Each month, the world is encouraged to focus on a different United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to work towards a better future for us all. With Life on Land being in the spotlight for May 2023, here is some of the latest research shared in our Research Communities which reflects scientific progress towards halting biodiversity loss and protecting environments.
Biodiversity loss is one of the greatest risks to the natural environment, predominantly caused by human actions and climate change. Insects are often overlooked when studying biological risks in favour of more enigmatic animal species. However, insects are extremely diverse and valuable components of ecosystems across the world, therefore risks to their survival should also be considered. In the Ecology and Evolution Community, Amrita Srivathsan shares new research to quantify the biodiversity of global flying insect species. From studying the DNA sequences of over 225,000 insects, 20 flying insect families were identified, accounting for 50% of the world’s flying insect diversity. The findings were surprising, highlighting the need to gather more data to study global insect communities and improve conservation efforts. By understanding more about insect biodiversity, scientists can monitor changes to populations, identify threats and implement policy changes to minimise biodiversity loss. Read more about the research here.
While humans benefit from global trade routes, ecosystems are increasingly at risk from invasive species. When non-native species are introduced to an environment, either through intentional or unintentional actions (for example, via trade of exotic pets or as stowaways on ships), they can outcompete existing species, causing environmental and economic costs. In the Sustainability Community, researchers share new findings following analysis of the InvaCost database, which compiles reported economic costs of invasive species from around the world. The team discovered that Europe is most frequently impacted by invasive species, but the highest monetary costs originated from species from China and India invading North America (costing up to $319 billion in 2017). Additionally, countries that have a colonial history share more economic impacts from invasive species than countries that are not linked by colonialism. However, it should be noted that data availability on the economic costs of non-native species is unevenly distributed around the world. More research is needed to fill this data gap, motivate policymakers to take preventative action and control high risk invasion routes to protect biodiversity and promote sustainable economies. Discover more about this research here.
To increase plant yield, chemical fertilisers are often considered as the most favourable option, but to protect environments, more sustainable alternatives are being developed. In the Ecology and Evolution Community, Ella Tali Sieradzki shares that using soil bacteria to improve uptake of naturally occurring nitrogen in soil is an important method for reducing reliance on nitrogen fertilisers. In soil, plants can only use inorganic nitrogen (found in ammonium and nitrate) but the majority of nitrogen is locked inside complex organic molecules (such as DNA, proteins and cell walls). Soil bacteria can act as an intermediary, processing organic nitrogen in their metabolic reactions and producing inorganic nitrogen for uptake by plants. Therefore, future research should consider the role bacteria can play in improving our farming practices. The author also shares a behind-the-scenes insight into publishing this research as an early career researcher. Read more here.
About the author:
Charlotte Bird is the Research Communities Content Manager at Springer Nature and is responsible for showcasing the multidisciplinary research published in our journals through commissioning Behind the Paper posts and engaging audiences via the Nature Portfolio Instagram and Twitter accounts.