issue 42

Ecosystems are not only essential to human life but can help us face changing conditions in the future. This Thematic Issue brings together the latest research on how the protection of ecosystems, and the services they provide, can form an important part of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Invasive Alien Species – September 2013

Issue 41

Invasive alien species (IAS) are a leading cause of biodiversity loss in Europe and across the globe. As plants or animals that are introduced, either accidentally or deliberately, into areas they would not otherwise have reached, IAS can cause substantial ecological damage.This Thematic Issue presents research exploring the problem of IAS.

Flooding – June 2013

Issue 40

Flooding can cause profound and lasting effects on people, business and agriculture. This Thematic Issue brings together recent research that provides insight into changes in European flood risk policy, that could help policymakers deal with the projected increases in flood risk.

Brownfield Regeneration – May 2013

Issue 39

Brownfield regeneration and land use planning are complex issues which encompass many different environmental, economic and social dimensions. This Thematic Issue brings together quality research into brownfield regeneration, which highlights insights and successful strategies from across Europe and beyond.

Green Construction – April 2013

Issue 38

This Thematic Issue on Green construction provides evidence on how environmental improvements would make the construction industry more competitive, while contributing to a more resource efficient society

Ecosystem-based Adaptation – March 2013

Issue 37

The latest research on Ecosystem-based Adaptation is brought together in this Thematic Issue, providing evidence for the effectiveness of this approach to combatting the impacts of climate change with the help of nature.

Biodiversity, Agriculture and Health – February 2013

Issue 36

There may be no greater strategic investment in health than in the protection of biodiversity, or the variety of life on earth. This Thematic Issue addresses issues concerning the relationship between health, biodiversity and agriculture.

Management and Monitoring of the Natura 2000 Network – November 2012

Issue 35

This Thematic Issue, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the EU's Habitats Directive, examines the challenges and successes of managing and restoring biodiversity in the Natura 2000 network.

Environmental Policy Targets – October 2012

Issue 34

This Thematic Issue reports on research into policy targets for sustainability, and associated indicators, to tie in with the launch of the EU's 7th Environmental Action Programme.

Managing Water Demand, Reuse and Recycling – May 2012

Issue 33

To meet demand, more and more water is being abstracted from the land and transported long distances. This Thematic Issue addresses the most pressing policy issues within this field as Europe looks for an effective strategy to deal with water supply and consumption.

Natural Water Retention Measures – May 2012

Issue 32

Through a combination of human activities and climate change, the European environment is dehydrated. This Thematic Issue explores potential water management measures aimed at enhancing and safeguarding the water storage potential of Europe's ecosystems and aquifers.

Arctic Science – April 2012

Issue 31

The Arctic region is home to many unique, diverse and vulnerable ecosystems. But the once pristine Arctic environment is being increasingly affected by human activities. This Thematic Issue presents the latest research into the impacts of climate change and resource extraction on Arctic biodiversity and indigenous communities.

Payments for Ecosystem Services – March 2012

Issue 30

PES is a flexible, incentive based mechanism that has the potential to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and a more efficient use of finances in existing biodiversity programmes. This Thematic Issue of Science for Environment Policy explores research which can help guide effective PES schemes.

Environmental Noise – November 2011

Issue 29

Noise pollution is among the most common complaints regarding environmental issues in Europe, especially in densely populated and residential areas near major roads, railways and airports. But noise - unwanted sound - is more than a mere annoyance, even at levels below ear damaging volumes. The EU's Environmental Noise Directive (END) has initiated action plans in Member States to reduce environmental noise exposure and its effects. This Thematic Issue reports on recent research to help guide effective noise action plans throughout Europe.

Product Footprinting – October 2011

Issue 28

Product carbon footprinting (PCF) is an increasingly popular method of reporting sustainability impacts. There are a growing number of methodologies and labels addressing carbon footprints in Europe and worldwide, and PCFs are seen both as a way to better communicate and inform consumers and as a tool to reduce the global footprint related to production and consumption activities. The articles in this Thematic Issue of Science for Environment Policy explore the calculation and understanding of PCF, in order to guide effective policy.

Trade and Environment – September 2011

Issue 27

International trade policy is undergoing some remarkable and swift transformations. Environmental considerations were once considered simple 'add ons', on the periphery of trade policy. But now it can be seen that the environment is gradually migrating to the heart of trade policy, as part of an integrated, cross-cutting package. This special issue of Science for Environment Policy reflects on the changing picture of trade and environment and points to its future development.

