Elementa publishes original research with the ultimate objective of accelerating scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact. Structured into six distinct knowledge domains, the Sustainability Transitions domain welcomes contributions that advance knowledge on shifting society-environment interactions to sustainability — to a world in which human beings and other life flourish in diverse social and environmental contexts. A primary purpose of this domain is to bridge boundaries among disciplines, geographies, cultures, and institutions, and between scholars and practitioners; thus, we encourage submissions from scholars in the social and natural sciences and humanities, and practitioners, innovators, and leaders who are forging ahead with strategies to shift towards sustainability.
For the full Aims & Scope of the Sustainability Transitions domain, please click here.
In addition to innovative features including a value-sharing business model and an article-promotion partnership with Kudos, Elementa articles are highly used and downloaded (see highlighted articles below). For the full Elementa story, visit our website at elementascience.org.
For Elementa news and updates, be sure to follow along on Facebook and Twitter.
There has never been a more important time to ensure that transparent, evidence-based, peer-reviewed research has the widest and most impactful dissemination as possible. Please consider submitting your papers to Elementa or developing a Special Feature or Forum, and feel free to get in touch with Anne Kapuscinski, Dartmouth, Editor in Chief for Sustainability Transitions, should you have any questions.
Kevin J. Dooley, Sustainability Transitions Associate Editor, Department of Supply Chain Management, Arizona State University, is currently inviting submissions to a special forum on “Multi-stakeholder Initiatives for Sustainable Supply Networks”. This forum encourages interdisciplinary and especially practitioner perspectives to address the sustainability transition challenge: How are multi‐stakeholder initiatives being used to create sustainable supply networks?
For those new to it, Elementa is a mission-driven Open Access journal whose ultimate objective is to publish original research reporting that accelerates scientific solutions to the challenges presented by this era of human impact. Elementa articles receive high usage and download metrics (see example articles below), and authors can look forward to their freely-accessible work having a significant impact across interdisciplinary fields and diverse audiences.
For any author whose article is accepted but cannot pay for the Article Processing Charge (APC), an APC waiver fund is available (more on our value-sharing model here). There are no fees for submission.
Published by University of California Press and organized around six knowledge domains—Atmospheric Science, Earth & Environmental Science, Ecology, Ocean Science, Sustainable Engineering, and Sustainability Transitions—Elementa is a not-for-profit, open access scientific journal publishing original research reporting on new knowledge of the Earth’s physical, chemical, and biological systems; interactions between human and natural systems; and steps that can be taken to mitigate and adapt to global change.
Elementa welcomes your research related to human health and environmental change, including article submission related to:
Biodiversity loss and human health
Connections between happiness, health and GDP
Connections between healthy ecosystems and healthy communities
Ecosystem approaches to controlling emerging threats from infectious diseases
Health impacts of the shift to clean energy
Healthy food systems, healthy communities
Human health and sustainability
Human health consequences of climate change (direct and indirect)
—the Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene Team
p.s. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene includes a number of innovative features, including a novel mechanism that gives back to the research community by recognizing and sharing the value contributed by editors and peer reviewers; and an article-sharing partnership with Kudos to increase the reach and impact of your work. To learn more please visit elementascience.org.
Your work examines the effects of environmental and management variation on multiple dimensions of agro-ecosystems in the context of global change. Please tell us more about your current research.
My research focuses on elucidating linkages between agriculture, nutrition, and health in food systems with the objective to inform evidence-based management plans that promote sustainability. This work is based out of the Food and Health Lab that I co-lead at Montana State University with Carmen Byker Shanks. The overall mission of the Food and Health Lab is to carry out basic and applied research on the agroecological, phytonutrient, behavioral, and sensory basis of food systems from farm to consumer to waste. I collaboratively work on two main research areas as part of the Food and Health Lab that are supported by case studies at the local, regional, and international levels. The first area is on Environmental Effects on Specialty Crop Quality and Agroecological Management and the second area is on the Influence of Food Environments on Dietary Quality and Food Security.
