Despite contributing to healthy diets for billions of people, aquatic foods are often undervalued as a nutritional solution because their diversity is often reduced to the protein and energy value of a single food type ('seafood' or 'fish')1-4. Here we create a cohesive model that unites terrestrial foods with nearly 3,000 taxa of aquatic foods to understand the future impact of aquatic foods on human nutrition. We project two plausible futures to 2030: a baseline scenario with moderate growth in aquatic animal-source food (AASF) production, and a high-production scenario with a 15-million-tonne increased supply of AASFs over the business-as-usual scenario in 2030, driven largely by investment and innovation in aquaculture production. By comparing changes in AASF consumption between the scenarios, we elucidate geographic and demographic vulnerabilities and estimate health impacts from diet-related causes. Globally, we find that a high-production scenario will decrease AASF prices by 26% and increase their consumption, thereby reducing the consumption of red and processed meats that can lead to diet-related non-communicable diseases5,6 while also preventing approximately 166 million cases of inadequate micronutrient intake. This finding provides a broad evidentiary basis for policy makers and development stakeholders to capitalize on the potential of aquatic foods to reduce food and nutrition insecurity and tackle malnutrition in all its forms.
Fish and other aquatic foods (blue foods) present an opportunity for more sustainable diets1,2. Yet comprehensive comparison has been limited due to sparse inclusion of blue foods in environmental impact studies3,4 relative to the vast diversity of production5. Here we provide standardized estimates of greenhouse gas, nitrogen, phosphorus, freshwater and land stressors for species groups covering nearly three quarters of global production. We find that across all blue foods, farmed bivalves and seaweeds generate the lowest stressors. Capture fisheries predominantly generate greenhouse gas emissions, with small pelagic fishes generating lower emissions than all fed aquaculture, but flatfish and crustaceans generating the highest. Among farmed finfish and crustaceans, silver and bighead carps have the lowest greenhouse gas, nitrogen and phosphorus emissions, but highest water use, while farmed salmon and trout use the least land and water. Finally, we model intervention scenarios and find improving feed conversion ratios reduces stressors across all fed groups, increasing fish yield reduces land and water use by up to half, and optimizing gears reduces capture fishery emissions by more than half for some groups. Collectively, our analysis identifies high-performing blue foods, highlights opportunities to improve environmental performance, advances data-poor environmental assessments, and informs sustainable diets.
The amount of carbon stored in deadwood is equivalent to about 8 per cent of the global forest carbon stocks1. The decomposition of deadwood is largely governed by climate2-5 with decomposer groups-such as microorganisms and insects-contributing to variations in the decomposition rates2,6,7. At the global scale, the contribution of insects to the decomposition of deadwood and carbon release remains poorly understood7. Here we present a field experiment of wood decomposition across 55 forest sites and 6 continents. We find that the deadwood decomposition rates increase with temperature, and the strongest temperature effect is found at high precipitation levels. Precipitation affects the decomposition rates negatively at low temperatures and positively at high temperatures. As a net effect-including the direct consumption by insects and indirect effects through interactions with microorganisms-insects accelerate the decomposition in tropical forests (3.9% median mass loss per year). In temperate and boreal forests, we find weak positive and negative effects with a median mass loss of 0.9 per cent and -0.1 per cent per year, respectively. Furthermore, we apply the experimentally derived decomposition function to a global map of deadwood carbon synthesized from empirical and remote-sensing data, obtaining an estimate of 10.9 ± 3.2 petagram of carbon per year released from deadwood globally, with 93 per cent originating from tropical forests. Globally, the net effect of insects may account for 29 per cent of the carbon flux from deadwood, which suggests a functional importance of insects in the decomposition of deadwood and the carbon cycle.
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.
