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Human societies and ecosystems use water in different ways and at different scales, which complicates the study of water-use sustainability in socioecological systems. We present a multiscale integrated assessment of societal and ecosystem metabolism, an innovative approach to the quantitative analysis of water use that addresses the problem of multiple scales. It builds on the concept of metabolic pattern and the flow-fund model of Georgescu-Roegen. We show how to define water resources and water use (expressed in hourly rates) for socioeconomic systems in relation to the identities of relevant fund elements (relevant categories of human activity or land use) over a time span of 1 year. Similarly, we define the limits on the human appropriation of water (aggregate withdrawal or damping per year) on the basis of the structural and functional stability of ecological funds (defined over a much longer time scale) and the related land-use pattern.
The International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition is one of the largest and most visible activities in synthetic biology. iGEM serves to introduce synthetic biology to students—the pool of talent for the future of synthetic biology. Although its participants have tried to construct useful genetic devices and systems in a playful way, iGEM has also been recognized for its important role in raising students'awareness of biosafety issues. In the present study, we analyzed how the iGEM teams have quantitatively and qualitatively dealt with new safety requirements in recent years and what suggestions were made to further improve biosafety. We found an increase in the number of teams reporting safety aspects and a general improvement in the safety assessment of their projects. Although the students' safety awareness has improved, certain gaps must still be filled before iGEM can fully live up to its role as an educational competition.
The food webs of terrestrial soils and of freshwater and marine sediments depend on adjacent aboveground or pelagic ecosystems for organic matter input that provides nutrients and energy. There are important similarities in the flow of organic matter through these food webs and how this flow feeds back to primary production. In both soils and sediments, trophic interactions occur in a cycle in which consumers stimulate nutrient cycling such that mineralized resources are made available to the primary producers. However, aquatic sediments and terrestrial soils differ greatly in the connectivity between the production and the consumption of organic matter. Terrestrial soils and shallow aquatic sediments can receive organic matter within hours of photosynthesis when roots leak carbon, whereas deep oceanic sediments receive organic matter possibly months after carbon assimilation by phytoplankton. This comparison has implications for the capacity of soils and sediments to affect the global carbon balance.
Women and men enter graduate programs in biology in about equal numbers, but women are less likely to become academic scientists. Various hypotheses have been suggested to explain this higher rate of attrition, most of which cite family issues as the reason. However, medicine successfully recruits and retains women physicians, despite being less family friendly than biology in terms of workload, stress, and inflexible work hours. Both professions are competitive but at different times in a person's career. Competition for entry into medical school is intense, but this period of competition occurs prior to family formation for most women. For women biologists, the most intense period of competition occurs during the search for faculty positions. Many women have partners or children at this time. The increasing competition for academic positions threatens to reverse the gains that women have made into the professoriate in biology, as well as in other sciences.
Fertilizer-intensive agriculture has been integral to increasing food production over the past half century hut has been accompanied by environmental costs. We use case studies of phosphorus fertilizer use in the world's most productive soybean-growing regions, Iowa (United States), Mato Grosso (Brazil), and Buenos Aires (Argentina), to examine influences of management and soil type on agriculture's most prevalent phosphorusrelated environmental consequences: eutrophication and consumption of Earth's finite phosphorus reserves. With increasing phosphorus inputs, achieving high yields on tropical soils with high phosphorus-binding capacity is becoming more common. This system has low eutrophication risks but increases demands on phosphorus supplies. In contrast, production in traditional breadbaskets, on soils with lower phosphorus-binding capacities, is being sustained with decreasing phosphorus inputs. However, in these regions, historical overuse of phosphorus may mean continued eutrophication risk even as pressures on phosphorus reserves diminish. We focus here on soybean production but illustrate how achieving sustainable agriculture involves an intricate optimization of local, regional, and global considerations.