Resource Efficiency – May 2011

Issue 26

Humanity is demanding ever greater economic productivity at a time when natural resources, the input that feeds this productivity, are dwindling. To reduce pressure on key assets, such as water, minerals, fuel and land, we must use less of them, and we need to increase the efficiency and productivity of resources that we do use, to achieve more output per input. Put simply, we must do more with less. This Thematic Issue reports on research which helps guide the way to a more resource efficient society.

Global Green Economy – May 2011

Issue 25

The current economic and environmental crisis tells us that the time is ripe for governments around the world to implement a new kind of economy, which is resilient, sustainable, operates within the limits of our planet's resources and creates a fairer society. This Thematic Issue covers research which can help policy makers develop this Global Green Economy.

Air Pollution and Climate Change – November 2010

Issue 24

Continued reductions in air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are essential, as they pose serious threats to both people's health and the environment across the world. Air quality and climate policies can provide mutual benefits and there can also be trade-offs. This Thematic Issue reports on research which helps us understand the relationship between air pollution and climate change and how the two policy areas can be integrated to produce the greatest results.

Forest Protection in Europe – September 2010

Issue 23

Forests can play a critical role in the mitigation of climate change, but at the same time, climate change is threatening the health and condition of forests. Therefore their protection and adaptation is essential. The EU has adopted a green paper on 'Forest protection and information in the EU: preparing forests for climate change'. This special Thematic Issue provides current information on the dynamics and relationships between forests and climate change and insight into the role of forest management and ecosystem services in protecting EU forests.

Water and Biodiversity – July 2010

Issue 22

Policy measures to protect biodiversity must be scientifically sound in order to deal with the complexity of nature and the human pressures on nature. This Thematic Issue reports on research which can help policy makers understand biodiversity in water and different ways in which human activity can be managed to ensure both wildlife and humans benefit from healthy aquatic and Marine and coastal.

Combination Effects of Chemicals – June 2010

Issue 21

Outside the laboratory, living organisms are never subject to single stressors at set doses. In the real world, they face an intricate array of physical, chemical and biological environmental stressors that vary in space and time. The problem of assessing these complex risks for human health and the environment is a great challenge for scientists and regulators alike. For example, even if Maximum Permissible Concentrations (MPCs) for individual contaminants are not exceeded in water, in combination they can still be potentially hazardous to wildlife. This Thematic Issue reports on scientific research which can help us overcome some of the challenges associated with assessing the combination effects of chemicals.

Ecosystem Services – May 2010

Issue 20

Research into ecosystem services has flourished considerably since the publication of UNEP's Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005, notably the ongoing Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project, which is making a compelling case for promoting conservation by estimating the economic benefits of ecosystems to human welfare and the economic cost to society of ecosystem decline. This Thematic Issue provides a snapshot of the latest research in the most recent chapter of ecosystem services' story. It aims to help guide future conservation and sustainable development policies.

Coastal Management – February 2010

Issue 19

The increasing man-made impacts and effects of climate change are making our coastlines more vulnerable to coastal risks including erosion and flooding. These impacts are far-reaching and are already changing the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities. In addition, they could further threaten valuable ecosystems and damage industries, such as fishing, tourism and shipping. This Thematic Issue reports on recent research to help guide successful coastal management.

Environment and Health – February 2010

Issue 18

A significant number of health problems can be attributed to environmental factors, which range from chemicals and food, to housing quality and noise. High quality research is needed to underpin policies designed to influence these environmental factors. This Thematic Issue reports on some of the latest research which points the way to robust health and environment policies and helps evaluate their impact.

Environmental Communication – October 2009

Issue 17

Both the cause of environmental problems and possibilities for addressing them depend on human perceptions, attitudes and behaviour, which are linked to values, preferences and beliefs about the world. Communication is key to analysing the relation between all of these aspects. This Thematic Issue reports on research which provides insights into how we can communicate environmental issues effectively.

Mercury – September 2009

Issue 16

Mercury is widely considered to be among the highest priority environmental pollutants of concern on the global scale. Although occupational exposure to inorganic mercury is a continuous problem, possible effects on broader sections of the population resulting from widespread dispersal of mercury in the environment has become a major concern in recent years. This Thematic Issue reports on research which explores the impacts of mercury emissions and contaminants, and how they may be traced, controlled and reduced.

Sustainable Development – July 2009

Issue 15

Sustainable development is perceived as a compromise between environmental, economic and social goals. This allows society to ensure well-being for present and future generations without damaging the environment and jeopardising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This Thematic Issue outlines recent research which helps us understand the benefits of sustainable living and how it can be achieved through implementing sustainable development strategies.

Soil – May 2009

Issue 14

Healthy soils are vital in a world challenged by climate change. We need to decide how best to use land to provide food for a growing population and how it can be used to mitigate the effects of manmade emissions. The quality of soil must be maintained or restored if it is to provide its essential services: cycling nutrients, water and air, supporting biodiversity and acting as a substantial store for carbon. This Thematic Issue outlines key research in these areas.

