By Faten Taki, Associate Editor, Communications Biology
As we celebrated the 150th anniversary for Nature, Editor in Chief Magdalena Skipper, pinpointed that one of the first reports on the human impact on the environment globally was documented in Nature Journals. Dating back to 1882, the paper entitled “Pollution of the Atmosphere” by H.A. Philips was only the beginning of thousands of other scientific reports that eventually introduced the term ‘climate change’ and paved the way for science-based policy which later culminated in a wave of youth advocacy, global initiatives and international agreements urging for a sense of responsibility for our future generations and aiming to significantly reduce the anthropogenic habits that result in global catastrophes.
In addition to studies published in Nature Climate Change and other journals of Springer Nature, we are honored to be part of this international conversation at Communications Biology. Here, we highlight some of the work published in our journal over the last 2 years pertinent to studying the causes and effects of climate change.
Soil, food security and biodiversity
Junwei Luan et al. emphasized the importance of unravelling the complex interactions between biotic and abiotic factors in response to global warming. Their results offer some relief and potential solutions to mitigate the methane release to the environment, especially from the northern peatlands, by supplementing with nitrogen via the expansion of shrubs in such soils.
As global food security is greatly threatened by climate change, Holly Vincent et al. used an analytic approach and identified 150 geographical locations where 66% of the identified Crop Wild Relatives (CWR), plants with high genetic diversity and resilience to climate change, can be conserved for future use. On the other hand, approaches aimed at increasing the yield for nutritious food resources could negatively affect the wild populations. Brendan F. Wringe et al. took a genomics approach and detected potentially negative genetic perturbations in the wild populations due to escape events of domesticated fish resulting in the accidental interbreeding of wild and cultured (farm-raised) populations of the Atlantic Salmon.
Avery B. Paxton et al. offer solutions that can potentially save species’ biodiversity and facilitate species’ resettlement in the face of the rapid urbanization as well as climate change. Specifically, they showed how installing artificial habitats like artificial reefs can enhance the abundance and biomass of fish at the edges of their geographic habitat and provide corridors that facilitate the poleward movement of tropical fish. On the other hand, Lilian Lieber et al. provide insights on the importance of designing anthropogenic structures that don’t disrupt ecosystem dynamics by increasing water shallowness and thereby turning it into hotspots for predator foraging for vulnerable species. Another example of the effect of human action and habitat changes on the decline of marine predators was highlighted by George Roff et al. as they reported the significant decline in the coastal apex shark populations over the last 55 years primarily due to human exploitation of fishing habits.
From climate to the genome and immunome
Niels A. G. Kerstes et al. used a citizen science approach and showed that the rise of urban heat may have resulted in a change of a genetically-determined shell colour, from pink to yellow, in the land snail Cepaea nemoralis in the Netherlands. Along the same lines, Eviatar Weizman & Oren Levy went one level deeper to study the interplay between the chromatin accessibility and gene expression dynamics in the context of coral reefs’ adaptation to global warming. They identified key genes that are important in coral reef’s symbiotic relationship, some of which were involved in the immune response and consequently survival, that are highly sensitive to the thermal stress. Serendipitously, Caroline V. Palmer discussed the potential of unravelling the climate resilience and survival mechanisms of coral reefs from an immunological perspective.
Despite how awesome it is to witness gene-environment interactions; it also raises deep concerns about the inevitable loss of a species that fails to adapt quickly enough. For example, Hannah C. Barkley et al. evaluated the coral community response to the heatwaves since 1960 and showed an unprecedented magnitude of damage due to the 2015-16 El Nino, which killed 95% of the corals. Similarly, as disorders related to the disruptions in the circadian rhythm become more prevalent due to changes in life styles and increases in artificial light across the globe, Yael Rosenberg et al. noted that even a short 5-month exposure to ecological light pollution had a substantial effect on coral reefs gene expression, especially related to the biological clock and cell proliferation and growth.
Joining hands with all the international efforts around us this month, we value the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aimed at promoting equity in health and environment for all and stand with Climate Action! We look forward to seeing more manuscript submissions focusing on evaluating the impact of climate change on vulnerable populations or identifying potential solutions to fight climate change, sustain biodiversity, and achieve healthy lives across the globe.