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  1. Diet shifts and food waste reduction have the potential to reduce the land and biodiversity footprint of the food system. In this study, we estimated the amount of land used to produce food consumed in the United States and the number of species threatened with extinction as a result of that land use. We predicted potential changes to the biodiversity threat under scenarios of food waste reduction and shifts to recommended healthy and sustainable diets. Domestically produced beef and dairy, which require vast land areas, and imported fruit, which has an intense impact on biodiversity per unit land, have especially high biodiversity footprints. Adopting the Planetary Health diet or the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)–recommended vegetarian diet nationwide would reduce the biodiversity footprint of food consumption. However, increases in the consumption of foods grown in global biodiversity hotspots both inside and outside the United States, especially fruits and vegetables, would partially offset the reduction. In contrast, the USDA-recommended US-style and Mediterranean-style diets would increase the biodiversity threat due to increased consumption of dairy and farmed fish. Simply halving food waste would benefit global biodiversity more than half as much as all Americans simultaneously shifting to a sustainable diet. Combining food waste reduction with the adoption of a sustainable diet could reduce the biodiversity footprint of US food consumption by roughly half. Species facing extinction because of unsustainable food consumption practices could be rescued by reducing agriculture's footprint; diet shifts and food waste reduction can help us get there. 
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  2. Abstract

    Assessment of socio-environmental problems and the search for solutions often require intersecting geospatial data on environmental factors and human population densities. In the United States, Census data is the most common source for information on population. However, timely acquisition of such data at sufficient spatial resolution can be problematic, especially in cases where the analysis area spans urban-rural gradients. With this data release, we provide a 30-m resolution population estimate for the contiguous United States. The workflow dasymetrically distributes Census block level population estimates across all non-transportation impervious surfaces within each Census block. The methodology is updatable using the most recent Census data and remote sensing-based observations of impervious surface area. The dataset, known as the U.G.L.I (updatable gridded lightweight impervious) population dataset, compares favorably against other population data sources, and provides a useful balance between resolution and complexity.

