Quantification of global forest change has been lacking despite the recognized importance of forest ecosystem services. In this study, Earth observation satellite data were used to map global forest loss (2.3 million square kilometers) and gain (0.8 million square kilometers) from 2000 to 2012 at a spatial resolution of 30 meters. The tropics were the only climate domain to exhibit a trend, with forest loss increasing by 2101 square kilometers per year. Brazil's well-documented reduction in deforestation was offset by increasing forest loss in Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia, Angola, and elsewhere. Intensive forestry practiced within subtropical forests resulted in the highest rates of forest change globally. Boreal forest loss due largely to fire and forestry was second to that in the tropics in absolute and proportional terms. These results depict a globally consistent and locally relevant record of forest change.
Increasing energy use, climate change, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels make switching to low-carbon fuels a high priority. Biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, but whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce food crop-based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a "biofuel carbon debt" by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions that these biofuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels. In contrast, biofuels made from waste biomass or from biomass grown on degraded and abandoned agricultural lands planted with perennials incur little or no carbon debt and can offer immediate and sustained GHG advantages.
A recent dispersal of modern humans out of Africa is now widely accepted, but the routes taken across Eurasia are still disputed. We show that mitochondrial DNA variation in isolated "relict" populations in southeast Asia supports the view that there was only a single dispersal from Africa, most likely via a southern coastal route, through India and onward into southeast Asia and Australasia. There was an early offshoot, leading ultimately to the settlement of the Near East and Europe, but the main dispersal from India to Australia approximately 65,000 years ago was rapid, most likely taking only a few thousand years.
Life history theory attempts to explain why species differ in offspring number and quality, growth rate, and parental effort. I show that unappreciated interactions of these traits in response to age-related mortality risk challenge traditional perspectives and explain life history evolution in songbirds. Counter to a long-standing paradigm, tropical songbirds grow at similar overall rates to temperate species but grow wings relatively faster. These growth tactics are favored by predation risk, both in and after leaving the nest, and are facilitated by greater provisioning of individual offspring by parents. Increased provisioning of individual offspring depends on partitioning effort among fewer young because of constraints on effort from adult and nest mortality. These growth and provisioning responses to mortality risk finally explain the conundrum of small clutch sizes of tropical birds.
Increasing incidence of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease, in developed nations is associated with changes to the microbial environment, such as decreased prevalence of helminth colonization and alterations to the gut microbiota. We find that helminth infection protects mice deficient in the Crohn's disease susceptibility gene Nod2 from intestinal abnormalities by inhibiting colonization by an inflammatory Bacteroides species. Resistance to Bacteroides colonization was dependent on type 2 immunity, which promoted the establishment of a protective microbiota enriched in Clostridiales. Additionally, we show that individuals from helminth-endemic regions harbor a similar protective microbiota and that deworming treatment reduced levels of Clostridiales and increased Bacteroidales. These results support a model of the hygiene hypothesis in which certain individuals are genetically susceptible to the consequences of a changing microbial environment.
A power law called the species-area relationship describes the finding that the number of species is proportional to the size of the area in which they are found, raised to an exponent (usually, a number between 0.2 and 0.3). In their Perspective, May and Stumpf discuss new results from a survey of five tropical forest census areas containing a total of a million trees. They explain how this large data set can be used to fine-tune the existing power law so that it provides a better prediction of species diversity in small census samples.
Scientists are a step closer to unraveling a medical mystery that killed 105 people in Malaysia last year and destroyed the country's pig industry. The Nipah virus, which caused the disease, most likely originated in a native fruit bat species, Malaysian researchers reported here at a meeting last week. They say the findings will help Malaysian health authorities prevent future outbreaks of the Nipah virus. Others see the case as an argument for expanding research into infections that can leap the boundary between animals and humans.
Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Canada, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, et al.
A paramyxovirus virus termed Nipah virus has been identified as the etiologic agent of an outbreak of severe encephalitis in people with close contact exposure to pigs in Malaysia and Singapore. The outbreak was first noted in late September 1998 and by mid-June 1999, more than 265 encephalitis cases, including 105 deaths, had been reported in Malaysia, and 11 cases of encephalitis or respiratory illness with one death had been reported in Singapore. Electron microscopic, serologic, and genetic studies indicate that this virus belongs to the family Paramyxoviridae and is most closely related to the recently discovered Hendra virus. We suggest that these two viruses are representative of a new genus within the family Paramyxoviridae. Like Hendra virus, Nipah virus is unusual among the paramyxoviruses in its ability to infect and cause potentially fatal disease in a number of host species, including humans.