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Air Pollution Makes It Difficult For Bees To Find Flowers: Research

Researchers have found that ozone substantially changes the size and scent of floral odour plumes given off by flowers, and that it reduces honeybees’ ability to recognise odours by up to 90% from just a few metres away

Air Pollution Makes It Difficult For Bees To Find Flowers: Research
The research findings suggest that ozone is likely to be having a negative impact on wildflower abundance and crop yields

Washington: According to a new study, air pollution prevents bees from finding flowers because it degrades the scent. A research team comprising the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and the Universities of Birmingham, Reading, Surrey and Southern Queensland, found that ozone substantially changes the size and scent of floral odour plumes given off by flowers, and that it reduced honeybees’ ability to recognise odours by up to 90% from just a few metres away.

Ground-level ozone typically forms when nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles and industrial processes react with volatile organic compounds emitted from vegetation in the presence of sunlight.

Professor Christian Pfrang from the University of Birmingham who collaborated on the research said,

Our study provides robust evidence that the changes due to ground-level ozone on floral scent cause pollinators to struggle to carry out their crucial role in the natural environment also with implications for food security.

The findings suggest that ozone is likely to be having a negative impact on wildflower abundance and crop yields. International research has already established that ozone has a negative impact on food production because it damages plant growth.

Dr Ben Langford, an atmospheric scientist at UKCEH who led the study said,

Some 75% of our food crops and nearly 90% of wild flowering plants depend, to some extent, upon animal pollination, particularly by insects. Therefore, understanding what adversely affects pollination, and how, is essential to helping us preserve the critical services that we reply upon for production of food, textiles, biofuels and medicines, for example.

Also Read: Climate Change And Air Pollution Must Be Tackled Together: World Meteorological Organization 

The researchers used a 30-m wind tunnel at Surrey University to monitor how the size and shape of odour plumes changed in the presence of ozone. As well as decreasing the size of the odour plume the scientists found that the scent of the plume changed substantially as certain compounds reacted away much faster than others.

Honeybees were trained to recognise the same odour blend and then exposed to the new, ozone-modified odours. Pollinating insects use floral odours to find flowers and learn to associate their unique blend of chemical compounds with the amount of nectar it provides, allowing them to locate the same species in the future.

The research showed that towards the centre of plumes, 52% of honeybees recognised an odour at 6 metres, decreasing to 38% at 12 m. At the edge of plumes, which degraded more quickly, 32% of honeybees recognised a flower from 6 m away and just a tenth of the insects from 12 m away.

The study indicates that ozone could also affect insects’ other odour-controlled behaviours such attracting a mate.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, and was published in the journal Environmental Pollution.

Professor Christian Pfrang concluded,

We know that air pollution has a detrimental effect on human health, biodiversity and the climate, but now we can see how it prevents bees and other pollinating insects from carrying out their key job. This should act as a wake up call to take action on air pollution and help safeguard food production and biodiversity for the future.

Also Read: Air Pollution Levels In Delhi Declined By 45 Per Cent Since 2014: Environment Minister Gopal Rai 

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – theLGBTQ population,indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the currentCOVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water,SanitationandHygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fightmalnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health,adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues likeair pollution,waste management,plastic ban,manual scavengingand sanitation workers andmenstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India wheretoiletsare used andopen defecation free (ODF)status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched byPrime Minister Narendra Modiin 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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