Pesticides – April 2009

Issue 13

As part of the European Commission's strategy to ensure safer use of pesticides, a new legislative framework has recently been adopted that includes a regulation specifying stricter criteria for approval of pesticides and a directive on the sustainable use of pesticides. This Thematic Issue intends to examine current research that could influence future policy in this important area.

Nanomaterials – April 2009

Issue 12

Nanoparticles may be small, but they are at the centre of a huge debate. Nanotechnology has great potential for industry and society, but we need more awareness of the potential impact of manufactured or engineered nanoparticles on human health and the environment to ensure that its products are safe. Although nanotechnology is new, it is expanding quickly and research is needed to understand its associated risks. This Thematic Issue outlines some of this research and indicates areas for future investigation.

Urban Environments – February 2009

Issue 11

Half the world's population live in cities. By 2050, the total number of urban dwellers is expected to nearly double, rising from 3.3 billion to 6.4 billion. How do we accommodate urbanisation while ensuring good quality of life and health? How do we minimise environmental damage but still develop our cities? This Thematic Issue provides a window into the research evidence that can help us create healthier urban environments and more sustainable urban policies.

GMOs – December 2008

Issue 10

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) affect the broader social, economic and ethical aspects of life. Honest, open public debate, which involves a wide range of people is necessary to build confidence in policy decisions made on behalf of all citizens.

Climate Change Adaptation – November 2008

Issue 9

The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007) concluded that even the most stringent mitigation efforts cannot avoid further impacts of climate change in the next few decades. This inevitability of impacts makes investment in adaptation essential. Yet mitigation also remains crucial: to rely on adaptation alone would eventually lead to a level of climate change to which effective adaptation is no longer feasible.

Biodiversity – September 2008

Issue 8

Where would we find most of our raw materials if forests did not produce them? What would we eat if insects did not pollinate plants? Could we live without clean water? Ecosystem goods and services arising from biodiversity are critical, but they are also coming under severe threat. In this Thematic Issue, we provide examples of studies that contribute to improved understanding of the current biodiversity crisis and the value of ecosystem services.

Water – July 2008

Issue 7

The European Water Framework Directive (WFD) urges policy implementation managers to respond to poor ecological, chemical and quantitative status of the water system caused by negative pressures from different drivers. This Thematic Issue discusses recent experiences with regard to different stages of river basin management strategy, to help us understand how we can safeguard water, an indispensible resource.

Invasive Alien Species – July 2008

Issue 6

Aggressive non-native species represent a serious threat to biodiversity and are a major cause of extinction globally. In Europe several invasive alien species (IAS) dominate their new environments, threatening native species with extinction. For example, European red squirrel populations are on the brink of extinction in Italy and the UK, following the introduction of the larger American grey squirrel.

Deforestation – June 2008

Issue 5

Deforestation is not new: 2000 years ago most of Europe was covered by forests. Today, forests cover less than half of the continent. While forest area is increasing in many temperate regions, the rate of deforestation is alarmingly high in the tropics, where forests are disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world.

Air Quality and Emissions Trading – May 2008

Issue 4

The new EU Directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe and the proposed amendments to the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will drive changes in EU contributions to harmful pollutants and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. New targets have been set in the Air Quality directive to reduce exposure to fine particles and reduce risks to human health. In January 2008, the European Commission proposed a number of changes to improve and extend the EU's ETS to further reduce GHG emissions. The ETS is the major market-based policy used by the EU to effect climate change strategies.

Carbon Capture and Storage – April 2008

Issue 3

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are expected to play a key role in strategies to avoid dangerous climate change. They enable large reductions in CO2 emissions, even given the almost inevitable continued use of fossil fuels predicted by energy analysts. Recently, the European Commission has proposed a policy to address the environmental integrity of carbon capture and geological storage. CCS is especially important for coal-based developing economies such as China and India.

Sustainable Consumption and Production – March 2008

Issue 2

Sustainable consumption and production are two sides of a coin, both are needed to achieve real progress towards sustainability and both will be addressed in the forthcoming European Commission Action Plan on Sustainable Consumption and Production which is expected in May 2008. With this in mind, this Thematic Issue discusses a number of strategies that could be used to reduce consumption and improve the sustainability of production systems.

Biofuels – February 2008

Issue 1

Interest in biofuels is growing and proposed European Commission targets to increase the amount of biofuels used in transportation to 10 per cent is likely to drive further research and development in this field. But the move to increase biofuel production raises concerns about the impact of biofuel crops on the environment, landscape and food security.