The pine-dominated forests of west-central Mexico are internationally recognized for their high biodiversity, and some areas are protected through various conservation measures including prohibition of human activity. In this region, however, there is evidence for human settlement dating back to ca. AD 1200. It is therefore unclear whether the present forest composition and structure are part of a successional stage following use by indigenous human populations during the past, or due to natural processes, such as climate. We present a study reconstructing the vegetation dynamics of pine-dominated forest over the past 4200 years using paleoecological techniques. Results from fossil pollen and charcoal indicate that, in this region, pine-dominated forests are the native vegetation type and not anthropogenically derived secondary succession. The predominant driving mechanism for the expansion of pine-dominated forest appears to be intervals of aridity and naturally induced burning. A close association is noted between pine abundance and longer-term climatic trends, including intervals of aridity between ca. 4200 and 2500, 1200 and 850, and 500 and 200 cal yr BP and shorter-term trends. Evident periodicity occurs in pine and Poaceae abundance every 80 years. These short-term quasi-periodic oscillations have been recorded in a number of lake and ocean sediments in Mexico and are thought to be linked to solar forcing resulting in drought cycles that occur at approximately the same time intervals.
Human activities that involve land-use change often cause major transformations to community and ecosystem properties both aboveground and belowground, and when land use is abandoned, these modifications can persist for extended periods. However, the mechanisms responsible for rapid recovery vs. long-term maintenance of ecosystem changes following abandonment remain poorly understood. Here, we examined the long-term ecological effects of two remote former settlements, regularly visited for -300 years by reindeer-herding Sami and abandoned -100 years ago, within an old-growth boreal forest that is considered one of the most pristine regions in northern Scandinavia. These human legacies were assessed through measurements of abiotic and biotic soil properties and vegetation characteristics at the settlement sites and at varying distances from them. Low-intensity land use by Sami is characterized by the transfer of organic matter towards the settlements by humans and reindeer herds, compaction of soil through trampling, disappearance of understory vegetation, and selective cutting of pine trees for fuel and construction. As a consequence, we found a shift towards early successional plant species and a threefold increase in soil microbial activity and nutrient availability close to the settlements relative to away from them. These changes in soil fertility and vegetation contributed to 83% greater total vegetation productivity, 35% greater plant biomass, and 23% and 16% greater concentrations of foliar N and P nearer the settlements, leading to a greater quantity and quality of litter inputs. Because decomposer activity was also 40% greater towards the settlements, soil organic matter cycling and nutrient availability were further increased, leading to likely positive feedbacks between the aboveground and belowground components resulting from historic land use. Although not all of the activities typical of Sami have left visible residual traces on the ecosystem after 100 years, their low-intensity but long-term land use at settlement sites has triggered a rejuvenation of the ecosystem that is still present. Our data demonstrates that aboveground-belowground interactions strongly control ecosystem responses to historical human land use and that medium- to long-term consequences of even low-intensity human activities must be better accounted for if we are to predict and manage ecosystems succession following land-use abandonment.
The daily time-spent in different environments is an important factor in calculation of personal exposure to air pollutants. Despite this importance, the amount of research done on this topic is rather limited, especially in North Europe where the climate is rather cold. In this study, we gathered detailed information via a standard questionnaire to report the residence time and place of 167 subjects (between 2 and 93 years old) lived in Helsinki during three time periods in winter and spring 2009. Subjects spent 81%-92% of their time indoors and up to ~15% of their time outdoors. The daily time-spent in different environments was affected by several factors: ambient temperature, type of day (workday or weekend/holiday), gender, and age. Therefore, the differences occur individually and can be explained by these factors. For example, subjects spent more time at home on weekends than workdays because obviously the majority of our subjects did not have work on weekends. The time-spent at kindergarten/school/work increased with age until retirement. Females spent more time at home than males. After all, the activity pattern found in this study is rather similar to those previously reported in Germany and North America.
