Beware of Ozone Pollution! damage plants, hinder pollination

Over the past few decades, increased ozone pollution has hindered pollination, affecting the livelihoods of plants and pollinators. In a review published Sept. 29 in the Cell Press journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, researchers explain how excess ozone damages plants’ leaves, altering their flowering patterns, and discovers more about pollinators. Flowers create obstacles.

“The direct impact of agricultural chemicals on pollinators is a topic of social concern, and we now find that ozone continues to threaten pollinators and pollinators.” Ecologist, Nanjing University of Information Technology Evgenios Agathokleous said, “But the effect of ozone has been ignored for a long time.”

Ozone is both friend and foe to the planet. In the stratosphere, ozone forms naturally and helps protect the planet from harmful light. But below that zone, ozone is a damaging pollutant. Tropospheric ozone is produced by a photochemical reaction between volatile organic compounds (emitted by vegetation or present in substances such as paints and aerosols) and nitrogen oxides (released by burning fossil fuels). Currently, tropospheric ozone levels have been rising as a warmer climate creates optimal conditions for its formation.

“Ozone pollution can affect the timing and duration of blooms, making them out of sync with pollinator activity,” says Agathokleous. “Ozone pollution can also change the color of flowers, disrupting pollinators’ activities. Visual signals, and even react directly with pollen, reduce pollen quality, and indirectly alter pollen quantity.”

Ozone pollution also damages the leaves of plants almost immediately, leaving signs of damage in different colors and shapes, and discoloring the leaves. When damaged, leaves have difficulty photosynthesizing and providing plants with the energy they need to grow. In addition, plants often release their own characteristic organic volatile compounds that communicate as chemical signals and alert pollinators to the presence of flowers. Ozone pollution appears to destroy these chemical signatures.

“Changes in the composition of volatile mixtures can also have serious implications for pollinators, as they may not be able to identify the host plant and its qualities as well as in the past,” Agathokleous said. “In plant tissue, Ozone pollution may reduce the amount of nutrients necessary for insects, increase levels of insect-harming chemicals, and reduce the overall quality of plant tissue.”

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