By Jim Leifman via SWNS
A shocking study has revealed that air pollution can reduce bees’ ability to smell flowers by up to 90%.
The effect was noticeable even when the insects were just a few feet from the flower.
The researchers found that ozone changes the size and smell of floral scent plumes emitted by flowers.
Ground-level ozone typically forms when nitrogen oxide polluted by automobiles reacts with volatile organic compounds emitted by plants in the presence of sunlight.
A team from the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) and the Universities of Birmingham, Reading, Surrey and Southern Queensland made the discovery, which was published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
Professor Christian Pfrang (corr) from the University of Birmingham, said: “Our study provides strong evidence that ground-level ozone-induced changes in flower scent are making pollinators struggle to fulfill their crucial role in the natural environment, also with implications for food.” protection.”
The results indicate that ozone is likely to have a negative impact on wildflower abundance and crop productivity.
International research has already proven that ozone has a negative impact on food production because it harms plant growth.
Dr Ben Langford, an atmospheric scientist at UKCEH who led the study, said: “About 75 percent of our food crops and about 90 percent of wild flowering plants depend, to some extent, on animal pollination, especially by insects.
“Therefore, understanding what negatively affects pollination, and how, is essential to help us maintain the vital services we rely on to produce food, textiles, biofuels and medicines, for example.”
The team used a 30-meter wind tunnel at the University of Surrey to monitor how the size and shape of odor plumes change in the presence of ozone.
In addition to reducing the size of the odor plume, the scientists found that the odor of the plume changed dramatically as some compounds reacted much faster than others.
The honey bees were trained to recognize the same odor mixture and were then exposed to the new odors modified with ozone.
Pollinating insects use floral scents to find flowers and learn to associate their unique combination of chemical compounds with the amount of nectar they provide, allowing them to locate the same species in the future.
The research showed that towards the center of the columns, 52% of honeybees were able to recognize the odor at six metres, and this percentage decreased to 38% at 12 metres.
At the edge of the plumes, which decompose more quickly, 32% of honeybees recognized a flower from a distance of six metres, and only a tenth of the insects from a distance of 12 metres.
The study suggests that ozone can also affect other insect behaviors that control odor, such as 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 added: “We know that air pollution has a detrimental impact on human health, biodiversity and climate but we can now see how it prevents bees and other pollinators from doing their main work.
“This should serve as a wake-up call to take action on air pollution and help protect food production and biodiversity in the future.”