Monday, August 31, 2015

Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area is the most vulnerable U.S. region to flood damages from a hurricane

A new study from Karen Clark & Co. shows the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area is the most vulnerable U.S. region to flood damages from a hurricane.

As opposed to most other vulnerability studies, this one considers property damages from a storm surge associated with a 100-year hurricane.

The 100-year hurricane is an event for which there is a 1 percent chance of occurrence each year. Tampa’s 100-year hurricane is defined as a strong category 4 with top winds of 150 mph. Damages from the storm surge associated with such a hurricane would reach up to $175 billion.

Losses in the region are predicted to be higher than those in New Orleans ($130 billion), New York City ($100 billion) and Miami ($80 billion).

Sarasota ranks as the seventh-most vulnerable city with projected losses of $50 million.

The large, shallow continental shelf off the coast of west Florida combined with the funnel effect of water surging into the bay could lead to a massive amount of property damage in the surrounding areas, the study shows. The study also states that the majority of the potential flood damage is not currently insured.

What's Better For Afghanistan's Future: Buddha Tours Or A Copper Mine?

About an hour's drive south of Kabul, there's a vast Buddhist archaeological site dating back at least 1,500 years. It happens to be sitting on top of one of the biggest untapped copper deposits in the world, potentially worth billions of dollars.
 Nearly a hundred ancient Buddhist shrines like this one have been uncovered by archaeologists at Mes Aynak, south of Kabul.

 The ground at Mes Aynak is so rich in copper that rock and bones — like this skeleton found lying near a Buddhist shrine — are stained greenish-blue.

By the time archaeologists uncovered this statue of the Buddha at Mes Aynak, its head was gone — likely broken off by looters.
Eight years ago, the Afghan government made a deal with a Chinese conglomerate to mine the copper, but mining hasn't begun and likely won't for several more years. The area in which the copper is located, Logar Province, presents challenges in both security and infrastructure: no reliable water or power supply, no railway for transporting copper and increasing threats from the Taliban.
The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that Afghanistan holds $1 trillion in mineral wealth but none of it has ever been developed. This could represent a huge and much-needed source of revenue for a country long dependent on foreign aid. But given other countries' experience with the so-called "resource curse," concerns have been raised over whether Afghanistan's natural resources can or will be exploited responsibly. Part of the concern has centered on whether extracting copper at Mes Aynak must result inevitably in the destruction of a spectacular archaeological site that has been compared to Machu Picchu and Pompeii. Historical riches like this, advocates argue, represent a different kind of wealth and could hold the key to a thriving tourism industry in the future.
Villagers have been hired to help archaeologists with the excavation.


Friday, August 28, 2015

The Microbes on the Handprint of an 8-Year-Old After Playing Outside

We all know our bodies are home to countless millions of bacteria and microorganisms, but without seeing them with our bare eyes it’s almost impossible to comprehend. This petri dish handprint created by Tasha Sturm of Cabrillo College, vividly illustrates the variety of bacteria found on her 8-year-old son’s hand after playing outdoors. The print itself represents several days of growth as different yeasts, fungi, and bacteria are allowed to incubate.
It’s safe to say almost everything you see growing in this specimen is harmless and in many cases even beneficial to a person’s immunity, but it just goes to show why we sometimes it’s good to wash our hands. Sturm discusses in detail how she made the print in the comments of this page. (via Ziya Tong)

New Tesla Breaks Consumer Reports' Ratings Scale, Bolsters Company's Stock

With a rare mix of blazing speed, safety and energy efficiency, the new Tesla Model S P85D left the folks at Consumer Reports grasping for ways to properly rate the car, after it scored a 103 — out of 100. "It kind of broke the system," says Jake Fisher, director of the magazine's auto test division.
Listing the all-electric car's attributes, including its improved handling and stopping power, Fisher says, "We're seeing numbers that we haven't seen before. So this kind of blew out the system. We're giving it a score of 100."

