Effects of Acid Rain on Birds and Insects

Posted by Scott Sillett on January 1, 2006

University of Vermont Ph.D. student Scott Schwenk and his advisor Allan Strong, in collaboration with Scott Sillett of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and Nick Rodenhouse (Wellesley College), received $33,297 from the USDA Forest Service for their project entitled:

“Implications of acid deposition-induced depletion of soil calcium for insect herbivores and insectivorous birds in northeastern forests.”

The research will be conducted over the next two years at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire.

Black-throated Blue Warbler, focal study species in this project.  Gerhard Hofmann

The study will focus on migratory birds such as the black-throated blue warbler.

Acid rain, caused when airborne pollutants mix with rain and are deposited on land, results in a loss of calcium in the soil. Calcium is an important element for plant and animal growth.

Ecosystems in the northeastern United States have been particularly impacted by acid rain as waterways have become too acidified to support fish and various tree species have been adversely affected.

In 1999, one watershed at Hubbard Brook, New Hampshire, was enriched with calcium to reverse the effects of acid rain.

Speckled Green Fruitworm

This study will compare insect (especially caterpillar) populations and warbler foraging behavior in the treated watershed and a control watershed, one without added calcium.

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