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Pollution reduces flowers’ fragrance

Air pollution is decreasing the fragrance of flowers around us and making it difficult for insects to find them.

This was revealed by University of Virginia (UV) researchers who blamed cars and power plants for reducing the aroma of flowers by as much as 90 percent.

This, in turn, prevents pollinating insects like bees from finding food. To make things worse, the non-pollinated flowers won’t have a chance to grow and proliferate.

Researchers believe this explains the dwindling population of bees in several parts of the world, including California and the Netherlands.

The study was made by Jose D. Fuentes, UV professor of environmental sciences, and his students Quinn McFrederick and James Kathilankal. It was funded by the National Science Foundation and appears in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

“To investigate this, they created a mathematical model of how the scents of flowers travel with the wind. The scent molecules produced by flowers are very volatile and they quickly bond with pollutants such as ozone, hydroxyl and nitrate radicals, which destroy the aromas they produce. This means that instead of traveling intact for long distances with the wind, the scents are chemically altered and the flowers, in a sense, no longer smell like flowers. This forces pollinators to search farther and longer and possibly to rely more on sight and less on smell,” reported ScienceDaily.Com.

They found that the distances traveled by the scent of flowers were limited in today’s polluted world compared to the days before the automobile and the industrial revolution.

“The scent molecules produced by flowers in a less polluted environment, such as in the 1800s, could travel for roughly 1,000 to 1,200 meters; but in today’s polluted environment downwind of major cities, they may travel only 200 to 300 meters,” Fuentes revealed.

“It quickly became apparent that air pollution destroys the aroma of flowers, by as much as 90 percent from periods before automobiles and heavy industry. And the more air pollution there is in a region, the greater the destruction of the flower scents,” he added.

To preserve the beauty of flowers and prevent them from dying, do your share to stop air pollution. Walk instead of driving if you’re going to a nearby place. Ride a bicycle, join a carpool or shop by phone or mail.

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