Wednesday, September 26, 2007

There is good news and, umm....

Inappropriate news, in the parlance of today. Remember those weird frogs with congenital deformities that scientists suspected as victims of pesticides?

They were wrong. The cause now appears to be an involved cycle of parasites and nutrient (N, P) runoff.
The study showed increased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus cause sharp hikes in the abundance and reproduction of a snail species that hosts microscopic parasites known as trematodes, said Assistant Professor Pieter Johnson of CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department.

The nutrients stimulate algae growth, increasing snail populations and the number of infectious parasites released by snails into ponds and lakes. The parasites subsequently form cysts in the developing limbs of tadpoles causing missing limbs, extra limbs and other severe malformations, Johnson said.

"This is the first study to show that nutrient enrichment drives the abundance of these parasites, increasing levels of amphibian infection and subsequent malformations," said Johnson. "The research has implications for both worldwide amphibian declines and for a wide array of diseases potentially linked to nutrient pollution, including cholera, malaria, West Nile virus and diseases affecting coral reefs." [More]
Keeping nutrients in place is largely a matter of keeping dirt in place, and the ethanol-spurred demand for corn does not bode well for better conservation measures. No-tillers are already reluctantly ripping fields to accommodate continuous corn.

My guess is we'll see nutrient limits and/or fertilizer taxes in our future that will limit fertilizer application. Of course, prices are already causing many of us to reflect on how much we need. It's one more thing we can look to Europe and see the future possibility.

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