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Algae and warming water could be killing Michigan waterfowl

Cara J

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Since the late 1990s, an increasing number of waterfowl have been dropping and drowning in the Great Lakes due to more frequent botulism outbreaks. Biologists recently found evidence that warming waters and greater amounts of algae could be driving the bird die-offs by creating more favorable conditions for toxic botulism bacteria to proliferate. Botulism poisons and paralyzes birds by infecting their food resources, just as it affects humans. Records dating back to the 1960s document the bacterial disease killing off thousands of waterfowl over the summer and fall in the Great Lakes region. But Karine Princé, lead author on the paper published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, wanted to figure out why the deaths became more widespread in recent decades. A University of Wisconsin-Madison postdoctoral research associate, she and her colleagues analyzed a United States Geological Survey citizen science database of waterfowl botulism mortality, examining counts of beached carcasses and sick birds in northern Lake Michigan from 2010 to 2013. Commonly afflicted species included the common loon (Gavia immer), red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis), herring gull (Larus argentatus), ring-billed gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae), double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), red-necked grebe (Podiceps grisegena) and white-winged scoter (Melanitta deglandi). Using [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/algae-and-warming-water-could-be-killing-michigan-waterfowl/

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