Photo courtesy of wendye7123
A recent study in Sweden shows that carnivorous plants are eating fewer bugs because they are already ‘full’ with nitrogen pollution. The study claims that this may not be a good thing for the plants. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for all plants and carnivorous species, which have evolved to live in nitrogen-poor environments, usually supplement nitrogen by eating insects.
Increased nitrogen pollution due to industrial activities has led to heightened levels of nitrogen in soils from rainfall. The study compared carnivorous roundleaf sundew plants (Drosera rotundifolia) in areas with high nitrogen levels in the soil with areas with little nitrogen pollution and therefore normal nitrogen soil content. The study found that plants in highly polluted areas were filling up on nitrogen via their roots instead of ingesting insects.
Nitrogen pollution is a global problem with many consequences for various ecosystems. Carnivorous plants, with their low-nitrogen adaptions, are particularly at risk in high-nitrogen environments. The plants’ predatory trappings (sticky leaves, specially shaped leaves) use a lot of energy, which makes the plants weaker and consequently less able to compete with other faster growing, tougher plants – plants which can take advantage of the higher nitrogen levels. Carnivorous plants do not grow well in shaded environments, and other fast growing plants will eventually take-over and shade carnivorous species. While the roundleaf sundew is not in any real danger of extinction due to it being very widespread, other rarer species in smaller populations are under sever threat of extinction.
If you are interested in wildlife conservation and contributing to the protection of endangered species such as carnivorous plants, Frontier offers a range of exciting conservation volunteer opportunities.