Acid deposition has been identified as one of several possible factors contributing to the decline of some waterfowl populations in North America. In an effort to examine the effects of acidification on black duck (Anas rubripes) recruitment, growth and physiological condition were monitored in ducklings foraging for a 10-day trial (days 10-20 of life) on acidified (pH 5.0) and : circumneutral (pH 6.8) fish-free emergent wetlands. Acidification of these wetlands suppressed phytoplankton and algal growth, and reduced invertebrate biomass. Ducklings maintained on acidified wetlands grew poorly compared with ducklings reared on circumneutral wetlands, as evidenced by lower final body weight and culmen and tarsus length. Plasma growth hormone concentration was elevated and triiodothyronine levels were lower in stunted ducklings, in part substantiating impairment of growth-regulating processes. Ducklings exhibiting poor growth tended to have lower hematocrit, lower plasma protein, glucose, and cholesterol concentrations, and higher uric acid levels, presumably reflecting alterations in metabolism and development due to inanition. These findings suggest that acid deposition may lower food production in wetlands and ultimately impair duckling growth, condition, and survival.
Additional publication details
Growth and physiological condition of black ducks reared on acidified wetlands