Both plants and animals make decisions in response to the environment to maximize their fitness. Plants use dormancy in seeds to move through time and space, and timing of the transition to germination is influenced by external cues, including temperature. Here, we report the presence of a decision-making center within the root tip of dormant seeds and demonstrate that it shares a similar configuration as some systems within the human brain.

Validation of volatile organic compound (VOC) emission reports, especially from large industrial facilities, is rarely attempted. Given uncertainties in emission reports, their evaluation and validation will build confidence in emission inventories. It is shown that a top-down approach can provide measurement-based emission rates for such emission validation. Comparisons with emission reports from Alberta oil sands surface mining facilities revealed significant differences in VOC emissions between top-down emissions rates and reports.

Urban waters remain widely impaired by excess nutrients, despite substantial management efforts. We present a comparison of urban watershed nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) budgets. Household actions of lawn fertilization and pet ownership were responsible for the majority of watershed N and P inputs, respectively. N and P exhibited contrasting dynamics within watersheds. Watersheds exported most or all P inputs via stormwater runoff, likely contributing to surface water degradation.

Degradation of coastal water quality in the form of low dissolved oxygen levels (hypoxia) can harm biodiversity, ecosystem function, and human wellbeing. Extreme hypoxic conditions along the coast, leading to what are often referred to as “dead zones,” are known primarily from temperate regions. However, little is known about the potential threat of hypoxia in the tropics, even though the known risk factors, including eutrophication and elevated temperatures, are common.

To explain diversity in forests, niche theory must show how multiple plant species coexist while competing for the same resources. Although successional processes are widespread in forests, theoretical work has suggested that differentiation in successional strategy allows only a few species stably to coexist, including only a single shade tolerant. However, this conclusion is based on current niche models, which encode a very simplified view of plant communities, suggesting that the potential for niche differentiation has remained unexplored.

Projections of the economic consequences of climate change are valuable for policy making but generally rely on integrated assessments that cannot account for highly localized climate effects. Most agricultural climate impact studies focus on local effects or partial productivity measures insufficient to capture national economic outcomes. Here, we directly link climate variables in specific US regions to total factor productivity (TFP).

Fighting wildfires in the United States costs billions of dollars annually. Public dialog and ongoing research have focused on increasing wildfire risk because of climate warming, overlooking the direct role that people play in igniting wildfires and increasing fire activity. Our analysis of two decades of government agency wildfire records highlights the fundamental role of human ignitions.

Malaria parasites degrade substantial quantities of hemoglobin to release heme within a specialized digestive vacuole. Most of this heme is sequestered in an inert crystal. However, the concentration of bioavailable, labile heme in the parasite’s cytosol was unknown. We developed a biosensor to provide the first quantitative insights into labile heme concentrations in malaria parasites. We find that ∼1.6 µM labile cytosolic heme is maintained, including during a period coincident with intense hemoglobin degradation.

The trace element selenium is essential for human health and is required in a narrow dietary concentration range. Insufficient selenium intake has been estimated to affect up to 1 billion people worldwide. Dietary selenium availability is controlled by soil–plant interactions, but the mechanisms governing its broad-scale soil distributions are largely unknown. Using data-mining techniques, we modeled recent (1980–1999) distributions and identified climate–soil interactions as main controlling factors.

Large accumulations of rainfall over a precipitation event can impact human infrastructure. Unlike precipitation intensity distributions, probability distributions for accumulations at first drop slowly with increasing size. At a certain size—the cutoff scale—the behavior regime changes, and the probabilities drop rapidly. In current climate, every region is protected from excessively large accumulations by this cutoff scale, and human activities are adapted to this.