When I was a kid, my parents used to pile all four of us into the station wagon and we’d ride to the beach or the mountains. My dad, always the driver, made up a little song that he’d sing whenever we passed a tractor-trailer with black smoke belching from the smokestack on top of the cab. As with most of my dad’s made-up songs, this one only had a few words which were repeated ad nauseum: “Pollution, oh how I hate pollution…pollution, oh how I hate pollution.”
I think of it every time I drive to the URI, down past the state landfill where I can see (and smell) the noxious fumes from whatever’s being incinerated there. So yesterday I started thinking about the effects of air pollution on plants. Here are a just few of the problems it creates:
Sulfur Dioxide on its own damages leaves and other plant parts. When it combines with water, it creates acid rain (or fog or snow). Acid rain, changes the pH of rain from slightly acidic to very acidic and has a very negative cumulative effect on plants and soil.
Ozone cause leaves to turn yellow and die, stunts plant growth and fruit deveopment, and weakens plants so that they’re more likely to get diseases or pest infestations.
Particulate matter–such as excess dust, smoke, or soot–blocks the sun from plants. Sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis, which is how the plant creates food.
Basically, air pollution can be quite deadly to plants. It can lower crop yields, stunt their growth, or cause them to look unhealthy, which means people don’t want to buy them.
Oh how I hate pollution!