Exposure to microorganisms resistant to antimicrobials may constitute a health risk to human populations. It is believed that one route of exposure occurs when people engage in recreational activities in water contaminated with these microorganisms. The main objective of this study was to explore population-level and environmental determinants specifically associated with the presence of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) generic Escherichia coli isolated from recreational waters sampled from beaches located in southern Quebec, Canada. Water samples originated from the Quebec provincial beach surveillance program for the summers of 2004 and 2005. This study focused on three classes of determinants, namely: agricultural, population-level and beach characteristics for a total of 19 specific factors. The study was designed as a retrospective observational analysis and factors were assessed using logistic regression methods. From the multivariable analysis, the data suggested that the percentage of land used for spreading liquid manure was a significant factor associated with the presence of AMR E. coli (OR=27.73). Conceptually, broad factors potentially influencing the presence of AMR bacteria in water must be assessed specifically in addition to factors associated with general microbial contamination. Presence of AMR E. coli in recreational waters from beaches in southern Quebec may represent a risk for people engaging in water activities and this study provides preliminary evidence that agricultural practices, specifically spreading liquid manure in agricultural lands nearby beaches, may be linked to the contamination of these waters by AMR E. coli.
Human-induced habitat loss and degradation are major threats to wetland species as reflected in the fact that wetlands have declined by more than 50% in Europe and North America during the last century. Both current and historic land-use patterns are likely to be significant determinants of wetland species' distributions; however their relative importance is often unknown. We studied the importance of local (study pond) and landscape (current and 18th-century landscape) characteristics in explaining the occurrence and species richness of amphibians (Rana arvalis, Bufo bufo, and Triturus vulgaris) on the Swedish island of Gotland, where more than 40% of wetlands have been lost since the 18th century. Current local habitat characteristics were the strongest determinants of occurrence for all study species. Additionally, species occurrence was related to current and historic landscape characteristics, which generally explained equal amounts of the variation in species-occurrence data. The proportions of both current and historic arable land were negative determinants of amphibian occurrence and species richness, indicating that agricultural land use may have an overall negative impact on amphibians, and that amphibians may occur less frequently in areas with a long agricultural history. Likewise, historic forest area was positively related to B. bufo occurrence and species richness, whereas current forests had no significant effects, suggesting that there may be a lag in the response of amphibians to agriculture-mediated habitat loss. Our results suggest that historic land-use patterns may influence current amphibian populations and that inclusion of historic land-use information could be a valuable tool in future studies on amphibian-habitat relations.
The increasing global prevalence of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in the environment is attributed to anthropogenic activities, particularly the misuse of antimicrobial drugs in human care and animal production. In the present study, we first examined Arctic/sub-Arctic (polar) sediments for the abundance and diversity of 30 ARGs against sulfonamide, tetracycline, aminoglycoside, quinolone, macrolide, and ß-lactam antibiotics. Polar sediment ARGs were detected by qPCR at relatively low levels (10-9 to 10-5 copies/16S rRNA gene copies) compared to the reference sites, which were heavily impacted regions of China (the Haihe River, the Tianjin Water Park water and the Qilihai Wetland water, at 10-8 to 10-2 copies/16S rRNA gene copies). A human mitochondrial gene target, Hmt, was first used to aid in the identification of ARGs associated with anthropogenic activities, being relatively persistent, in high copy number and a human-specific molecular marker. Hmt was consistently present in easily quantifiable amounts in the polar sediment samples, indicating their relationship with human-impact, and it was also positively correlated with the relative abundance of ARGs and to the concentrations of modern-day antibiotics. Phylogenetic analyses of resistance sequences from both the Arctic marine sediments and a major database of human pathogens indicated that the ARGs in polar region were the result of a mix of human influence and natural origins. To our knowledge, this is the first study to show that ARGs in Arctic marine sediments appear to be a mixture of both natural origins and recent human influence. This study provides a significant reference regarding the global reach of antibiotic resistance, which is associated with anthropogenic activities.