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  3. BACKGROUND The availability of nitrogen (N) to plants and microbes has a major influence on the structure and function of ecosystems. Because N is an essential component of plant proteins, low N availability constrains the growth of plants and herbivores. To increase N availability, humans apply large amounts of fertilizer to agricultural systems. Losses from these systems, combined with atmospheric deposition of fossil fuel combustion products, introduce copious quantities of reactive N into ecosystems. The negative consequences of these anthropogenic N inputs—such as ecosystem eutrophication and reductions in terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity—are well documented. Yet although N availability is increasing in many locations, reactive N inputs are not evenly distributed globally. Furthermore, experiments and theory also suggest that global change factors such as elevated atmospheric CO 2 , rising temperatures, and altered precipitation and disturbance regimes can reduce the availability of N to plants and microbes in many terrestrial ecosystems. This can occur through increases in biotic demand for N or reductions in its supply to organisms. Reductions in N availability can be observed via several metrics, including lowered nitrogen concentrations ([N]) and isotope ratios (δ 15 N) in plant tissue, reduced rates of N mineralization, and reduced terrestrial N export to aquatic systems. However, a comprehensive synthesis of N availability metrics, outside of experimental settings and capable of revealing large-scale trends, has not yet been carried out. ADVANCES A growing body of observations confirms that N availability is declining in many nonagricultural ecosystems worldwide. Studies have demonstrated declining wood δ 15 N in forests across the continental US, declining foliar [N] in European forests, declining foliar [N] and δ 15 N in North American grasslands, and declining [N] in pollen from the US and southern Canada. This evidence is consistent with observed global-scale declines in foliar δ 15 N and [N] since 1980. Long-term monitoring of soil-based N availability indicators in unmanipulated systems is rare. However, forest studies in the northeast US have demonstrated decades-long decreases in soil N cycling and N exports to air and water, even in the face of elevated atmospheric N deposition. Collectively, these studies suggest a sustained decline in N availability across a range of terrestrial ecosystems, dating at least as far back as the early 20th century. Elevated atmospheric CO 2 levels are likely a main driver of declines in N availability. Terrestrial plants are now uniformly exposed to ~50% more of this essential resource than they were just 150 years ago, and experimentally exposing plants to elevated CO 2 often reduces foliar [N] as well as plant-available soil N. In addition, globally-rising temperatures may raise soil N supply in some systems but may also increase N losses and lead to lower foliar [N]. Changes in other ecosystem drivers—such as local climate patterns, N deposition rates, and disturbance regimes—individually affect smaller areas but may have important cumulative effects on global N availability. OUTLOOK Given the importance of N to ecosystem functioning, a decline in available N is likely to have far-reaching consequences. Reduced N availability likely constrains the response of plants to elevated CO 2 and the ability of ecosystems to sequester carbon. Because herbivore growth and reproduction scale with protein intake, declining foliar [N] may be contributing to widely reported declines in insect populations and may be negatively affecting the growth of grazing livestock and herbivorous wild mammals. Spatial and temporal patterns in N availability are not yet fully understood, particularly outside of Europe and North America. Developments in remote sensing, accompanied by additional historical reconstructions of N availability from tree rings, herbarium specimens, and sediments, will show how N availability trajectories vary among ecosystems. Such assessment and monitoring efforts need to be complemented by further experimental and theoretical investigations into the causes of declining N availability, its implications for global carbon sequestration, and how its effects propagate through food webs. Responses will need to involve reducing N demand via lowering atmospheric CO 2 concentrations, and/or increasing N supply. Successfully mitigating and adapting to declining N availability will require a broader understanding that this phenomenon is occurring alongside the more widely recognized issue of anthropogenic eutrophication. Intercalibration of isotopic records from leaves, tree rings, and lake sediments suggests that N availability in many terrestrial ecosystems has steadily declined since the beginning of the industrial era. Reductions in N availability may affect many aspects of ecosystem functioning, including carbon sequestration and herbivore nutrition. Shaded areas indicate 80% prediction intervals; marker size is proportional to the number of measurements in each annual mean. Isotope data: (tree ring) K. K. McLauchlan et al. , Sci. Rep. 7 , 7856 (2017); (lake sediment) G. W. Holtgrieve et al. , Science 334 , 1545–1548 (2011); (foliar) J. M. Craine et al. , Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2 , 1735–1744 (2018) 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Global declines in biodiversity have the potential to affect ecosystem function, and vice versa, in both terrestrial and aquatic ecological realms. While many studies have considered biodiversity-ecosystem function (BEF) relationships at local scales within single realms, there is a critical need for more studies examining BEF linkages among ecological realms, across scales, and across trophic levels. We present a framework linking abiotic attributes, productivity, and biodiversity across terrestrial and inland aquatic realms. We review examples of the major ways that BEF linkages form across realms–cross-system subsidies, ecosystem engineering, and hydrology. We then formulate testable hypotheses about the relative strength of these connections across spatial scales, realms, and trophic levels. While some studies have addressed these hypotheses individually, to holistically understand and predict the impact of biodiversity loss on ecosystem function, researchers need to move beyond local and simplified systems and explicitly investigate cross-realm and trophic interactions and large-scale patterns and processes. Recent advances in computational power, data synthesis, and geographic information science can facilitate studies spanning multiple ecological realms that will lead to a more comprehensive understanding of BEF connections. 
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  5. Abstract

    Both tree size and life history variation drive forest structure and dynamics, but little is known about how life history frequency changes with size. We used a scaling framework to quantify ontogenetic size variation and assessed patterns of abundance, richness, productivity and light interception across life history strategies from >114,000 trees in a primary, neotropical forest. We classified trees along two life history axes: afast–slowaxis characterized by a growth–survival trade‐off, and astature–recruitmentaxis with tall,long‐lived pioneersat one end and short,short‐lived recruitersat the other.

    Relative abundance, richness, productivity and light interception follow an approximate power law, systematically shifting over an order of magnitude with tree size.Slowsaplings dominate the understorey, butslowtrees decline to parity with rapidly growingfastandlong‐lived pioneerspecies in the canopy.

