Carbon stocks in vegetation have a key role in the climate system. However, the magnitude, patterns and uncertainties of carbon stocks and the effect of land use on the stocks remain poorly quantified. Here we show, using state-of-the-art datasets, that vegetation currently stores around 450 petagrams of carbon. In the hypothetical absence of land use, potential vegetation would store around 916 petagrams of carbon, under current climate conditions. This difference highlights the massive effect of land use on biomass stocks.

Noble gases trapped in ice cores are used to show that the mean global ocean temperature increased by 2.6 degrees Celsius over the last glacial transition and is closely correlated with Antarctic temperature.

Models show that several aspects of Earth’s top-of-atmosphere energy budget and the magnitude of projected global warming are correlated, enabling us to infer that future warming has been underestimated.

As phase 1 of the Earth Microbiome Project, analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA sequences from more than 27,000 environmental samples delivers a global picture of the basic structure and drivers of microbial distribution.

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TB remains a big killer despite the development of a better test for detecting the disease.

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When a condition commonly associated with a lifetime of alcohol abuse — severe scarring of the liver, or cirrhosis — starts to show up in children as young as eight, something is very wrong.

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Empirical two-part models describe the relationship between conservation spending, human development pressures and biodiversity loss and can inform sustainable development strategies by predicting the effects of financing decisions on future biodiversity losses.

Poor air quality is one of the leading five health risks worldwide, along with high blood pressure, tobacco smoking, diabetes and being overweight. In 2015, it contributed to nearly 8% of all deaths worldwide. Long-term exposure to polluted air has been linked to respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, heart attack and lung cancer. It is justifiably called ‘passive outdoor smoking’.

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Pluto’s atmosphere is cold and hazy. Recent observations have shown it to be much colder than predicted theoretically, suggesting an unknown cooling mechanism. Atmospheric gas molecules, particularly water vapour, have been proposed as a coolant; however, because Pluto’s thermal structure is expected to be in radiative–conductive equilibrium, the required water vapour would need to be supersaturated by many orders of magnitude under thermodynamic equilibrium conditions. Here the researchers report that atmospheric hazes, rather than gases, can explain Pluto’s temperature profile.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft continues to yield surprising discoveries, more than a month after it burned up on its mission-ending dive into Saturn. New data from the probe suggest that Saturn's majestic rings are showering tiny dust particles into the planet's upper atmosphere, where they form a complicated and unexpected chemical mix.