What kills cows, saves birds

Mad cow disease outbreaks in Europe may be favorable to bird populations across the pond

Cristina Luiggi
Mar 6, 2011
Sick cows in Europe may help grassland birds in North America, a paper published today in the __Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences__ suggests.
Image: Steven Mileham, flickr
Poring over four decades' worth of data, researchers at Trent University in Ontario stumbled upon a sort of __butterfly effect__ in which mad cow disease outbreaks that periodically strike Europe's cattle result in an increase in the population of grassland birds in the US and Canada a few years later."This is an intriguing study," said linkurl:Peter Vickery,;http://www.umass.edu/forwild/faculty/vickery.html an avian ecologist from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who was not involved in the study. "It's a great starting point for trying to get conservation biologists and others to look at bigger pictures and potential connections between international events that may not seem so obvious at first blush."The possibility of such an unlikely connection first occurred to linkurl:Joseph Nocera,;http://people.trentu.ca/joenocera/ a conservation biologist at...

(From left to right) the Eastern Meadowlark, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Sedge Wren are among the birds most sensitive to changes in hay production. Images from Wikipedia.J.J. Nocera and H.M. Koslowsky, "Population trends of grassland birds in North America are linked to the prevalence of an agricultural epizootic in Europe," PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.1018904108, 2011.



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