I am currently focused on research activities for five federally funded projects that support my two main research areas as part of the Food and Health Lab including the following:
(1) Climate Effects on Tea Quality and Socio-Economic Responses (NSF CNH)
(2) Sustainable Socio-economic, Ecological, and Technological Scenarios for Achieving Global Climate Stabilization Through Negative CO2 Emission Policies (NSF EPSCoR)
(3) Enhancing Dietary Quality through a Community-Based Food Intervention for FDPIR Participants on the Flathead Reservation (NIH INBRE)
(4) Extension and Outreach Supporting Climate-Resilient Sustainable Agriculture in Montana (USDA Western SARE)
(5) Climate Effects on the Culture and Ecology of Sugar Maple (USGS NE Climate Center)
I draw from a range of field and laboratory methods in the natural and social sciences to address my research questions including manipulative greenhouse and common garden experiments; biodiversity inventories; phytochemical and bioactivity profiling; crop genetic analysis; interviews, focus groups, and semi-structured surveys; dietary surveys and; sensory analysis.
Interdisciplinary collaboration, student involvement, and community engagement are defining characteristics of my research. The ultimate translational goals of my research program are to identify strategies that reduce vulnerability of agroecosystems and food systems more broadly to global change as well as to design solutions for sustainability towards improving both human and environmental health outcomes.
Photo credit: Adrian Sanchez Gonzalez
Like Elementa, your work is fundamentally collaborative across multiple disciplines. How has a transdisciplinary approach yielded new discoveries in your research?
Looking through a kaleidoscope is a beautiful experience because it enables us to see one scene through multiple forms and colors in a dynamic manner. Likewise, a transdisciplinary approach enables us to see a problem more holistically in dynamic forms and processes. Agroecological, food systems, and global change issues are inherently transdisciplinary in nature and require a transdisciplinary approach to identify challenges and solutions. Taking a coupled natural and human systems approach to understanding social and ecological processes and related feedbacks as well as working with multiple stakeholders in my research has provided diverse perspectives and vantage points to better understand issues and design evidence-based solutions.
What fascinates you about the history and sustainability of tea?
I am fascinated by human interactions with the environment and tea provides a remarkable lens to examine these dynamics. Tea is an elegant plant that has influenced cultures, livelihoods, and landscapes for almost 2,000 years. Likewise, humans have shaped tea throughout history and driven the spread of its cultivation and use outside of the motherland of this plant. Hundreds of years of human management of tea in diverse geographic, cultural, and agroecological contexts, each with their own unique terroir, have resulted in a diverse botanical product with a range of tastes and aromas. I am fascinated about what the taste of tea and tell us about a place.
I am further fascinated about how the management of tea influences sustainability. My focal study system is tea agroforestry that relies on a diverse structure and composition for ecosystem services. For the past decade, I have been comparing the biodiversity and resilience of indigenous tea agroforests in southwestern Yunnan with modern intensified tea gardens towards identifying sustainability solutions.
The Tea Horse Road is a large-format book I co-authored with photographer Michael Freeman that takes readers on a journey along the world’s oldest and highest tea trade route from the motherland of the tea plant in southwestern China to Tibet. The book is an exploration of the rich cultural practices and biological diversity of the lives and landscapes that were touched by the exchange of tea and other natural resources. Agroecological conditions are harsh in the Tibetan Plateau and communities here began to rely on tea from southern Yunnan and Sichuan as a substitute for fruits and vegetables. At the same time, China had a need to defend its northern territory from encroaching kingdoms and desired war horses that Tibet could supply. Thus started what became an exchange of tea from China for war horses from Tibet, with numerous other natural resources, along a network of trails over 3,000 kilometers through forests, gorges and high passes onto the Himalayan plateaus.
Photo Credit: Michael Freeman (c)
I began working on this book during my doctoral dissertation on biocultural diversity of tea production and consumption. One of the driving forces of my involvement with this book was to disseminate results from my research to a broader audience in addition to a scientific audience. Michael Freeman takes spectacular photographs that very effectively capture the beauty of this ancient trade route as well as has a wonderful knack translating research for a general audience. Working with Michael Freeman has been an incredible learning experience on non-academic publishing. Since the publishing of this book, I have had the opportunity to give multiple book talks to a general audience including at the Seattle Art Museum, the Denver Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, and the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art.
Since working on this book, I am convinced regarding the need to publish via multiple platforms for different types of audiences. The first edition of this book sold out and the second edition was released last summer. I published the non-trade version of my second book with Michael Freeman, Life of Tea, last year. I just signed a contract for my third collaborative book for a general audience on botany and biodiversity of craft-based beverages with Ashley DuVal and Rachel Meyer. I am also working on three additional book ideas with collaborators including a children’s adventure book with Jeff Fuchs, a tasting book with Kevin Gascoyne, and a book on family guidelines to reduce food waste with Carmen Byker Shanks.
Your research has induced criticism and obstructionism from lawmakers who have challenged your NSF funding for a China-focused initiative in the context of US fiscal challenges. How, from your perspective, does this kind of research have broader implications for sustainability research with global implications, including for the US?