High-quality and complete reference genome assemblies are fundamental for the application of genomics to biology, disease, and biodiversity conservation. However, such assemblies are available for only a few non-microbial species1-4. To address this issue, the international Genome 10K (G10K) consortium5,6 has worked over a five-year period to evaluate and develop cost-effective methods for assembling highly accurate and nearly complete reference genomes. Here we present lessons learned from generating assemblies for 16 species that represent six major vertebrate lineages. We confirm that long-read sequencing technologies are essential for maximizing genome quality, and that unresolved complex repeats and haplotype heterozygosity are major sources of assembly error when not handled correctly. Our assemblies correct substantial errors, add missing sequence in some of the best historical reference genomes, and reveal biological discoveries. These include the identification of many false gene duplications, increases in gene sizes, chromosome rearrangements that are specific to lineages, a repeated independent chromosome breakpoint in bat genomes, and a canonical GC-rich pattern in protein-coding genes and their regulatory regions. Adopting these lessons, we have embarked on the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP), an international effort to generate high-quality, complete reference genomes for all of the roughly 70,000 extant vertebrate species and to help to enable a new era of discovery across the life sciences.
Global food demand is rising, and serious questions remain about whether supply can increase sustainably1. Land-based expansion is possible but may exacerbate climate change and biodiversity loss, and compromise the delivery of other ecosystem services2-6. As food from the sea represents only 17% of the current production of edible meat, we ask how much food we can expect the ocean to sustainably produce by 2050. Here we examine the main food-producing sectors in the ocean-wild fisheries, finfish mariculture and bivalve mariculture-to estimate 'sustainable supply curves' that account for ecological, economic, regulatory and technological constraints. We overlay these supply curves with demand scenarios to estimate future seafood production. We find that under our estimated demand shifts and supply scenarios (which account for policy reform and technology improvements), edible food from the sea could increase by 21-44 million tonnes by 2050, a 36-74% increase compared to current yields. This represents 12-25% of the estimated increase in all meat needed to feed 9.8 billion people by 2050. Increases in all three sectors are likely, but are most pronounced for mariculture. Whether these production potentials are realized sustainably will depend on factors such as policy reforms, technological innovation and the extent of future shifts in demand.
Whole-genome sequencing projects are increasingly populating the tree of life and characterizing biodiversity1-4. Sparse taxon sampling has previously been proposed to confound phylogenetic inference5, and captures only a fraction of the genomic diversity. Here we report a substantial step towards the dense representation of avian phylogenetic and molecular diversity, by analysing 363 genomes from 92.4% of bird families-including 267 newly sequenced genomes produced for phase II of the Bird 10,000 Genomes (B10K) Project. We use this comparative genome dataset in combination with a pipeline that leverages a reference-free whole-genome alignment to identify orthologous regions in greater numbers than has previously been possible and to recognize genomic novelties in particular bird lineages. The densely sampled alignment provides a single-base-pair map of selection, has more than doubled the fraction of bases that are confidently predicted to be under conservation and reveals extensive patterns of weak selection in predominantly non-coding DNA. Our results demonstrate that increasing the diversity of genomes used in comparative studies can reveal more shared and lineage-specific variation, and improve the investigation of genomic characteristics. We anticipate that this genomic resource will offer new perspectives on evolutionary processes in cross-species comparative analyses and assist in efforts to conserve species.
Humanity will soon define a new era for nature-one that seeks to transform decades of underwhelming responses to the global biodiversity crisis. Area-based conservation efforts, which include both protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, are likely to extend and diversify. However, persistent shortfalls in ecological representation and management effectiveness diminish the potential role of area-based conservation in stemming biodiversity loss. Here we show how the expansion of protected areas by national governments since 2010 has had limited success in increasing the coverage across different elements of biodiversity (ecoregions, 12,056 threatened species, 'Key Biodiversity Areas' and wilderness areas) and ecosystem services (productive fisheries, and carbon services on land and sea). To be more successful after 2020, area-based conservation must contribute more effectively to meeting global biodiversity goals-ranging from preventing extinctions to retaining the most-intact ecosystems-and must better collaborate with the many Indigenous peoples, community groups and private initiatives that are central to the successful conservation of biodiversity. The long-term success of area-based conservation requires parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to secure adequate financing, plan for climate change and make biodiversity conservation a far stronger part of land, water and sea management policies.
