Study: Carnivorous Plants Becoming More Vegetarian
June 13, 2012
Nitrogen pollution is giving carnivorous plants on Swedish bogs so many nutrients that they don’t need to catch as many flies, new research by Loughborough University shows.
The common sundew Drosera rotundifolia grows in rain-fed bogs across much of northern Europe. These habitats have few nutrients, so the plant needs to boost its nitrogen intake by trapping midges and other insects with its sticky leaves.
But human activities involving burning fossil fuels for transport and industry have greatly increased levels of nitrogen deposited by rainfall over these bogs, disturbing the specialised ecosystems that have grown up there.
A study published in New Phytologist shows that this artificial rain of fertiliser is now making carnivorous plants lose interest in insect prey. Plants in lightly-polluted areas got 57 per cent of their nitrogen from insects; in areas that receive more nitrogen deposition, that figure fell as low as 22 per cent.
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