Acid Rain Turns Meat-Eating Plants Vegetarian

Swedish sundews are eating fewer bugs, according to a new study.
Thanks to pollution, Swedish bugs no longer have to fear this endgame of endgames. (Photo: James Burton/Getty)
Jun 12, 2012· 0 MIN READ
Salvatore Cardoni holds a political science degree from the George Washington University. He's written about all things environment since 2007.

Chock this one up to the unintended consequences of fossil-fuel pollution.

According to a new study published in the New Phytologist, Swedish sundews, a type of meat-eating plant (think Little Shop of Horrors), are cutting back on their bug consumption.

Turns out that the bogs where these plants live and breathe are being strongly affected by nitrogen pollution, which gives the fly-trapping species so many nutrients that they no longer need to hunt as many bugs.

PlanetEarth picks up the story from there:

This particular area can be very difficult to achieve the nutrients needed, so that’s why it traps midges and other tasty insects. However, the burning of fossil fuels has increased nitrogen levels resulting in this major change and disturbing the ecosystem.

“If there’s plenty of nitrogen available to their roots, they don’t need to eat as much,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Jonathan Millet.

He went on to explain that where there’s smoke (pollution), there will most likely down the line be fire (endangered species).

“In the sites with more nitrogen deposition, these plants now get much more of their nitrogen from their roots, but they still have to bear the residual costs of being carnivorous, and other plants without these will be better able to survive. So it’s quite likely we’ll see less abundance and perhaps local extinctions from carnivorous species. The individual plants get bigger and fitter, but the species as a whole is less well adapted to high-nitrogen environments and will lose out over time.”

How has air pollution (acid rain, for example) affected you personally?