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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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Fish in sea

Finding food security underwater

Our growing need for food poses one of the biggest threats to the environment. Stanford ocean and food security experts explain how the ocean could produce dramatically more food while driving sustainable economic growth.

Plants

Predicting plant water needs in a warmer, drier world

New research suggests dry air and warmer temperatures may prompt bigger than expected changes in how water moves through plants. The adjustment may allow plants to survive with less water in future droughts, while downshifting how much carbon they absorb.

Bumblee bee

Staying off the murder hornet list

Experts from the Stanford-based Natural Capital Project explain the value of wild bees in our agricultural systems, especially in light of the increased risk murder hornets pose to domesticated honey bees.

Tractor

COVID-19 could exacerbate food insecurity around the world

COVID-19 and other looming threats could make it much harder for people to access food. David Lobell, director of Stanford’s Center on Food Security and the Environment, outlines likely scenarios and possible solutions.

Olive baboon

How forest loss leads to spread of disease

Viruses that jump from animals to people, like the one responsible for COVID-19, will likely become more common as people continue to transform natural habitats into agricultural land, a new study suggests.

Coffee plants

Crop diversity can buffer the effects of climate change

The researchers found that farms with diverse crops planted together provide more secure, stable habitats for wildlife and are more resilient to climate change than the single-crop standard that dominates today’s agriculture industry.

2019 text

Editor's picks: Top 10 Stanford Earth Matters stories of 2019

In a roundup that spans energy, geology, geophysics and Earth systems, here are some of the most interesting, high-impact and popular research stories from 2019.

Corn plants

Reduced soil tilling helps both soils and yields

By monitoring crops through machine learning and satellite data, Stanford scientists have found farms that till the soil less can increase yields of corn and soybeans and improve the health of the soil – a win-win for global food security.

Farmers in rice paddy

Rice yields plummet and arsenic rises in future climate-soil scenarios

Research combining future climate conditions and arsenic-induced soil stresses predicts rice yields could decline about 40 percent by 2100, a loss that would impact about 2 billion people dependent on the global crop.

Wheat field

How can microsatellite data impact agricultural interventions?

New research finds small satellites can help increase food production in a low-cost and sustainable way.

Turmeric

Finding lead in turmeric

Some spice processors in Bangladesh use an industrial lead chromate pigment to imbue turmeric with a bright yellow color prized for curries and other traditional dishes, elevating blood lead levels in Bangladeshis.

Seafood

What drove the collapse of Mexico’s jumbo squid fishery?

Stanford-led research has identified a perfect storm of warming waters and reduced food to blame in the collapse of the once-lucrative jumbo squid fishery off Baja California.

Farm

A new way to grow crops in marginal soils could help feed the world

The discovery of an eco-friendly form of genetic engineering for plants has the potential to open up more farmland for food production.

Soil

New process rinses heavy metals from toxic soils

An experimental chemical bath and electrochemical filter could now extract heavy metals from the soil and leave fields safe.

Recharge

Can California better use winter storms to refill its aquifers?

With new rules for groundwater management coming into effect, engineers are looking to harness an unconventional and unwieldy source of water: the torrential storms that sometimes soak California.

Tomatoes

When food waste becomes a pollutant

Forty percent of food produced for consumption never gets eaten. Instead, it fills landfills and releases greenhouse gases. California now aims to drastically reduce the amount of food that ends up in the ground.

Dry landscape

Domino droughts: How droughts travel across continents

New research finds one drought can amplify or trigger another. Decreased moisture recycling and transport impacts how droughts form and move across continents.

Wheat

A better way to predict Australian wheat yields

New research harnesses machine learning to accurately predict Australian wheat yields using climate and satellite data. The method could be translated to other crops and nations.

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