24,005 research outputs found

    The Metaverse: Survey, Trends, Novel Pipeline Ecosystem & Future Directions

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    The Metaverse offers a second world beyond reality, where boundaries are non-existent, and possibilities are endless through engagement and immersive experiences using the virtual reality (VR) technology. Many disciplines can benefit from the advancement of the Metaverse when accurately developed, including the fields of technology, gaming, education, art, and culture. Nevertheless, developing the Metaverse environment to its full potential is an ambiguous task that needs proper guidance and directions. Existing surveys on the Metaverse focus only on a specific aspect and discipline of the Metaverse and lack a holistic view of the entire process. To this end, a more holistic, multi-disciplinary, in-depth, and academic and industry-oriented review is required to provide a thorough study of the Metaverse development pipeline. To address these issues, we present in this survey a novel multi-layered pipeline ecosystem composed of (1) the Metaverse computing, networking, communications and hardware infrastructure, (2) environment digitization, and (3) user interactions. For every layer, we discuss the components that detail the steps of its development. Also, for each of these components, we examine the impact of a set of enabling technologies and empowering domains (e.g., Artificial Intelligence, Security & Privacy, Blockchain, Business, Ethics, and Social) on its advancement. In addition, we explain the importance of these technologies to support decentralization, interoperability, user experiences, interactions, and monetization. Our presented study highlights the existing challenges for each component, followed by research directions and potential solutions. To the best of our knowledge, this survey is the most comprehensive and allows users, scholars, and entrepreneurs to get an in-depth understanding of the Metaverse ecosystem to find their opportunities and potentials for contribution

    Pollution-induced community tolerance in freshwater biofilms – from molecular mechanisms to loss of community functions

