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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. Summary China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), designed to build critical infrastructure and coordinate economic growth, is the most significant development initiative in modern history. The BRI has a documented vision for sustainability, including environmental impact assessments and responsibility tenets. Despite this, a growing body of literature has found adverse effects of BRI projects on protected land and species. To understand corporate responsibility and regulations for companies participating in the BRI, we gathered information on 260 BRI companies using the Refinitiv Eikon BRI Connect database and the China Global Investment Tracker. The results revealed a significant gap in corporate responsibility reporting for biodiversity impacts, environmental restoration, environmental project financing and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 14 ‘Life below Water’ and 15 ‘Life on Land’. The modest fraction of companies that we found to report biodiversity accountability highlights the need to restructure and incentivize the reporting of environmental and biodiversity risks. The current evidence of limited adherence to responsibility measures highlights a clear opportunity to align BRI development with the BRI’s vision for sustainability, and to strengthen links for policy engagement within Chinese regulatory frameworks and international obligations at the United Nations within its SDG framework.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. Although research on wildlife species across taxa has shown that males and females may differentially select habitat, sex-specific habitat suitability models for endangered species are uncommon. We developed sex-specific models for Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris) based on camera trapping data collected from 20 January to 22 March 2010 within Chitwan National Park, Nepal, and its buffer zone. We compared these to a sex-indiscriminate habitat suitability model to assess the benefits of a sex-specific approach to habitat suitability modeling. Our sex-specific models produced more informative and detailed habitat suitability maps and highlighted vital differences in the spatial distribution of suitable habitats for males and females, specific associations with different vegetation types, and habitat use near human settlements. Improving and refining habitat models for this and other critically endangered species provides the necessary information to meet established conservation goals and population recovery targets.
  4. Detecting small objects (e.g., manhole covers, license plates, and roadside milestones) in urban images is a long-standing challenge mainly due to the scale of small object and background clutter. Although convolution neural network (CNN)-based methods have made significant progress and achieved impressive results in generic object detection, the problem of small object detection remains unsolved. To address this challenge, in this study we developed an end-to-end network architecture that has three significant characteristics compared to previous works. First, we designed a backbone network module, namely Reduced Downsampling Network (RD-Net), to extract informative feature representations with high spatial resolutions and preserve local information for small objects. Second, we introduced an Adjustable Sample Selection (ADSS) module which frees the Intersection-over-Union (IoU) threshold hyperparameters and defines positive and negative training samples based on statistical characteristics between generated anchors and ground reference bounding boxes. Third, we incorporated the generalized Intersection-over-Union (GIoU) loss for bounding box regression, which efficiently bridges the gap between distance-based optimization loss and area-based evaluation metrics. We demonstrated the effectiveness of our method by performing extensive experiments on the public Urban Element Detection (UED) dataset acquired by Mobile Mapping Systems (MMS). The Average Precision (AP) of the proposed method was 81.71%,more »representing an improvement of 1.2% compared with the popular detection framework Faster R-CNN.« less
  5. Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs have been implemented in both developing and developed countries to conserve ecosystems and the vital services they provide. These programs also often seek to maintain or improve the economic wellbeing of the populations living in the corresponding (usually rural) areas. Previous studies suggest that PES policy design, presence or absence of concurrent PES programs, and a variety of socioeconomic and demographic factors can influence decisions of households to participate or not in the PES program. However, neighborhood impacts on household participation in PES have rarely been addressed. This study explores potential neighborhood effects on villagers’ enrollment in the Grain-to-Green Program (GTGP), one of the largest PES programs in the world, using data from China’s Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve. We utilize a fixed effects logistic regression model in combination with the eigenvector spatial filtering (ESF) method to explore whether neighborhood size affects household enrollment in GTGP. By comparing the results with and without ESF, we find that the ESF method can help account for spatial autocorrelation properly and reveal neighborhood impacts that are otherwise hidden, including the effects of area of forest enrolled in a concurrent PES program, gender and household size. The method canmore »thus uncover mechanisms previously undetected due to not taking into account neighborhood impacts and thus provides an additional way to account for neighborhood impacts in PES programs and other studies.« less
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