US agriculture was modeled to determine impacts of removing farmed animals on food supply adequacy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The modeled system without animals increased total food production (23%), altered foods available for domestic consumption, and decreased agricultural US GHGs (28%), but only reduced total US GHG by 2.6 percentage units. Compared with systems with animals, diets formulated for the US population in the plants-only systems had greater excess of dietary energy and resulted in a greater number of deficiencies in essential nutrients.

Conflicting sets of hypotheses highlight either the role of ice sheets or atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in causing the increase in duration and severity of ice age cycles ∼1 Mya during the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT). We document early MPT CO2 cycles that were smaller than during recent ice age cycles. Using model simulations, we attribute this to post-MPT increase in glacial-stage dustiness and its effect on Southern Ocean productivity.

Most nations recently agreed to hold global average temperature rise to well below 2 °C. We examine how much climate mitigation nature can contribute to this goal with a comprehensive analysis of “natural climate solutions” (NCS): 20 conservation, restoration, and/or improved land management actions that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural lands. We show that NCS can provide over one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2 °C.

An estimated 4.5 billion people are currently exposed to particulate matter (PM) levels at least twice the concentration that the WHO considers safe. Existing evidence linking health to air pollution is largely based on populations exposed to only modest levels of PM and almost entirely composed of observational studies, which are likely to confound air pollution with other unobserved determinants of health.

Research of the past decades has shown that biodiversity promotes ecosystem functions including primary productivity. However, most studies focused on experimental communities at small spatial scales, and little is known about how these findings scale to nonexperimental, real-world ecosystems at large spatial scales, despite these systems providing essential ecosystem services to humans.

Cities are concentrations of sociopolitical power and prime architects of land transformation, while also serving as consumption hubs of “hard” water and energy infrastructures. These infrastructures extend well outside metropolitan boundaries and impact distal river ecosystems. We used a comprehensive model to quantify the roles of anthropogenic stressors on hydrologic alteration and biodiversity in US streams and isolate the impacts stemming from hard infrastructure developments in cities.

Suicide is a stark indicator of human hardship, yet the causes of these deaths remain understudied, particularly in developing countries. This analysis of India, where one fifth of the world’s suicides occur, demonstrates that the climate, particularly temperature, has strong influence over a growing suicide epidemic. With 47 y of suicide records and climate data, I show that high temperatures increase suicide rates, but only during India’s growing season, when heat also reduces crop yields. My results are consistent with widely cited theories of economic suicide in India.

The strong focus on species extinctions, a critical aspect of the contemporary pulse of biological extinction, leads to a common misimpression that Earth’s biota is not immediately threatened, just slowly entering an episode of major biodiversity loss. This view overlooks the current trends of population declines and extinctions.

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.