My collaborative NSF CNH grant on climate effects on tea quality in China that was challenged by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 has multiple broader implications for sustainability research. I have already adapted the theories and methods for interdisciplinary scholarship resulting from this NSF climate and tea project for other study systems in the United States including sugar maple in Northeast United States and agriculture more broadly in Montana, the Northern Great Plains, and the Upper Missouri River Basin.
Beyond being produced and consumed in China, tea is a globally important crop as the world’s most consumed beverage after water, including for consumers in the USA. Findings from our research are informing the design of evidence-based tea agroecosystem management practices that mitigate risks of climate change and support economic sustainability of farmer livelihoods and environmental sustainability of agroecosystems. These solutions can be implemented in tea producing areas globally, including in Hawaii that has a growing tea sector, as well as can be adapted to inform the management of other specialty crops.
Ultimately the efforts of the U.S. House of Representatives to obstruct this international research brought attention to the issue of climate effects on agriculture and spurred a needed dialogue on the role of university researchers in contributing to the science on this topic. I have come to recognize that we must continue with the work we believe is necessary on addressing pressing agroecological and food systems issues towards enhancing sustainability, including in the face of political opposition. Agroecology is after all not only a science, but also a practice and movement. Sometimes when our research faces opposition, it may indicate that progress is being made.
The Elementa journal and the Sustainability Transitions domain overall, as well as the forum on ‘New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems’ more specifically, very much resonate with my research interests and goals. I immediately felt compelled to submit an article for consideration for publication upon reading the call for submissions for the agroecological forum. I was further intrigued by the unique format and interactive nature of the journal, the categories for types of articles, the opening commentaries of the journal and Sustainability Transitions domain, and the focus on work from both researchers and practitioners. I agree with the editors and guest editors of the ‘New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems’ forum that an approach between researchers, farmers, and other practitioners is essential in creating new approaches to improving the function and resilience of agroecosystems. The editors and guest editors are well known scientists in their fields which makes it even more attractive. Ultimately, I respect the goals of Elementa and the Sustainability Transitions domain and wanted to contribute to these goals and be a part of the community of researchers and practitioners that this journal is bringing together.
This review article synthesizes the scientific literature on the effects of climate change on specialty crop quality to provide examples of specialty crops that are vulnerable to climate risks based on secondary metabolite profiles that influence flavor and medicinal attributes of crops. My co-authored article further provides a review on agroecological strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change on crops and highlights agricultural diversification as a promising strategy for climate resilience. This article goes on to integrate the concepts from our literature review and presents a socio-ecological systems framework that can be applied to examine feedbacks between crop quality, consumer responses, and agroecosystem management.
What has been your experience as an Elementa author?
I have found my experience publishing with Elementa as unique compared to other journals in a positive way. Publishing as part of the New Pathways to Sustainability in Agroecological Systems forum has given me the sense of being part of a community that is seeking to advance agroecology as a transdiciplinary science, evidence-based practice, and movement. The Sustainability Transitions domain has been effective in developing a community, which is a key characteristic of sustainability. I have interacted with multiple researchers and practitioners as a result of contributing an article to the agroecological forum as well as have had the opportunity to interact with other authors of the agroecological forum in multiple ways. Thus, the journal very much seems to practice what it presents which is refreshing and a wonderful model for publishing.
What would you like to see more of in scholarly publishing?
I would love to see abridged general audience versions of scientific articles that are presented alongside full scientific articles. This way, researchers can engage the general public and the general public can more effectively interact with research towards ultimately helping transform society towards enhanced sustainability. I would also be eager to see more interactive and community-building publishing platforms such as that modeled by Elementa.
“Not all Brazilians get clear information about climate, as it happens within indigenous groups. The prize allows us to give them fundamental data to plan their living,” says Paulo Moutinho, senior researcher at IPAM, Elementa Associate Editor, and Guest Editor of the Special Feature, The extinction of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon: Is it possible? This week Google has awarded US$ 3.1 million to innovative ideas in Brazil: US$ 436,000 to each winning project, and US$ 189,000 for each five finalists.
“Indigenous people really need support to get ready to face the changes that happen all over the world and with all the animals,” says Paxton Metuktire, member of Kayapo people from the Amazon.
IPAM’s project is part of the System of Observation and Monitoring of the Amazon Indigenous Territories SOMAI, which is an online platform that organizes information about more than 380 Indigenous Lands in the region, as forested area, deforestation rate and climate trends.
