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Animals, plants already feeling effects of global warming

Global warming is having a significant impact on hundreds of plant and animal species around the world -- although the most dramatic effects may not be felt for decades, according to a new study in the journal Nature. "Birds are laying eggs earlier than usual, plants are flowering earlier and mammals are breaking hibernation sooner," said Terry L. Root, a senior fellow with Stanford's Institute for International Studies (IIS) and lead author of the Jan. 2 Nature study. "Clearly, if such ecological changes are now being detected when the globe has warmed by an estimated average of only 1 degree F (0.6 C) over the past 100 years, then many more far-reaching effects on species and ecosystems will probably occur by 2100, when temperatures could increase as much as 11 F (6 C)," Root concluded.

People from distant lands have strikingly similar genetic traits

Scientists have long recognized that, despite physical differences, all human populations are genetically similar to one another. But a new study in the journal Science concludes that populations from different parts of the world share even more genetic similarities than had previously been assumed. At the same time, researchers found that tiny differences in DNA can provide enough information to identify the geographic ancestry of individual men and women.

Climate surprise: High CO2 levels can retard plant growth

The prevailing view among scientists is that global climate change may prove beneficial to many farmers and foresters -- at least in the short term. The logic is straightforward: Plants need atmospheric carbon dioxide to produce food, and by emitting more CO2 into the air, our cars and factories create new sources of plant nutrition that will cause some crops and trees to grow bigger and faster. But an unprecedented three-year experiment conducted at Stanford University is raising questions about that long-held assumption. Writing in the journal Science, researchers concluded that elevated atmospheric CO2 actually reduces plant growth when combined with other likely consequences of climate change -- namely, higher temperatures, increased precipitation or increased nitrogen deposits in the soil.

Thar she blows?

Mauna Loa,? Hawaii's biggest and potentially most destructive volcano,? is showing signs of life again nearly two decades after its last eruption. Recent geophysical data collected on the surface of the 13,500-foot volcano revealed that Mauna Loa's summit caldera has begun to swell and stretch at a rate of 2 to 2.5 inches a year, according to scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Stanford University. Surface inflation can be a precursor of a volcanic eruption, the scientists warn.

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