Nitrogen Pollution Linked To Endangered Species Declines

By on March 15, 2016

Researchers looked at effects of nitrogen on grasslands around serpentine outcroppings such as this one on Coyote Ridge. (Credit: Jae Pasari)


Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have linked the declines of a number of endangered species with the prevalence of nitrogen pollution, according to a release. Their finds came after a large-scale survey of species listed as endangered and the impacts they may face from excess nitrogen deposition in the atmosphere and elsewhere.

Scientists at the university surveyed 1,400 endangered species in the work and found that 78 of them already face negative effects from nitrogen pollution. And the impacts of them are varied, yielded through direct toxicity, depleted oxygen from too much fertilization or even the arrival of invasive species that outcompete those endangered for food.

In Santa Clara County, near the university, scientists involved in the effort studied tree rings and used greenhouse gas experiments to see how adding nitrogen affected the plants supporting a few rare endemic species, including the Edith’s Bay checkerspot butterfly. These investigations looked at the accumulation of nitrogen over the past 150 years.

Addressing nitrogen pollution is a challenge, researchers note, because of its diffuse origins from many different sources. For more of their findings, see the research paper published in the journal BioScience.

Top image: Researchers looked at effects of nitrogen on grasslands around serpentine outcroppings such as this one on Coyote Ridge. (Credit: Jae Pasari)

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