CNN reports: Scientists baffled by mysterious acorn shortage:
Up and down the East Coast, residents and naturalists alike have been scratching their heads this autumn over a simple question: Where are all the acorns? Oak trees have shed their leaves, but the usual carpet of acorns is not crunching underfoot. In far-flung pockets of northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other states, scientists have found no acorns whatsoever.
But closer reading reveals that it is lay people and amateur naturalists who are baffled, while scientists are not. Scientists are well aware that the oaks produce corn in cycles – bumper years followed by lean years. The cycles are quite regular, and can be used to predict outbreaks of Lyme Disease:
One of the notions put forward in the article was that abundance of acorns in one year leads to abundance of rodents (mostly white-footed mice and chipmunks) the next year, and abundance of ticks – thus Lyme Disease – the third year. Now, Ostfeld and collaborators have added several more years of data and performed a detailed analysis of a large (13 years) dataset that strongly suggests that their initial hunch was correct.