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    Exposure to herbicides poses a threat to aquatic biofilms by affecting their community structure, physiology and function. These changes render biofilms to become more tolerant, but on the downside community tolerance has ecologic costs. A concept that addresses induced community tolerance to a pollutant (PICT) was introduced by Blanck and Wängberg (1988). The basic principle of the concept is that microbial communities undergo pollution-induced succession when exposed to a pollutant over a long period of time, which changes communities structurally and functionally and enhancing tolerance to the pollutant exposure. However, the mechanisms of tolerance and the ecologic consequences were hardly studied up to date. This thesis addresses the structural and functional changes in biofilm communities and applies modern molecular methods to unravel molecular tolerance mechanisms. Two different freshwater biofilm communities were cultivated for a period of five weeks, with one of the communities being contaminated with 4 μg L-1 diuron. Subsequently, the communities were characterized for structural and functional differences, especially focusing on their crucial role of photosynthesis. The community structure of the autotrophs was assessed using HPLC-based pigment analysis and their functional alterations were investigated using Imaging-PAM fluorometry to study photosynthesis and community oxygen profiling to determine net primary production. Then, the molecular fingerprints of the communities were measured with meta-transcriptomics (RNA-Seq) and GC-based community metabolomics approaches and analyzed with respect to changes in their molecular functions. The communities were acute exposed to diuron for one hour in a dose-response design, to reveal a potential PICT and uncover related adaptation to diuron exposure. The combination of apical and molecular methods in a dose-response design enabled the linkage of functional effects of diuron exposure and underlying molecular mechanisms based on a sensitivity analysis. Chronic exposure to diuron impaired freshwater biofilms in their biomass accrual. The contaminated communities particularly lost autotrophic biomass, reflected by the decrease in specific chlorophyll a content. This loss was associated with a change in the molecular fingerprint of the communities, which substantiates structural and physiological changes. The decline in autotrophic biomass could be due to a primary loss of sensitive autotrophic organisms caused by the selection of better adapted species in the course of chronic exposure. Related to this hypothesis, an increase in diuron tolerance has been detected in the contaminated communities and molecular mechanisms facilitating tolerance have been found. It was shown that genes of the photosystem, reductive-pentose phosphate cycle and arginine metabolism were differentially expressed among the communities and that an increased amount of potential antioxidant degradation products was found in the contaminated communities. This led to the hypothesis that contaminated communities may have adapted to oxidative stress, making them less sensitive to diuron exposure. Moreover, the photosynthetic light harvesting complex was altered and the photoprotective xanthophyll cycle was increased in the contaminated communities. Despite these adaptation strategies, the loss of autotrophic biomass has been shown to impair primary production. This impairment persisted even under repeated short-term exposure, so that the tolerance mechanisms cannot safeguard primary production as a key function in aquatic systems.:1. The effect of chemicals on organisms and their functions .............................. 1 1.1 Welcome to the anthropocene .......................................................................... 1 1.2 From cellular stress responses to ecosystem resilience ................................... 3 1.2.1 The individual pursuit for homeostasis ....................................................... 3 1.2.2 Stability from diversity ................................................................................. 5 1.3 Community ecotoxicology - a step forward in monitoring the effects of chemical pollution? ................................................................................................................. 6 1.4 Functional ecotoxicological assessment of microbial communities ................... 9 1.5 Molecular tools – the key to a mechanistic understanding of stressor effects from a functional perspective in microbial communities? ...................................... 12 2. Aims and Hypothesis ......................................................................................... 14 2.1 Research question .......................................................................................... 14 2.2 Hypothesis and outline .................................................................................... 15 2.3 Experimental approach & concept .................................................................. 16 2.3.1 Aquatic freshwater biofilms as model community ..................................... 16 2.3.2 Diuron as model herbicide ........................................................................ 17 2.3.3 Experimental design ................................................................................. 18 3. Structural and physiological changes in microbial communities after chronic exposure - PICT and altered functional capacity ................................................. 21 3.1 Introduction ..................................................................................................... 21 3.2 Methods .......................................................................................................... 23 3.2.1 Biofilm cultivation ...................................................................................... 23 3.2.2 Dry weight and autotrophic index ............................................................. 23 3.2.4 Pigment analysis of periphyton ................................................................. 23 3.2.4.1 In-vivo pigment analysis for community characterization ....................... 24 3.2.4.2 In-vivo pigment analysis based on Imaging-PAM fluorometry ............... 24 3.2.4.3 In-vivo pigment fluorescence for tolerance detection ............................. 26 3.2.4.4 Ex-vivo pigment analysis by high-pressure liquid-chromatography ....... 27 3.2.5 Community oxygen metabolism measurements ....................................... 28 3.3 Results and discussion ................................................................................... 29 3.3.1 Comparison of the structural community parameters ............................... 29 3.3.2 Photosynthetic activity and primary production of the communities after selection phase ................................................................................................. 33 3.3.3 Acquisition of photosynthetic tolerance .................................................... 34 3.3.4 Primary production at exposure conditions ............................................... 36 3.3.5 Tolerance detection in primary production ................................................ 37 3.4 Summary and Conclusion ........................................................................... 40 4. Community gene expression analysis by meta-transcriptomics ................... 41 4.1 Introduction to meta-transcriptomics ............................................................... 41 4.2. Methods ......................................................................................................... 43 4.2.1 Sampling and RNA extraction................................................................... 43 4.2.2 RNA sequencing analysis ......................................................................... 44 4.2.3 Data assembly and processing................................................................. 45 4.2.4 Prioritization of contigs and annotation ..................................................... 47 4.2.5 Sensitivity analysis of biological processes .............................................. 48 4.3 Results and discussion ................................................................................... 48 4.3.1 Characterization of the meta-transcriptomic fingerprints .......................... 49 4.3.2 Insights into community stress response mechanisms using trend analysis (DRomic’s) ......................................................................................................... 51 4.3.3 Response pattern in the isoform PS genes .............................................. 63 4.5 Summary and conclusion ................................................................................ 65 5. Community metabolome analysis ..................................................................... 66 5.1 Introduction to community metabolomics ........................................................ 66 5.2 Methods .......................................................................................................... 68 5.2.1 Sampling, metabolite extraction and derivatisation................................... 68 5.2.2 GC-TOF-MS analysis ............................................................................... 69 5.2.3 Data processing and statistical analysis ................................................... 69 5.3 Results and discussion ................................................................................... 70 5.3.1 Characterization of the metabolic fingerprints .......................................... 70 5.3.2 Difference in the metabolic fingerprints .................................................... 71 5.3.3 Differential metabolic responses of the communities to short-term exposure of diuron ............................................................................................................ 73 5.4 Summary and conclusion ................................................................................ 78 6. Synthesis ............................................................................................................. 79 6.1 Approaches and challenges for linking molecular data to functional measurements ...................................................................................................... 79 6.2 Methods .......................................................................................................... 83 6.2.1 Summary on the data ............................................................................... 83 6.2.2 Aggregation of molecular data to index values (TELI and MELI) .............. 83 6.2.3 Functional annotation of contigs and metabolites using KEGG ................ 83 6.3 Results and discussion ................................................................................... 85 6.3.1 Results of aggregation techniques ........................................................... 85 6.3.2 Sensitivity analysis of the different molecular approaches and endpoints 86 6.3.3 Mechanistic view of the molecular stress responses based on KEGG functions ............................................................................................................ 89 6.4 Consolidation of the results – holistic interpretation and discussion ............... 93 6.4.1 Adaptation to chronic diuron exposure - from molecular changes to community effects.............................................................................................. 93 6.4.2 Assessment of the ecological costs of Pollution-induced community tolerance based on primary production ............................................................. 94 6.5 Outlook ............................................................................................................ 9