United States and Canadian governments have responded to legal requirements to reduce human-induced whale mortality via vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear by implementing a suite of regulatory actions. We analyzed the spatial and temporal patterns of mortality of large whales in the Northwest Atlantic (23.5°N to 48.0°N), 1970 through 2009, in the context of management changes. We used a multinomial logistic model fitted by maximum likelihood to detect trends in cause-specific mortalities with time. We compared the number of human-caused mortalities with U.S. federally established levels of potential biological removal (i.e., species-specific sustainable human-caused mortality). From 1970 through 2009, 1762 mortalities (all known) and serious injuries (likely fatal) involved 8 species of large whales. We determined cause of death for 43% of all mortalities; of those, 67% (502) resulted from human interactions. Entanglement in fishing gear was the primary cause of death across all species (n = 323), followed by natural causes (n = 248) and vessel strikes (n = 171). Established sustainable levels of mortality were consistently exceeded in 2 species by up to 650%. Probabilities of entanglement and vessel-strike mortality increased significantly from 1990 through 2009. There was no significant change in the local intensity of all or vessel-strike mortalities before and after 2003, the year after which numerous mitigation efforts were enacted. So far, regulatory efforts have not reduced the lethal effects of human activities to large whales on a population-range basis, although we do not exclude the possibility of success of targeted measures for specific local habitats that were not within the resolution of our analyses. It is unclear how shortfalls in management design or compliance relate to our findings. Analyses such as the one we conducted are crucial in critically evaluating wildlife-management decisions. The results of these analyses can provide managers with direction for modifying regulated measures and can be applied globally to mortality-driven conservation issues.
Cites: Nature. 2001 Nov 29;414(6863):537-4111734852
The impact of anthropogenic disturbance on the fitness of prey should depend on the relative effect of human activities on different trophic levels. This verification remains rare, however, especially for large animals. We investigated the functional link between habitat selection of female caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and the survival of their calves, a fitness correlate. This top-down controlled population of the threatened forest-dwelling caribou inhabits a managed forest occupied by wolves (Canis lupus) and black bears (Ursus americanus). Sixty-one per cent of calves died from bear predation within two months following their birth. Variation in habitat selection tactics among mothers resulted in different mortality risks for their calves. When calves occupied areas with few deciduous trees, they were more likely to die from predation if the local road density was high. Although caribou are typically associated with pristine forests, females selected recent cutovers without negative impact on calf survival. This selection became detrimental, however, as regeneration took place in harvested stands owing to increased bear predation. We demonstrate that human disturbance has asymmetrical consequences on the trophic levels of a food web involving multiple large mammals, which resulted in habitat selection tactics with a greater short-term fitness payoff and, therefore, with higher evolutionary opportunity.
Cites: Oecologia. 2005 Jun;144(2):257-6715891849
Cites: Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Jun 22;273(1593):1449-5416777736
OBJECTIVES: Farmers have a low risk for cardiovascular disease, which may be related to a favourable blood lipid profile. In order to study the blood lipid levels and evaluate the effect of other cardiovascular risk factors on the blood lipid profile, this cross-sectional study was made. MATERIAL AND METHODS: A total of 1013 farmers and 769 non-farming rural men in nine different Swedish counties were examined, interviewed, and replied to questionnaires. The inter-relationships between different risk factors were analysed using a multivariate linear regression model. RESULTS: The farmers had a significantly more favourable blood lipid profile than the non-farmers although the total cholesterol levels were almost the same for the two groups. In the total study population there were significant positive relationships between total cholesterol level and body mass index (BMI), diastolic blood pressure and smoking. The high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level was positively related to physical workload and alcohol consumption, and negatively related to BMI, waist/hip ratio and smoking. Triglyceride levels showed a positive relationship to BMI, waist/hip ratio and blood pressure. Differences between farmers and other rural males were seen, especially with respect to the effect of physical activity and psychosocial factors. Among the farmers, a negative correlation between the Karasek-Theorell authority over work index and total cholesterol, the low-density lipoprotein (LDL)/HDL ratio and triglyceride levels was observed. CONCLUSIONS: This study indicated that diet is of minor significance for the blood lipid profile, whereas factors such as physical activity, body weight and the waist/hip ratio, smoking, alcohol consumption, and perhaps psychosocial working conditions are major independent factors affecting the blood lipid profile most prominently among farmers, but also among non-farming rural men.
BECS was formed in 1989 to help guide research in the United States on the interactions between human activity and global environmental change. Working in conjunction with the National Research Council's Committee on Global Change Research, the committee serves as a source of broad scientific expertise and judgment for setting agendas for research on human-environment interactions.