If an acorn falls in the forest, will you contract Lymedisease?
Perhaps so, according to some surprising research funded byNSF's division of environmental biology, and performed byscientists at the Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook,New York.
Researchers Clive Jones, Richard Ostfeld and colleaguesconducted a study in which forest plots at the institute wereexperimentally manipulated, first by removing white-footed miceand then by adding acorns.
Scientists found several interrelationships between acornproduction, populations of white-footed mice, gypsy moth larvaeand Lyme disease-carrying black-legged (formerly deer) ticks. Inyears of large acorn production - mast years - populations andsurvival rates of white-footed mice increase. In years of loweracorn production, mice populations decrease. The rise and fallin mice population impacts the cycles of gypsy moth production.And, in a complex process, acorn production affects the densityof larval ticks.
"Mast events may be very useful in predicting the risk of Lymedisease and gypsy moth outbreaks," Jones said. "A remarkableamount of nature is interconnected, with unexpected players andinteractions over time that have important implications for humanhealth, and for how we understand, predict and manage thefunctioning of complex ecosystems."
Materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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