New Guinea is the world's largest tropical island and has fascinated naturalists for centuries1,2. Home to some of the best-preserved ecosystems on the planet3 and to intact ecological gradients-from mangroves to tropical alpine grasslands-that are unmatched in the Asia-Pacific region4,5, it is a globally recognized centre of biological and cultural diversity6,7. So far, however, there has been no attempt to critically catalogue the entire vascular plant diversity of New Guinea. Here we present the first, to our knowledge, expert-verified checklist of the vascular plants of mainland New Guinea and surrounding islands. Our publicly available checklist includes 13,634 species (68% endemic), 1,742 genera and 264 families-suggesting that New Guinea is the most floristically diverse island in the world. Expert knowledge is essential for building checklists in the digital era: reliance on online taxonomic resources alone would have inflated species counts by 22%. Species discovery shows no sign of levelling off, and we discuss steps to accelerate botanical research in the 'Last Unknown'8.
The current outbreak of coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) poses unprecedented challenges to global health1. The new coronavirus responsible for this outbreak-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)-shares high sequence identity to SARS-CoV and a bat coronavirus, RaTG132. Although bats may be the reservoir host for a variety of coronaviruses3,4, it remains unknown whether SARS-CoV-2 has additional host species. Here we show that a coronavirus, which we name pangolin-CoV, isolated from a Malayan pangolin has 100%, 98.6%, 97.8% and 90.7% amino acid identity with SARS-CoV-2 in the E, M, N and S proteins, respectively. In particular, the receptor-binding domain of the S protein of pangolin-CoV is almost identical to that of SARS-CoV-2, with one difference in a noncritical amino acid. Our comparative genomic analysis suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may have originated in the recombination of a virus similar to pangolin-CoV with one similar to RaTG13. Pangolin-CoV was detected in 17 out of the 25 Malayan pangolins that we analysed. Infected pangolins showed clinical signs and histological changes, and circulating antibodies against pangolin-CoV reacted with the S protein of SARS-CoV-2. The isolation of a coronavirus from pangolins that is closely related to SARS-CoV-2 suggests that these animals have the potential to act as an intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2. This newly identified coronavirus from pangolins-the most-trafficked mammal in the illegal wildlife trade-could represent a future threat to public health if wildlife trade is not effectively controlled.
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.
High blood cholesterol is typically considered a feature of wealthy western countries1,2. However, dietary and behavioural determinants of blood cholesterol are changing rapidly throughout the world3 and countries are using lipid-lowering medications at varying rates. These changes can have distinct effects on the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol, which have different effects on human health4,5. However, the trends of HDL and non-HDL cholesterol levels over time have not been previously reported in a global analysis. Here we pooled 1,127 population-based studies that measured blood lipids in 102.6 million individuals aged 18 years and older to estimate trends from 1980 to 2018 in mean total, non-HDL and HDL cholesterol levels for 200 countries. Globally, there was little change in total or non-HDL cholesterol from 1980 to 2018. This was a net effect of increases in low- and middle-income countries, especially in east and southeast Asia, and decreases in high-income western countries, especially those in northwestern Europe, and in central and eastern Europe. As a result, countries with the highest level of non-HDL cholesterol-which is a marker of cardiovascular risk-changed from those in western Europe such as Belgium, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Malta in 1980 to those in Asia and the Pacific, such as Tokelau, Malaysia, The Philippines and Thailand. In 2017, high non-HDL cholesterol was responsible for an estimated 3.9 million (95% credible interval 3.7 million-4.2 million) worldwide deaths, half of which occurred in east, southeast and south Asia. The global repositioning of lipid-related risk, with non-optimal cholesterol shifting from a distinct feature of high-income countries in northwestern Europe, north America and Australasia to one that affects countries in east and southeast Asia and Oceania should motivate the use of population-based policies and personal interventions to improve nutrition and enhance access to treatment throughout the world.
