Pollution Makes Carnivorous Plants Go Vegetarian

Pollution Makes Carnivorous Plants Go Vegetarian

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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 fertilizer is now making carnivorous plants lose interest in insect prey. Plants in lightly-polluted areas got 57% of their nitrogen from insects; in areas that receive more nitrogen deposition, that figure fell as low as 22%.

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