Have you noticed lately that insects like bees and butterflies are gradually fading away in your neighborhoods? In a recent study, scientists found out why these wild populations of some pollinators, mainly bees, which need nectar for food, are fading in several areas of the world.
Researchers at the
"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 cites, they may travel only 200 to 300 meters," said Jose D. Fuentes, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and a co-author of the study. "This makes it increasingly difficult for pollinators to locate the flowers," he added.
The result, potentially, is grave as bees and other pollinating insects like butterflies struggle to find sufficient food to keep up their populations and the flowering plants also do not get pollinated sufficiently to proliferate and diversify.
Other studies, as well as the actual experience of farmers, have shown that populations of bees, particularly bumblebees, and butterflies have declined greatly in recent years.
Researchers believe that air pollution, especially during the peak period of summer, may be a factor. To investigate this, they created a mathematical model of how the scents of flowers travel with the wind. They found the scent molecules, produced by flowers very volatile that 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.
From the research study, it became evident that air pollution destroys the aroma of flowers, by as much as 90 percent from periods before automobiles and heavy industries came into existence, And the more air pollution there is in a region, the greater the destruction of the flower scents, and the less pollinating insects like bees to balance the ecosystem.
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