Ground-Level Ozone An Attractive Threat to Biodiversity

It is well established that chronic exposure to high levels of ozone is a serious threat to human health, exacerbates heart and lung problems such as asthma and emphysema, and causes weight loss at birth. . A study found that more than 1 million premature deaths are the global cause each year of high ozone levels.

Research has also shown that crops and forests are damaged or killed by ozone, either directly or indirectly, because ozone makes them vulnerable to insects, disease, and drought. Ozone does more damage to plants than all other air pollutants combined, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gas is predicted to cause a major decline in world food production. One just now study predicted that by 2050, wheat yields will decline by 13 percent, soybeans by 28 percent, and corn by 43 percent due to rising temperatures and ozone.

While it is clear that ozone can affect all living organisms, research has not, until recently, seen its effects on biodiversity. Scientists believe, however, the effects are many. This month the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, a global network of scientists, held a conference titled Threats of Air Pollution in Plant Ecosystems. Ozone is at the top of the list.

In a ROLE published last year, 20 researchers in Europe and Asia, including Agathakleous, are mimicking what could happen to ecosystems in the coming decades as a result of ozone pollution. They concluded that ozone can affect “mixing and diversity in plant communities by affecting key physiological characteristics” and can cause a cascade of changes that will erode biodiversity. In their paper, the researchers urged officials to consider ozone in efforts to protect and restore biodiversity and said its effects should be included in assessments of atmospheric pollution and climate change.

Research has shown that ozone affects plants in a variety of ways.

“It paralyzes the start -up plants,” says Howard Neufeld, a plant ecologist at Appalachian State University, “and so they release more water than they get.” Stomata are microscopic openings in the surface of leaves where trees exchange gases in the air. Ozone damages them and hinders various processes, including photosynthesis.

Ozone also damages the leaves and accelerates their aging. “As the leaves are damaged, photosynthesis decreases; a plant loses less sugar, and a lot of it comes from,” Neufeld said. “It also affects the movement of sugars in the veins, which reduces the growth of root, making it more susceptible to thirst and nutritional deficiencies and disease. “

Ozone damage can also alter the time of leaf fall and reduce leaf size, reducing the amount of waste and affecting microbial communities that promote leaf decay. Waste and soil microbes are essential to get nutrients, help trees resist disease and use water effectively.

Ozone effects on the soil also affect the rhizosphere – the root system and its associated microbes, fungi, and other organisms. “When plants respond to ozone, they deplete energy,” Agathokleous said. “If they use a lot of energy, soil organisms are given less, and the chemical composition can be affected.” Poor nutritious leaves can also affect the life cycle of the animals that feed on them.

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