According to a new study, heavy air pollution in cities affects insects and ecosystem as plants exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), pretty much similar to those levels found in big metropolises, can defend better against herbivorous insects causing a significant unbalance in the ecosystems.
As the scientists reported in the study’s report issued in the journal Nature Communications, those plants exposed to NO2 are producing more chemicals that defend these organisms against herbivorous insects. In accordance, the insects that feed on plants’ leaves do not develop correctly, a fact that suggests that air pollution is negatively impacting the communities of herbivorous creatures.
“Nitrogen dioxide is a pollutant that causes severe health problems in humans, but our research has found that it may also be having a significant impact on plants and insects. Insects are a crucial part of nature and the world we live in. Insects are critical to the healthy functioning of ecosystems,” said Stuart Campbell, lead author of the study.
Air Pollution Harms Herbivorous Insects and Ecosystem, A New Study Reveals
“Many people may be aware that insect pollinators, such as the thousands of species of bees, along with flies, moths, and butterflies, are crucial for food production – but they also ensure the long-term survival of wildflowers, shrubs, and trees,” Stuart Campbell explained.
He also explained that herbivorous insects have a significant role in the ecosystem as they are responsible for returning plant nutrients to the soil, while they are foods for reptiles, wild birds, reptiles, other insects, as well as for mammals. Campbell also warned that, lately, scientists around the world estimated that the global insect populations are declining, causing some irremediable imbalances in the ecosystems around the world.
“Nitrogen dioxide is a major component of smog and is an example of pollution caused by human activity, particularly our reliance on fossil fuels. Levels of this pollutant in the atmosphere remain particularly high in cities, and especially in the UK. Our research shows another example of the dangers of pollution in our environments and the reasons why we need to make a united effort to tackle it,” Campbell concluded.
With over seven years of experience in online journalism, Vadim is passionate about everything related to science and the environment. For us, he will thus cover climate, environment, and science news, among others.