A new study published on Jan. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals a 50 percent decline in mayfly abundance in the upper Mississippi and western Lake Erie since 2012.
The scientists used radar remote sensing to quantify swarms as the insects that traditionally emerge nearly all at once. This decline is notable for outdoorsman everywhere as mayfly nymphs and emerged adults are vital food sources for many fish species as well as frogs, birds and more.
Their significant decline is an indicator of water quality and lines up with overall insect decline nearly everywhere.
This week I noticed another study from Purdue University where they were studying fertilizer and crown release effects with White Oak acorn production. The study found that adding fertilizer to oak trees does not make a significant impact with oak acorn production.
However, crown released oaks increased acorn production 47-65 percent which was illuminating. Many of our oaks prefer open canopy but a lot of our forests have been overgrown for decades, and the oaks within are slowly being smothered.
Oak woodland restoration has been a priority for many municipalities and organizations in the region and this study shows one way to give the species a boost. Crown release means to manually remove the competition by clearing invasive brush and aggressive neighbors away from the oak trees to open their canopy.
Finally, a fun fact from the Illinois State Climatologist office. Using the nearest long-term data set going back to 1938 (Watseka), this Friday is historically the coldest day locally of the year averaging 22.7 degrees. We won’t get there this year, but some are predicting a colder February. Fingers crossed for me.