An app called Indigenous Climate Alert will feed smartphones operated by indigenous people with climate information of their lands, as severe droughts and precipitation fluctuation, thus they can prepare their community, adapting the agricultural calendar or avoiding fire, for instance.
Besides, the indigenous communities will also feed the app with ground data, which will improve SOMAI database to generate better regional climate predictions. In this sense, the project brings a combination of traditional and scientific information.
Around 430,000 people in indigenous lands protect 110 million hectares of Amazon forest, which correspond to 13 billion tons of carbon dioxide. “Indigenous people have an important role in tropical forest conservation, therefore to the climate balance,” says Fernanda Bortolotto, coordinator of IPAM’s indigenous study center.
“Between now and the next 15 years we have to have made the pivot in our policies.”
In an interview with Vermont Public Radio, which aired on December 7th, Editor-in-Chief Anne Kapuscinski, who is also the new Union of Concerned Scientists Board Chair, explains how she contributed to the climate change talks at COP21 in Paris last week. The full interview is available for download here.
“Women tend to bring a diverse set of perspectives to the actual approach of doing the research…”
Editor-in-Chief Anne Kapuscinski contributed to a NHRP discussion on the role and opportunities for women in science, tech, engineering, and math. She is joined by Michelline Dufort, the Director of Business Relations and Programs at the New Hampshire High Tech Council; and Melissa Jurkoic, Technical Product Manager and Newmarket International. The full podcast cast be accessed here.
“Anne is a pioneer in her field and we are thrilled she will be channeling her vast intellect and creativity into this position,”
Press release published by Union of Concerned Scientists, October 28, 2015.
Washington (October 28, 2015)—Anne Kapuscinski, Sherman Fairchild distinguished professor of sustainability science in the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College, assumed the chairmanship of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) board of directors today.
“Anne is a pioneer in her field and we are thrilled she will be channeling her vast intellect and creativity into this position,” said UCS President Ken Kimmell.
Kapuscinski is a leader in sustainability science, which studies the interactions between the natural world and social institutions such as economics and policy—and how those interactions support the goals of meeting present and future generations’ needs, reducing poverty, and conserving the planet’s life support systems. Kapuscinski’s research focuses on integrated food and energy systems.
She replaces Jim McCarthy, Alexander Agassiz professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who served as UCS board chair for six years.
“Jim has led UCS through a remarkable period of growth,” said Kimmell. “We’ll miss his vision and unflagging energy but are glad he will continue his involvement on the board.”
Kapuscinski has been a scientific advisor to the U.S. secretary of agriculture under three administrations, as well as to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, European Union Food Safety Agency, and state of Minnesota. She has served on several U.S. National Academy of Sciences committees and received numerous awards for her work, including an honor award from former U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and a distinguished service award from the Society for Conservation Biology. She joined UCS’s board of directors in 2002.
As a professor, Kapuscinski said, she’s excited to help connect UCS with a younger generation of scientists, whose enthusiasm for sustainability she witnesses firsthand in students’ research. “I’ve seen a major upswing of student involvement in these issues,” she said. “I feel I’m well-positioned to give feedback as UCS staff expands their reach to younger scientists.”
Overall, Kapuscinski said, she is honored to chair the UCS board. “I deeply value how effective UCS is—synthesizing the best science, conducting insightful analyses, communicating incredibly well, and making science-driven recommendations. It’s a combination that leads to significant, needed changes in the policy arena.”
“It will be necessary… to establish a policy to provide financial sustainability to those actions protecting forests”
In an NPR news story by Lourdez Garcia-Navarro on October 14th, 2014, Paulo Moutinho, Associate Editor for Elementa‘s Sustainability Transitions domain, from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute expressed his concerns about a change in Brazil’s government potentially harming progress against Amazonian deforestation. The story In Brazil, Conservationists Worried New Congress Could Harm Amazon, also features the views of Greenpeace representative Pedro Telles, and Alberto Verissimo from Imazon, who monitors deforestation in the Amazon.
Paulo Moutinho expands on this story, stating: “Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped 70% since 2006 as a consequence of protected areas expansions, law enforcement and other actions. But, to reach the zero deforestation and consolidate it we need to do more. It will be necessary – for example – to establish a policy to provide financial sustainability to those actions protecting forests. So, the Brazilians have in their hands a chance to do in the Amazon the so dreamed sustainable development. I hope our new Congress does not miss this opportunity.”
Elementa will be publishing research on this topic in the forthcoming months.