    The stumbling block in ‘the race of our lives’: transition-critical materials, financial risks and the NGFS climate scenarios

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    Several ‘critical’ raw materials, including metals, minerals and Rare Earth Elements (REEs), play a central role in the low-carbon transition and are needed to expand the deployment of low-carbon technologies. The reliable and affordable supply of these resources is subject to supply-side risks and demand-induced pressures. This paper empirically estimates the material demand requirements for ‘Transition-Critical Materials’ (TCMs) implied under two NGFS Climate Scenarios, namely the ‘Net Zero by 2050’ and ‘Delayed Transition’ scenarios. We apply material intensity estimates to the underlying assumptions on the deployment of low-carbon technologies to determine the implied material demand between 2021 and 2040 for nine TCMs. We find several materials to be subject to significant demand-induced pressures under both scenarios. Subsequently, the paper examines the possible emergence of material bottlenecks for three materials, namely copper, lithium and nickel. The results indicate possible substantial mismatches between supply and demand, which would be further exacerbated if the transition is delayed rather than realised immediately. We discuss these findings in the context of different possible transmission channels through which these bottlenecks could affect financial and price stability, and propose avenues for future research

    Corporate Social Responsibility: the institutionalization of ESG

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    Understanding the impact of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) on firm performance as it relates to industries reliant on technological innovation is a complex and perpetually evolving challenge. To thoroughly investigate this topic, this dissertation will adopt an economics-based structure to address three primary hypotheses. This structure allows for each hypothesis to essentially be a standalone empirical paper, unified by an overall analysis of the nature of impact that ESG has on firm performance. The first hypothesis explores the evolution of CSR to the modern quantified iteration of ESG has led to the institutionalization and standardization of the CSR concept. The second hypothesis fills gaps in existing literature testing the relationship between firm performance and ESG by finding that the relationship is significantly positive in long-term, strategic metrics (ROA and ROIC) and that there is no correlation in short-term metrics (ROE and ROS). Finally, the third hypothesis states that if a firm has a long-term strategic ESG plan, as proxied by the publication of CSR reports, then it is more resilience to damage from controversies. This is supported by the finding that pro-ESG firms consistently fared better than their counterparts in both financial and ESG performance, even in the event of a controversy. However, firms with consistent reporting are also held to a higher standard than their nonreporting peers, suggesting a higher risk and higher reward dynamic. These findings support the theory of good management, in that long-term strategic planning is both immediately economically beneficial and serves as a means of risk management and social impact mitigation. Overall, this contributes to the literature by fillings gaps in the nature of impact that ESG has on firm performance, particularly from a management perspective

    Subspecies limits based on morphometry and mitochondrial DNA genomics in a polytypic species, the common grackle, Quiscalus quiscula

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    Nearctic migratory songbirds have demonstrated low levels of genetic differentiation and weak phylogeographical structure in mitochondrial DNA lineages compared with resident species. The common grackle, Quiscalus quiscula, is a widespread, partially migratory, North American icterid composed of three currently recognized subspecies. In this study, mensural characters (external and skeletal measurements) and the complete mitochondrial genome together with two mitochondrial genes, Cytb and ND2, were used to investigate subspecific differentiation and demographic history of the common grackle. The results showed substantial variation in body size among subspecies, mostly distributed between the ‘Florida grackle’, Quiscalus quiscula quiscula, and the two other subspecies. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA indicated low levels of genetic variation, but we found distinct haplotypes in Florida that form a clade in the phylogenetic tree. This suggests that the nominate subspecies in Florida is a distinct evolutionary unit. The sharing of haplotypes among the other subspecies (Quiscalus quiscula versicolor and Quiscalus quiscula stonei) in the north suggests high levels of gene flow, making the status of these two subspecies equivocal. Gene f low between nominate Q. q. quiscula, Q. q. versicolor and putative Q. q. stonei is probably attributable to historical changes in distribution and abundance following climate change events. We therefore recognize only two subspecies in the common grackle complex

    Biological impacts of marine heatwaves

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    Climatic extremes are becoming increasingly common against a background trend of global warming. In the oceans, marine heatwaves (MHWs)—discrete periods of anomalously warm water—have intensified and become more frequent over the past century, impacting the integrity of marine ecosystems globally. We review and synthesize current understanding of MHW impacts at the individual, population, and community levels. We then examine how these impacts affect broader ecosystem services and discuss the current state of research on biological impacts of MHWs. Finally, we explore current and emergent approaches to predicting the occurrence and impacts of future events, along with adaptation and management approaches. With further increases in intensity and frequency projected for coming decades, MHWs are emerging as pervasive stressors to marine ecosystems globally. A deeper mechanistic understanding of their biological impacts is needed to better predict and adapt to increased MHW activity in the Anthropocene
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