The number and extent of roads will expand dramatically this century. Globally, at least 25 million kilometres of new roads are anticipated by 2050; a 60% increase in the total length of roads over that in 2010. Nine-tenths of all road construction is expected to occur in developing nations, including many regions that sustain exceptional biodiversity and vital ecosystem services. Roads penetrating into wilderness or frontier areas are a major proximate driver of habitat loss and fragmentation, wildfires, overhunting and other environmental degradation, often with irreversible impacts on ecosystems. Unfortunately, much road proliferation is chaotic or poorly planned, and the rate of expansion is so great that it often overwhelms the capacity of environmental planners and managers. Here we present a global scheme for prioritizing road building. This large-scale zoning plan seeks to limit the environmental costs of road expansion while maximizing its benefits for human development, by helping to increase agricultural production, which is an urgent priority given that global food demand could double by mid-century. Our analysis identifies areas with high environmental values where future road building should be avoided if possible, areas where strategic road improvements could promote agricultural development with relatively modest environmental costs, and 'conflict areas' where road building could have sizeable benefits for agriculture but with serious environmental damage. Our plan provides a template for proactively zoning and prioritizing roads during the most explosive era of road expansion in human history.
Much remains unknown about the population history of early modern humans in southeast Asia, where the archaeological record is sparse and the tropical climate is inimical to the preservation of ancient human DNA1. So far, only two low-coverage pre-Neolithic human genomes have been sequenced from this region. Both are from mainland Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherer sites: Pha Faen in Laos, dated to 7939-7751 calibrated years before present (yr cal BP; present taken as AD 1950), and Gua Cha in Malaysia (4.4-4.2 kyr cal BP)1. Here we report, to our knowledge, the first ancient human genome from Wallacea, the oceanic island zone between the Sunda Shelf (comprising mainland southeast Asia and the continental islands of western Indonesia) and Pleistocene Sahul (Australia-New Guinea). We extracted DNA from the petrous bone of a young female hunter-gatherer buried 7.3-7.2 kyr cal BP at the limestone cave of Leang Panninge2 in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Genetic analyses show that this pre-Neolithic forager, who is associated with the 'Toalean' technocomplex3,4, shares most genetic drift and morphological similarities with present-day Papuan and Indigenous Australian groups, yet represents a previously unknown divergent human lineage that branched off around the time of the split between these populations approximately 37,000 years ago5. We also describe Denisovan and deep Asian-related ancestries in the Leang Panninge genome, and infer their large-scale displacement from the region today.
The ongoing outbreak of viral pneumonia in China and across the world is associated with a new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-21. This outbreak has been tentatively associated with a seafood market in Wuhan, China, where the sale of wild animals may be the source of zoonotic infection2. Although bats are probable reservoir hosts for SARS-CoV-2, the identity of any intermediate host that may have facilitated transfer to humans is unknown. Here we report the identification of SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica) seized in anti-smuggling operations in southern China. Metagenomic sequencing identified pangolin-associated coronaviruses that belong to two sub-lineages of SARS-CoV-2-related coronaviruses, including one that exhibits strong similarity in the receptor-binding domain to SARS-CoV-2. The discovery of multiple lineages of pangolin coronavirus and their similarity to SARS-CoV-2 suggests that pangolins should be considered as possible hosts in the emergence of new coronaviruses and should be removed from wet markets to prevent zoonotic transmission.
Decades of overexploitation have devastated shark populations, leaving considerable doubt as to their ecological status1,2. Yet much of what is known about sharks has been inferred from catch records in industrial fisheries, whereas far less information is available about sharks that live in coastal habitats3. Here we address this knowledge gap using data from more than 15,000 standardized baited remote underwater video stations that were deployed on 371 reefs in 58 nations to estimate the conservation status of reef sharks globally. Our results reveal the profound impact that fishing has had on reef shark populations: we observed no sharks on almost 20% of the surveyed reefs. Reef sharks were almost completely absent from reefs in several nations, and shark depletion was strongly related to socio-economic conditions such as the size and proximity of the nearest market, poor governance and the density of the human population. However, opportunities for the conservation of reef sharks remain: shark sanctuaries, closed areas, catch limits and an absence of gillnets and longlines were associated with a substantially higher relative abundance of reef sharks. These results reveal several policy pathways for the restoration and management of reef shark populations, from direct top-down management of fishing to indirect improvement of governance conditions. Reef shark populations will only have a high chance of recovery by engaging key socio-economic aspects of tropical fisheries.