Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2015

We are living in the Age of Humans

- 7.2 billion people inhabit the Earth as of 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2050, the population is expected to total between 8.3 and 10.9 billion. - 75% of Earth's land surface outside of ice sheets is managed by humans. - 40% of Earth's land area is used for agriculture. As population has increased, demand for food has skyrocketed. - 50% of the world's forests have been lost. - Extinction rates are now 100 to 1,000 times above normal, or background, levels. - 10% of the world's land area is protected

The future of global development, mapped

Urbanization, agriculture, and energy could gobble up 20 percent of the world’s remaining natural land by 2050. By 2050, the world’s population is projected to approach nine billion. With more people will come more developed land—a lot more. Urbanization, agriculture, energy, and mining put 20 percent of the world’s remaining forests, grasslands, and other natural ecosystems at risk of conversion by 2050. With that kind of expansion, there are sure to be harms—namely clean water, clean air, and biodiversity. To mitigate some of those risks, scientists and geographers at the Nature Conservancy have taken a crucial step by mapping the potential impact that human growth will have on natural lands. It’s the most comprehensive look to date at how major forms of development will take over fragile ecosystems, if left unchecked. Using publicly available global datasets, the researchers projected how terrestrial ecosystems would be affected by nine sectors: urban and agricultural ex

Desertification Vulnerability

Map of uninhabitable, nuclear-contamination zones, around Fukushima (Japan)


Ecological footprint

The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems, the amount of natural capital used each year. The footprint of a region can be contrasted with the natural resources it generates. A common type of footprint estimates the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to assimilate the waste that population produces. At a global scale, this has been used by some ecological analysts to estimate how rapidly we are depleting limited resources, vs. using renewable resources. The Global Footprint Network, for instance, is an ecological organization that calculates a global ecological footprint from UN and other data, and publishes the result. They estimate that as of 2007, the planet uses up major ecological resources 1.5 times as fast as they are being renewed. Via

Arctic sea ice minimum volumes (1979 - 2015)

This is an animated visualization of the startling decline of Arctic Sea Ice, showing the minimum volume reached every September since 1979, set on a map of New York with a 10km grid to give an idea of scale. It is clear that the trend of Arctic sea ice decline indicates that it'll be ice-free for an increasingly large part of the year, with consequences for the climate.

Land use in Europe in 1900 & 2010

A World at Risk: Aggregating Development Trends to Forecast Global Habitat Conversion

Future global development threat Individual sector development threat maps used to calculate the cumulative future development threat (bottom) identified by binning global lands (except Antarctica) into four equal-area categories with the “High” category defined as the quarter of the globe with the highest cumulative threat scores. James R. Oakleaf , Christina M. Kennedy, Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Paul C. West, James S. Gerber, Larissa Jarvis, Joseph Kiesecker Proportion of land currently converted and future conversion per geopolitical region, biome, and ecoregion The proportion of land in each geopolitical region (A) and biome (B) that is currently converted (dark grey), the proportion of natural lands at high risk to development (light grey), total future conversion (dark grey + light grey), and the proportion of strictly-protected natural lands at risk (dashed lines indicate the 50% threshold). Distribution of terrestrial ecoregions with > 0.75, 0.50, 0.25, and < 0.25 pr

Decadal change in pollution with development

States impacted by sea level rise

Measurements tell us that global average sea level is currently rising by about 1 inch per decade. But in an invisible shadow process, our long-term sea level rise commitment or "lock-in" — the sea level rise we don’t see now, but which carbon emissions and warming have locked in for later years — is growing 10 times faster, and this growth rate is accelerating. An international team of scientists led by Anders Levermann recently published a study that found for every degree Fahrenheit of global warming due to carbon pollution, global average sea level will rise by about 4.2 feet in the long run. When multiplied by the current rate of carbon emissions, and the best estimate of global temperature sensitivity to pollution, this translates to a long-term sea level rise commitment that is now growing at about 1 foot per decade. We have two sea levels: the sea level of today, and the far higher sea level that is already being locked in for some distant tomorrow. In a new

Black wood dependency

Main bilateral flows of illegal timber

Ocean level during the last ice age

Canada's anthropogenic footprint (everything from roads to reservoirs)

Lifespans of the animal kingdom

The decrease in species richness in North America

The species richness map shows historic and current species richness for 17 species that experienced range contractions over more than 20% of their historic range. The change map was created by subtracting the current from the historic species richness map. Via &

Radioactive fallout from Chernobyl disaster (Curie/km2)

More than 100,000 African elephants were illegally poached from 2010 through 2012

First digital map of ocean sediments reveals weaker carbon sink


Human Influence Index

Europe Asia North America South America Oceania