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Forest loss causes fish to starve

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Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 2:29 PM - Natural debris from forests washes into freshwater lakes, supplementing the diets of zooplankton and fish, creating a stronger ecosystem.

But researchers from the University of Cambridge warn that as forests are eroded due to human activities fish will have less food to feed on and they could, in some cases, starve.

The team studied yellow perch fish from different sections of Daisy Lake on the outskirts of Sudbury, Ontario, which was selected for its varying degrees of nearby forest coverage. 

"We found fish that had almost 70% of their biomass made from carbon that came from trees and leaves instead of aquatic food chain sources," said Dr. Andrew Tanentzap from Cambridge's Department of Plant Sciences, and lead author of the new study, in a statement.

RELATED: Track deforestation in real-time

"While plankton raised on algal carbon is more nutritious, organic carbon from trees washed into lakes is a hugely important food source for freshwater fish, bolstering their diet to ensure good size and strength." 

According to the team, more than 60% of the world's fresh water fish are located in boreal places like Canada, Scandinavia and large parts of Siberia. 

"These areas are suffering from human disturbance such as logging, mining, and forest fires resulting from climate change – all occurrences predicted to intensify in coming years," said Tanentzap.

While the paper only looks at boreal regions, researchers suspect the findings would be similar if applied to a global scale.

The complete paper was published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications.

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