That final rating came after the product testing organization adjusted its metrics a bit (but it says it won't now grade all other cars on the P85D's curve). It posted the results online Thursday — and in a rare move, Consumer Reports didn't require a subscription to see the Tesla ratings (that move very likely played a part in the company's trouble with its Web servers).
In a video discussion of the Model S P85D, Fisher says, "We're not used to seeing large cars go 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. We're not used to seeing large cars that get an equivalent of 87 miles per gallon, and are that fast. So it really blows apart a lot of things."
Consumer Reports' experts note that the score doesn't mean the car has achieved perfection — for one thing, there's the $127,820 price tag of the tested model. That makes it the most expensive car that the magazine has ever tested. And then there's the base model's estimated range of about 250 miles on a single charge.
But the magazine's autos editor, Mark Rechtin, also notes that the Tesla is impressive for its quickness in applying power to the road — and pushing its occupants back in their seats.
"This car goes from 0 to 1.02 G's in less than a quarter of a second," Rechtin says, "which is almost as fast as the human brain can react."
That rush of speed happens silently, Rechtin added. He said, "The only other way that you can feel that, in a legal setting, is to basically jump out of an airplane."
We'll note that those speeds reflect a car outfitted with the "Insane" driving mode. The quicker "Ludicrous" mode gets to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, according to Tesla.
The glowing review generated intense interest in the car Thursday (as of this writing, the Consumer Reports website has crashed); it also propelled Tesla's stock to an 8 percent gain, to a close of $242.99 on the Nasdaq market. That's quite a bounce for a stock that, at the opening of Monday's trading session, could be had (briefly) for $202.
On the performance of Tesla's stock, The Wall Street Journal notes, "at midday, Tesla's market value stood at $31.7 billion, up $2.5 billion from Wednesday's close."
In its first years in the auto market, Tesla has focused on high-priced cars. The Model S cost more than $50,000 when it was introduced, and the new Model S P85D has a base price of $104,500. But earlier this year, the company announced plans to produce a more affordable car called the Model 3, with a list price of $35,000. npr

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chefs Invite Corn Fungus To The Plate

One evening last July, Nat Bradford walked along rows of White Bolita Mexican corn at his Sumter, S.C., farm, and nearly wept. All 1,400 of the corn plants had been overtaken almost overnight by corn smut, recalls Bradford, who's also a landscape architect. The smut, from a fungus called Ustilago maydis, literally transforms each corn kernel into a bulbous, bulging bluish-grey gall. It is naturally present in the soil and can be lofted easily into the air and onto plants.

Smut is considered a scourge by most U.S. farmers, and it goes by the nickname "devil's corn."Just one discolored kernel typically renders an ear completely unsellable. Bradford was particularly devastated because he was growing the corn for Chef Sean Brock, who'd imported the White Bolita seeds from Mexico and asked Bradford to grow it for the handmade tortillas he planned to serve at Minero, his Mexican restaurant in Charleston, S.C. After Bradford saw the smut, he sat at his kitchen table, shoulders slumped and said to his wife, "How am I going to tell him?"
But one man's blight is another man's treasure, and Brock, also an executive chef at Husk Restaurant and co-owner of McCrady's Restaurant, both in Charleston was delighted to hear that his crop had been infested with the fungus. He'd first encountered it in 2001 when working with a chef named Walter Bundy at LeMaire restaurant in Richmond, Va.
He asked Bradford to harvest the smut by hand and bring it to Charleston, where Brock prepared tacos with it. "I love when nature throws you a curveball, and it tastes like this," says Brock. "It's insanely delicious and luxurious, like black truffles."
Brock isn't alone in his view—there has been a dedicated corn smut underground for decades in America, even as corn growers and the government have spent millions trying to eradicate it, forbid imports of it and breed strains of corn resistant to it.
But in Mexico, corn smut is known as huitlacoche, and it's long been a delicacy . Traditionally, families would walk miles among the cornstalks just to gather a basket of ears infected with this distant relative of mushrooms. It is still sold fresh at markets and used as a filling in tacos, quesadillas and soups. "It may have been ambrosia of the Aztec gods with an inky, mushroomy flavor that is almost impossible to describe," wrote Diana Kennedy, the "Julia Child of Mexico," in her 1986 book The Cuisines of Mexico.
In Mexico's corn-loving culture, the quasi-mushroom also provides nutrition: high amounts of the essential amino acid lysine that's absent in corn, as well as lots of fiber and protein. Together, corn and huitlacoche make a complete protein meal.
Here in the U.S., huitlacoche first gained national attention in 1989, when Josefina Howard, chef and co-founder of the Mexican food chain Rosa Mexicano, served a celebrated huitlacoche feast at the James Beard House in New York City. The restaurant still regularly offers huitlacoche dishes at its New York and Washington, D.C., locations, and it can be found at assorted other restaurants around the country.
But even if some chefs are keen to serve huitlacoche, it's difficult to source fresh. The fungal infection depends on nature's whims. "My husband Randall and I grow a really tall local heirloom field corn that produces one ear per stalk," says Liz Porter, ofBuckeye Creek Farm in Woodstock, Ga. "When we get ears with huitlacoche we harvest them and sell it to local chefs. But we never know when it will show up."
Rosa Mexicano's executive chef, Joe Quintana, gets his huitlacoche flash frozen from the nation's only specialty grower: Roy Burns of Burns Farms Huitlacoche in Groveland, Fla. "More and more customers are willing to try it," says Quintana. "It's sweet, savory and earthy."
Farmers like Liz Porter and Nat Bradford say they would like to inoculate a certain amount of corn each year, with advance orders from chefs. That may soon be possible, as mycologists and scientists start to get involved in a new approach to infecting corn deliberately. npr

