Carnivorous plants may be saying goodbye to their meat diets, sooner rather than later, and it’s all thanks to pollution, a new study reveals.
Swedish bogs filled with carnivorous plants are being strongly affected by nitrogen pollution, which is giving the species so many nutrients they no longer need to eat as many insects, the study revealed in New Phytologist.
For example, the common sundew drosera rotundifolia living in northern Europe rain-fed bogs needs plenty of nitrogen. 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.
According to Dr. Jonathan Millet from Loughborough University and the study’s lead author, “If there’s plenty of nitrogen available to their roots, they don’t need to eat as much.” In turn, the plants absorb nitrogen through roots.
Millet also revealed some of the other affects nitrogen has on carnivorous plants such as, leaves becoming less sticky and trapping less food and a lack in color for sundew plants, which rely on their red tint to attract bugs.
“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,” Millet explained. “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.”
It will be a shame if carnivorous plants become extinct, because of pollution. Once again, the harmful substances floating around in our air are doing more harm than good.
To learn more about carnivorous plants, check back soon for our gallery on the ten most unique insect eating plants.
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