Micronutrient deficiencies account for an estimated one million premature deaths annually, and for some nations can reduce gross domestic product1,2 by up to 11%, highlighting the need for food policies that focus on improving nutrition rather than simply increasing the volume of food produced3. People gain nutrients from a varied diet, although fish-which are a rich source of bioavailable micronutrients that are essential to human health4-are often overlooked. A lack of understanding of the nutrient composition of most fish5 and how nutrient yields vary among fisheries has hindered the policy shifts that are needed to effectively harness the potential of fisheries for food and nutrition security6. Here, using the concentration of 7 nutrients in more than 350 species of marine fish, we estimate how environmental and ecological traits predict nutrient content of marine finfish species. We use this predictive model to quantify the global spatial patterns of the concentrations of nutrients in marine fisheries and compare nutrient yields to the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies in human populations. We find that species from tropical thermal regimes contain higher concentrations of calcium, iron and zinc; smaller species contain higher concentrations of calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids; and species from cold thermal regimes or those with a pelagic feeding pathway contain higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. There is no relationship between nutrient concentrations and total fishery yield, highlighting that the nutrient quality of a fishery is determined by the species composition. For a number of countries in which nutrient intakes are inadequate, nutrients available in marine finfish catches exceed the dietary requirements for populations that live within 100 km of the coast, and a fraction of current landings could be particularly impactful for children under 5 years of age. Our analyses suggest that fish-based food strategies have the potential to substantially contribute to global food and nutrition security.
Since 2000, many countries have achieved considerable success in improving child survival, but localized progress remains unclear. To inform efforts towards United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3.2-to end preventable child deaths by 2030-we need consistently estimated data at the subnational level regarding child mortality rates and trends. Here we quantified, for the period 2000-2017, the subnational variation in mortality rates and number of deaths of neonates, infants and children under 5 years of age within 99 low- and middle-income countries using a geostatistical survival model. We estimated that 32% of children under 5 in these countries lived in districts that had attained rates of 25 or fewer child deaths per 1,000 live births by 2017, and that 58% of child deaths between 2000 and 2017 in these countries could have been averted in the absence of geographical inequality. This study enables the identification of high-mortality clusters, patterns of progress and geographical inequalities to inform appropriate investments and implementations that will help to improve the health of all populations.
The sequencing of ancient DNA has enabled the reconstruction of speciation, migration and admixture events for extinct taxa1. However, the irreversible post-mortem degradation2 of ancient DNA has so far limited its recovery-outside permafrost areas-to specimens that are not older than approximately 0.5 million years (Myr)3. By contrast, tandem mass spectrometry has enabled the sequencing of approximately 1.5-Myr-old collagen type I4, and suggested the presence of protein residues in fossils of the Cretaceous period5-although with limited phylogenetic use6. In the absence of molecular evidence, the speciation of several extinct species of the Early and Middle Pleistocene epoch remains contentious. Here we address the phylogenetic relationships of the Eurasian Rhinocerotidae of the Pleistocene epoch7-9, using the proteome of dental enamel from a Stephanorhinus tooth that is approximately 1.77-Myr old, recovered from the archaeological site of Dmanisi (South Caucasus, Georgia)10. Molecular phylogenetic analyses place this Stephanorhinus as a sister group to the clade formed by the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) and Merck's rhinoceros (Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis). We show that Coelodonta evolved from an early Stephanorhinus lineage, and that this latter genus includes at least two distinct evolutionary lines. The genus Stephanorhinus is therefore currently paraphyletic, and its systematic revision is needed. We demonstrate that sequencing the proteome of Early Pleistocene dental enamel overcomes the limitations of phylogenetic inference based on ancient collagen or DNA. Our approach also provides additional information about the sex and taxonomic assignment of other specimens from Dmanisi. Our findings reveal that proteomic investigation of ancient dental enamel-which is the hardest tissue in vertebrates11, and is highly abundant in the fossil record-can push the reconstruction of molecular evolution further back into the Early Pleistocene epoch, beyond the currently known limits of ancient DNA preservation.