Highlights in Environmental Sciences 2017

Looking back at the past year to inspire the future

Environmental Sciences in 2017

2017 was a year filled with groundbreaking research and technological advances.

As we start 2018, we would like to take a look back and reflect on some of the most popular research from 2017, sourced from our Book and Journal portfolio to inspire us for 2018. 

Read on to find the most downloaded research of 2017

Senior Editor, Dr. Johanna Schwarz on 2017

The year has come to an end, the last fireworks have been set off, and 2018 dawns over planet Earth. And with it came a very mild winter for Europe, with ski lifts emptily dangling in the wind, while the East Coast of America saw a severe winter storm with unexpectedly large amounts of snow covering Florida. What a start to the new year, proving again that severe weather conditions are becoming more common, and that climate change is not fake news. We are still shocked by the fact that the United States withdrew from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change Mitigation at COP 21 in June last year. Plastic garbage in the oceans and exposure to fine particles in the air were frequently featured in the news last year. But there is also hope: we are seeing a steady market growth in renewable energy, electric cars, and plant-based alternatives to meat, to name a few. The United Nations aptly announced 2018 as the International Year of the Clean and Healthy Planet.

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The environmental group at SpringerNature is keen to support the global scientific community in their aim to publish a profound knowledge pool – and we are proud to be able to do so in many ways. New features like SciGraph, a linked open data platform, and the award-winning SharedIt initiative facilitates the distribution and sharing of content, and a growing open access portfolio enables researchers to make their work more visible, and readers in every corner of the world to access important information more easily. This is all the more important in view of the ever increasing trend of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary studies.

In 2017 we focused on numerous pressing topics our society is currently facing and were able to publish some outstanding works to help readers understand the current status of our planet. Sustainability, with its many facets, clearly remains one of the major key topics in environmental sciences and beyond. Its highly interdisciplinary character means that it is it is no mean feat to tackle the topic from a researcher’s and a publisher’s point of view, in order to meet all the needs of related science communities and stakeholders – starting with the often challenging task of finding a common terminology.

Sustainable Cities were chosen as the center of SpringerNature’s Grand Challenges activities aimed at promoting related research over the coming years. In the context of this program focus, in 2017 we published the “Handbook on Sustainability Transition and Sustainable Peace”, a reference work that shows ways of moving to sustainable transition, with numerous case studies from outside the Euro-Atlantic mainstream. It includes analyses on Temperature Rise and the Climate - Conflict Nexus; Initiating Research on Global Environmental Change, Limits to Growth, Decoupling of Growth and Resource Needs; Preparing Transitions towards a Sustainable Economy and Society, Production and Consumption and Urbanization, and was well-received by the scientific community.

Our readers confirmed their interest in sustainability and city development with the huge numbers of journal article downloads in 2017 for topics such as sustainable intensification of agriculture, treatment technologies for urban solid biowaste, and challenges of water, waste and climate change in cities.

Resilience is a key feature of sustainable living and is becoming more and more important. Researchers in a range of disciplines are working in this field: a good example is the open-access book “Resilience: A New Paradigm of Nuclear Safety,” which represents integration and collaboration among environmental science, radiological science, engineering, social sciences, and humanities, identifying future research questions and tasks to achieve a resilient society with a higher level of nuclear safety.

Coming back to the COP 21, the UN climate change conference that took place in Paris last June; if you want to learn more about its outcome, I warmly recommend our recently published open-access work “Paris Climate Agreement: Beacon of Hope” in which the authors transparently and convincingly argue that if conditional Paris INDC commitments are followed and the improvements in carbon intensity needed to achieve the Paris INDCs are carried forward to 2060 and beyond, global warming will likely remain 2°C below pre-industrial levels throughout this century.

Some regions are more vulnerable than others – in this context we are focusing e.g. on the polar regions, for which we have established a comprehensive program including αrktos, the Journal of Arctic Geosciences, and the book series Springer Polar Sciences, which was launched last year with an overview on “Northern Sustainabilities: Understanding and Addressing Change in the Circumpolar World”.

The open-access book “High Mountain Conservation in a Changing World” discusses a different wilderness region, using the example of the Pyrenees to provide a view of the main processes involved in the ecosystem shifts in high mountains: increasing temperatures causing shifts related to atmospheric chemical deposition, land use, and species invasion. If the poles and exposed mountain regions are too cold for you, why not delve into the proceedings volume on “Climate Change Adaptation in Africa: Fostering Resilience and Capacity to Adapt,” a unique compilation of case studies on best practices for climate change management across the African continent.

I also recommend our new book series “Advances in Critical Zone Science,” in which ‘critical zones’ are identified as the near-surface layer of the planet, which determines the availability of life-sustaining resources – extending from the surface of unaltered bedrock to the atmospheric boundary layer. The series aims at publishing interdisciplinary studies of the natural processes that shape the ‘critical zone’ and determine its evolution and the effects of natural and human-induced change. Watch this space!

We at SpringerNature are keen to do our bit in making our planet a better place to live. A set of recommendations for everyone is provided by Julian Cribb in his book “Surviving the 21st Century,” in which he enriches understanding of humanity's greatest challenges and why we need to solve them.

Last but not least, the Filter of Hope initiative – which supports people in developing countries in gaining access to safe drinking water by donating a household water filter for every review completed – will not only make journal publications more effective; most of all it supports the UN’s 2018 mission for a clean and healthy planet!

As Carl Sagan wisely said “Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are, by accident of fate, alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet”.


Dr. Johanna Schwarz, Senior Editor, works mainly on Environmental Sciences, Earth System Sciences, Natural Hazards, and Transdisciplinary Research.

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More 2017 Highlights from Springer's Physical Sciences

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