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Acid precipitation and food quality: Inhibition of growth and survival in black ducks and mallards by dietary aluminum, calcium, and phosphorus


In areas impacted by acid precipitation, water chemistry of acidic ponds and streams often changes, resulting in increased mobilization of aluminum and decreased concentration of calcium carbonate. Aluminum binds with phosphorus and inhibits its uptake by organisms. Thus, invertebrate food organisms used by waterfowl may have inadequate Ca and P or elevated Al for normal growth and development. Acid rain and its effects may be one of the factors negatively impacting American black ducks (Anas rubripes) in eastern North America. One-day old mallards (A. platyrhynchos) and black ducks were placed on one of three Ca:P regimens: low:low (LL), normal:normal (NN), and low:high (LH) with each regimen divided further into three or four Al levels for 10 weeks. Forty-five % of the black ducks died on nine different diets whereas only 28% of the mallards died on three different diets. Mortality was significantly related to diet in both species. Growth rates for body weight, culmens, wings, and tarsi of both species on control diets exceeded those on many treatment diets but the differences were less apparent for mallards than for black ducks. Differences among treatments were due to both Ca:P and A1 levels.

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Sparling, D.W. Acid precipitation and food quality: Inhibition of growth and survival in black ducks and mallards by dietary aluminum, calcium, and phosphorus. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 19, 457–463 (1990).

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  • Phosphorus
  • North America
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Water Chemistry
  • Treatment Diet