New Research Suggests That Air Pollution Is Diminishing The Natural Scents Of Wild Plants And Making Them Less Attractive To Pollinators, A Consequence That Can Have Far-Reaching Implications For Our Environment

natali_mis - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual bee

Rising sea levels, tumultuous weather patterns, and a rising frequency of natural disasters are all known results of burning fossil fuels. But, researchers have uncovered another, more unexpected consequence of climate change: the loss of earth’s natural, rich aromas.

A recent study suggests that continuous emissions from factories, vehicles, and other industrial activities are altering and diminishing the natural scents of wild plants. These fragrances are crucial for drawing in pollinators.

The team of nine behind the study examined the scent-based relationship between primroses, which are night-blooming wildflowers, and hawk moths, which are nocturnal insects that are attracted to the flower’s fragrance.

This research revealed that common air pollutants like ozone and nitrate radicals greatly weaken the fragrance of these wildflowers. This reduction in scent makes the moths less likely to visit plants in polluted areas.

“We worry a lot about exposure of humans to air pollution, but there’s a whole life system out there that’s also exposed to the same pollutants,” said Joel Ston, the study’s co-author and atmospheric chemist.

“We’re really just uncovering how deep the impacts of air pollution go.”

The research team visited a site in eastern Washington where primroses were growing and collected air samples with the flower’s scent using plastic bags. Then, in the laboratory, they broke down this fragrance into 22 distinct chemical elements that could potentially appeal to hawk moths, which are known for their highly sensitive antennae.

According to Jeff Riffell, another co-author of the study and a sensory neurobiologist, hawk moths are “good as a dog” when it comes to chemical sensitivity.

The researchers assessed the electrical responses in the moths’ antennae to identify which aspects of the primrose scent were most appealing to the insects. They discovered that monoterpenes, compounds present in numerous fruits and vegetables and known for imparting distinctive aromas to bark and coniferous leaves, were particularly favored by the moths.

natali_mis – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual bee

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