tony gleaton's photography

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nature May Have A Profound Effect On Our Religiosity

In U.S. counties with warm winters, temperate summers and beautiful natural resources — like beaches, lakes, hills or mountains — people's rates of affiliation with religious organizations are lower than in other places, according to a new study.
The study's authors, Todd W. Ferguson and Jeffrey A. Tamburello of Baylor University, write in the journal Sociology of Religion: "Natural amenities can be considered as a resource for spirituality that has the power to satisfy some people's need for inspiration, awe and divine connection ... When a person hikes in a forest to connect with the sacred, she or he may not feel the need to affiliate with a religious organization because her or his spiritual demands are met."
I first read about this study in a USA Today article headlined "God competes against Mother Nature on Sundays" and wondered right off about definitions. Worshipping God, affiliating with a religious organization and experiencing a sense of spirituality may all overlap — but certainly they're not the same. How do the Baylor researchers distinguish these dimensions, and how did they measure an area's natural resources?
Ferguson and Tamburello make use of a very cool USDA map that plots the results of the Natural Amenities Scale, which measures natural amenities in each of 3,107 U.S. counties (essentially all counties in the lower 48 states). Those amenities are assessed by six qualities people prefer, according to previous research: warm winter, winter sun, temperate summer, low summer humidity, topographical variation and water area, each precisely defined.
As the Washington Post reports, Ventura County, Calif., took the nation's top spot based on this ranking system; in fact, every one of the top ten counties is in California.
Measuring religiosity was trickier. In their paper, Ferguson and Tamburello use the term "religious adherence." Earlier this week, I asked Ferguson by email to clarify for me what precisely this means, and he replied in this way:
"A religious adherent is an individual who is connected (member, attender, etc.) to a religious organization, like a mosque, temple, synagogue or church. However, our study's level of analysis is at the county level and the data we use measure religious adherence, which is the number of people within each county who are connected to a religious congregation. Thus, when we write of adherence, we are using the collective, aggregate definition.
To help control for a county's population, we then made an adherence rate, where we took a county's level of adherence and divided it by 1,000 to get a rate that stands for how many adherents are there out of 1,000 people."
Okay, so where does spirituality fit in? In their article, Ferguson and Tamburello say that religion is "institutional, mediated and communal" whereas spirituality "points to the personal, subjective, non-institutionalized and unmediated experience with the sacred." In these terms, it's a spiritual experience to encounter the sacred in nature.
Ferguson told me that, as he sees it, the study "contributes one piece of the puzzle as to why regions in American differ in religiosity."
"It doesn't explain everything, but it does offer another mechanism for regional variation. For instance, the West Coast has lower rates of religious adherence, not because the population is in any way less religious/spiritual. It's that there is an additional supplier of spirituality (nature) and so they are less likely get their spiritual needs met from traditional religious congregations."
Ferguson and Tamburello believe they aren't just capturing a "time competition effect" in which, because people don't have time to do everything, religious affiliation drops out in areas where natural amenities are high. Instead, because they carry out statistical manipulations to remove the effect of confounding variables on the data — for example, they control for the number of civic organizations and recreation establishments in a region — they capture, they say, a competition for connections to the sacred.
I'd like to add that not everyone who is outdoors soaking up nature is communing with the sacredI'm just back from a quick getaway to the mountains and forests of Shenandoah National Park. As I walked wooded trails and drove past breathtaking overlooks in order to observe wildlife, I felt filled with a deep pleasure.
For me, that wonderful feeling emerged from a strong sense of connection with other animals, even with the ancient geology of the region — not from an experience of the numinous.
Of course, as Ferguson highlighted for me, this study doesn't aim to explainindividual behavior but, instead, county-wide patterns. That's its strength.
By the way, it's pure fun to point your cursor over the map to find where you live — and figure out if it's time to move to California. npr