    Like the community as a whole,slowspecies are the closest to obeying the energy equivalence rule (EER)—with equal productivity per size class—but other life histories strongly increase productivity with tree size. Productivity is fuelled by resources, and the scaling of light interception corresponds to the scaling of productivity across life history strategies, withslowandallspecies near solar energy equivalence. This points towards a resource‐use corollary to the EER: the resource equivalence rule.

    Fitness trade‐offs associated with tree size and life history may promote coexistence in tropical forests by limiting niche overlap and reducing fitness differences.

    Synthesis. Tree life history strategies describe the different ways trees grow, survive and recruit in the understorey. We show that the proportion of trees with a pioneer life history strategy increases steadily with tree size, as pioneers become relatively more abundant, productive, diverse and capture more resources towards the canopy. Fitness trade‐offs associated with size and life history strategy offer a mechanism for coexistence in tropical forests.

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  6. Abstract Aim

    Rapid global change is impacting the diversity of tree species and essential ecosystem functions and services of forests. It is therefore critical to understand and predict how the diversity of tree species is spatially distributed within and among forest biomes. Satellite remote sensing platforms have been used for decades to map forest structure and function but are limited in their capacity to monitor change by their relatively coarse spatial resolution and the complexity of scales at which different dimensions of biodiversity are observed in the field. Recently, airborne remote sensing platforms making use of passive high spectral resolution (i.e., hyperspectral) and active lidar data have been operationalized, providing an opportunity to disentangle how biodiversity patterns vary across space and time from field observations to larger scales. Most studies to date have focused on single sites and/or one sensor type; here we ask how multiple sensor types from the National Ecological Observatory Network’s Airborne Observation Platform (NEON AOP) perform across multiple sites in a single biome at the NEON field plot scale (i.e., 40 m × 40 m).


    Eastern USA.

    Time period


    Taxa studied



    With a fusion of hyperspectral and lidar data from the NEON AOP, we assess the ability of high resolution remotely sensed metrics to measure biodiversity variation across eastern US temperate forests. We examine how taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic measures of alpha diversity vary spatially and assess to what degree remotely sensed metrics correlate with in situ biodiversity metrics.


    Models using estimates of forest function, canopy structure, and topographic diversity performed better than models containing each category alone. Our results show that canopy structural diversity, and not just spectral reflectance, is critical to predicting biodiversity.

    Main conclusions

    We found that an approach that jointly leverages spectral properties related to leaf and canopy functional traits and forest health, lidar derived estimates of forest structure, fine‐resolution topographic diversity, and careful consideration of biogeographical differences within and among biomes is needed to accurately map biodiversity variation from above.

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  7. Abstract

    The loss of aboveground plant diversity alters belowground ecosystem function; yet, the mechanisms underpinning this relationship and the degree to which plant community structure and climate mediate the effects of plant species loss remain unclear. Here, we explored how plant species loss through experimental removal shaped belowground function in ecosystems characterized by different climatic regimes and edaphic properties. We measured plant community composition as well as potential carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) mineralization and microbial extracellular enzyme activity in soils collected from four unique plant removal experiments located along an elevational gradient in Colorado, USA. We found that, regardless of the identity of the removed species or the climate at each site, plant removal decreased the absolute variation in potential N mineralization rates and marginally reduced the magnitude of N mineralization rates. While plant species removal also marginally reduced C mineralization rates, C mineralization, unlike N mineralization, displayed sensitivity to the climatic and edaphic differences among sites, where C mineralization was greatest at the high elevation site that receives the most precipitation annually and contains the largest soil total C pool. Plant removal had little impact on soil enzyme activity. Removal effects were not contingent on the amount of biomass removed annually, and shifts in mineralization rates occurred despite only marginal shifts in plant community structure following plant species removal. Our results present a surprisingly simple and consistent pattern of belowground response to the loss of dominant plant species across an elevational gradient with different climatic and edaphic properties, suggesting a common response of belowground ecosystem function to plant species loss regardless of which plant species are lost or the broader climatic context.

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