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Culture Clash Over Guns Infiltrates the Backcountry

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah — As a lover of ancient rock art, Steve Acerson usually roams Utah’s backcountry searching for images of hunters and rams carved on boulders and canyon walls. But one morning, on a hillside speckled with those prehistoric petroglyphs, he was also finding signs of a younger civilization: Shotgun shells. Bullets. Shredded juniper trees. Exploded cans of spray paint.
“It’s all been shot,” he said. “It’s just destroying everything.”
America’s cultural divide over guns has gone into the woods. As growing numbers of hikers and backpackers flood national forests and backcountry trails searching for solitude, they are increasingly clashing with recreational target shooters, out for the weekend to plug rounds into trees, targets and mountainsides.
Hiking groups and conservationists say that policies that broadly allow shooting and a scarcity of enforcement officers have turned many national forests and millions of Western acres run by the Bureau of Land Management into free-fire zones. People complain about finding shot-up couches and cars deep in forests, or of being pinned down by gunfire where a hiking or biking trail crosses a makeshift target range.
Over the Fourth of July weekend in Pike National Forest in Colorado, a 60-year-old camper preparing to make s’mores with his grandchildren was killed when a stray bullet arced into his campsite. The camper, Glenn Martin, said “ow,” his daughter said, and when his family ran to help him, there was a hole in his shirt and blood pouring from his mouth.
“A war zone,” said Paul Magnuson, who owns a cycle shop in Woodland Park, Colo., and rides mountain bikes in the same forest where Mr. Martin died. His customers have complained about bullets whistling overhead, and Mr. Magnuson said he has gotten used to yelling out to alert target shooters that he was coming.
“Every time in the woods, you feared for your life,” he said. “It was absolutely, completely out of hand.”
It is a fight playing out from the pine forests of North Carolina to the Pacific Northwest to the Lake Mountains here in central Utah, where hillsides with thousands of images of prehistoric rock art have become a popular shooting spot. Officials in the Croatan National Forest in North Carolina issued an emergency halt to target shooting after receiving hundreds of complaints. In New Mexico, homeowners upset by the crackle of gunfire are fighting a proposal to renew the permit for a gun range that has long operated on national forest land.
The federal agencies that manage national forests and open lands have tallied a growing number of shooting violations in the backcountry in recent years. The Forest Service recorded 1,712 shooting incidents across the country last year, up about 10 percent from a decade ago. More than a thousand of those reports ended with a warning or citation, but in some, Forest Service officers did not find the shooters or evidence of a violation after investigating a complaint.
The violation logs from the bureau are a tally of risky behavior: Shooting from vehicle. Weapon discharge in campground. Shooting at television. Using exploding targets. Shooting in “no shooting area.”
Gun groups say they have been shooting safely on public lands for decades, and that accidents are rare. They say they have the same rights to use America’s collective backyards as four-wheelers, mountain bikers or backpackers.
When federal agencies have proposed closing areas to shooting, the National Rifle Association and other shooting groups have objected, urging members to write letters and attend meetings to keep the land open to guns. The N.R.A. has also supported a bill backed by several congressional Republicans that would tell federal land managers to make sure public lands are open to hunters and recreational shooters.
“Just the same as there should be areas on public lands for people to go mountain biking or mountain climbing, there should be areas for shooters,” said Lars Dalseide, an N.R.A. spokesman.
But in Colorado, Sean Mooty, 26, said he has taken to draping a bright orange windbreaker over his backpack when he sets out in the Arapaho National Forest, which reported 103 shooting violations last year. He put a whistle on his pack, and when he hears gunshots, he said, he starts to blow it so people will know he is coming.
“All you can do is hear it,” he said. “Like a mixture of thunder and gunfire, just rolling through the mountains.”
Karie Rubertus, 46, an office manager, said she has been jolted awake by gunfire while camping a few years ago at Rainbow Falls in Colorado, near the spot where Mr. Martin was killed. When she went to explore, she said, she spoke to a group of motorcyclists who had been firing guns most of the night and asked them to take a break. She said they walked with her, unasked, back to her camper. She woke her husband and they left immediately.
“One of the most scary experiences ever,” she said.
Here in the Lake Mountains of Utah, Bureau of Land Management officials want to permanently ban shooting because they say it is jeopardizing hundreds of petroglyphs that Native Americans pecked onto sandstone outcroppings and boulders as long as 10,000 years ago. Advocates say the mountainside is an open-air museum, one where bullets have struck the petroglyphs, chipping and cracking the runic swirls and wiry images of people and animals.
“We’ve had serious damage,” said Kevin Oliver, district manager for the bureau’s West Desert district. “The shooting was so dense we had to do something.”
There have also been about 130 wildfires here over the past decade, some caused by bullet ricochets or exploding targets igniting dry cheatgrass. One bullet flew across the range and hit a bedpost in a nearby home, and land officials said that high school students on a bus had to take cover to avoid careless gunfire. Cleanup crews have hauled away 20 tons of trash a year — refrigerators and car parts, clay pigeons and sofas, even bowling pins.
“Anything you don’t want in your garage, you take out there and shoot,” said Mr. Acerson, a retired state transportation worker.
Bill Pedersen, a director at the Utah Shooting Sports Council, acknowledged that some people dump what he called “trigger trash,” but he added that thousands of responsible gun owners have been hunting and shooting in the area for decades. He shot pheasants and doves there as a teenager. In the years since, as Utah’s population has surged, new subdivisions have popped up on the private lands adjoining these federal outdoor parcels, putting more pressure on the land.
The Bureau of Land Management has proposed creating a shooting range, but gun advocates say it would be too small to accommodate them safely. They said previous shooting restrictions had already limited their activity, and they were angry at the prospect of another closing.
“Shooters are getting frustrated and upset,” Mr. Pedersen said. “What gives the B.L.M. the right to go down and shut it down on a whim?”
Officials have limited shooting access for years in the Pike National Forest, including the site where Mr. Martin was killed; it was the first fatal shooting officials could remember.
Since Mr. Martin’s death, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has asked people who were in the area that day to allow their weapons to be tested, to see if they unknowingly fired the fatal shot. So far, investigators have tested five rifles, with none of them found to be the weapon in question. Mr. Martin’s daughter Carlie said they had complained about hearing gunshots when they arrived at the campsite, but they said forest officials reassured them the shooters were firing in the other direction.
“You keep on asking why,” she said. “One hundred ninety million acres of forest, and it has to hit Daddy?" msn

The World's Most Trafficked Mammal Is One You May Never Have Heard Of

Lisa Hywood remembers the first time she ever set eyes on a pangolin. It was in 1994, and she had just founded the Tikki Hywood Trust, a wildlife conservation sanctuary in Zimbabwe. One morning, someone dropped off a strange-looking, injured creature that had been confiscated from an illegal trader.
"This animal arrived in a sack and smelling something horrendous," she recalls. "And I looked at this animal and I thought it's like no other mammal that I've ever encountered."
The pangolin is about the size of a raccoon and looks like an artichoke with legs. Its head and body are covered with an armor of thorny scales, giving it the appearance of a reptile. When a pangolin is scared, it curls up into a tight ball.
"I actually, at that moment, felt completely helpless because I had no idea how to take care of that animal," Hywood says. "At that moment, I actually said to myself, 'Right, you need to figure this out.' "
Since then, many pangolins have been brought to Hywood's sanctuary doorstep. The shy, nocturnal creature is the most trafficked mammal in the world, says Jeff Flocken, a regional director with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Almost a million pangolins were trafficked in the past 10 years.
"They are finding literally crates filled with pangolin scales, you know — entire boats with bags and bags of live or frozen and dead pangolins that are being taken from the wild," Flocken says.
Rising Demand
All eight species of this animal, which is found over large parts of Africa and Asia, are facing extinction, according to Jonathan Baillie, a pangolin specialist at theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature in London.
"The demand for the pangolins is actually in China and Vietnam," he says. "And the Asian pangolin, particularly the Chinese pangolin, has basically been wiped out."
The animal has long been prized for its scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. But Baillie says nowadays, pangolin meat is considered a luxury item by a growing middle class in Vietnam and China.
"We're seeing that the body is actually being eaten as some sort of celebration when a business deal is done," he says. "The price can go up to many hundreds of dollars per kilo."
As the number of Asian species declines, Baillie says, there is an increasing demand for African pangolins. International trade of the African species is allowed with the right paperwork. But they're being poached and sent to Asian markets at an alarming rate.
Hywood, the Zimbabwe sanctuary director, says the trade has caught many African governments off-guard.
"In Africa, you are dealing with a species that most of the authorities, up until, I can honestly say, this year, are not aware of the plight of the pangolin," she says. "They do not understand why the pangolin has such a demand in Asia."
Last month, Indonesian customs officials seized more than a ton of frozen pangolins bound for Singapore. The animal is critically endangered, due to high levels of hunting and poaching for its meat and scales.

Improving Awareness

Pangolin products are showing up in the U.S. as well. Part of the problem is the pangolin doesn't have a high profile like the elephant or rhino, so it's easier to slip the live animal or its byproducts past customs officials, says Luke Bond, a criminal intelligence officer with Interpol's environmental crime program.
"There's opportunities to conceal these animals," he says. "They're small. Border control agencies are often not trained enough to recognize what they actually might be."
Bond says the illegal trafficking in pangolins is linked to other global crimes.
"I've seen it firsthand in every operation I've been in for the last 10 years or so," he says. "I've seen drugs and weapons and financial crime activities associated with the wildlife trade."
But the sheer speed with which the pangolin is being trafficked is now pushing governments and conservationists into high gear to get the message out that it has to be saved. That's not easy when many people haven't heard of the pangolin, says Rosemarie Gnam of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agency is stepping up coverage of pangolins on its website, to include interactive maps and pages for children to discover the mammal.
"We're really trying to put the word out there about pangolins, building on the public's awareness of the rhino and elephant," Gnam says.
A pangolin will soon be making a debut on an Angry Birds game, and one recently appeared in a Mark Trail comic strip.
There's also an effort to list all eight species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and another to make it illegal to trade the pangolin under CITES, the multilateral treaty to protect endangered animals.
For Hywood, the effort to save the pangolin is paramount. In the two decades since that first scared and injured pangolin was dropped off in a sack, she has created a sanctuary for rehabilitating pangolins. It's one of only a handful in the world.
"It's not an animal that you can just collect and put in a cage and feed an artificial diet," she says. "That's not going to work. Pangolins don't adapt very well to captivity at all."
At the moment, Hywood is caring for nine pangolins. Each one forages in the wild — with its own security detail to protect it from poachers. npr

Microbe Mix May Play Role In Preterm Birth Risk

The assortment of microbes in a pregnant woman's vagina appears to play a role in her chances of giving birth prematurely, new research suggests.
The study of 49 pregnant women, published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that those who had a diverse array of microbes were more likely to give birth prematurely.
Though the study is small, the findings are the latest in a flood of new insights into the roles that microbes may play in human health.
In the latest study, David Relman, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University and his colleagues, took samples from 49 women weekly during their pregnancies and monthly after they had their babies.
Fifteen of the women ended up giving birth prematurely. Most of the women had microbes dominated by lactobacillus bacteria, which has previously been associated with better health. Those whose microbes were more diverse — having high levels of gardnerella and ureaplasma microbes and low levels of lactobacillus — were at increased risk for giving birth more than three weeks early, the researchers found.
In addition, all the women's microbes tended to change significantly after they had their babies, becoming significantly more diverse. That shift could help explain why women who have babies close together are more likely to have the subsequent baby prematurely, the researchers said.
Babies born prematurely are at increased risk for a host of health problems. While the findings need to be confirmed in a bigger study, the researchers say the findings may eventually help doctors identify women at risk for giving birth prematurely and find ways to prevent that from happening. For example, researchers may be able to find probiotics women could take to reduce their risk for premature births. npr