Plants and Air Pollution

Plants are an important part of our environment and the ecosystem. Plants are considered as the natural sink to the carbon dioxide and generator of oxygen. Trees are reported to be efficient filters of air borne particles because of their large size. Without plants, life on the Earth seems impossible. Plants keep us alive. The oxygen produced by the plants are used by other living beings to remain alive. The uses of plants are numerous to other animals like humans.

But the need and greed of humans have extensively cleared many dense forests by cutting down trees. In the name on agriculture, industrialization and modernization, the trees are cut everyday effortlessly. Afforestation is still a major concern today.

Air pollution is linked to afforestation. There are not enough trees to combat air pollution because the growth of industrialization is more than reforestation. In this post, I am going to address some problems that are less talked about in general. The problems that plants face due to increased release of gaseous effluents in the atmosphere should be know to everyone of us.

How Air Pollution Affects Plants?

Like animals, plants are also deleteriously affected by air pollution. Not only the gaseous effluents but the particulate matters also affect the plants. The noxious gases such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and ground level ozone present in the effluents interact with the physiology, biochemistry and metabolic functions of the plants. These gases enter through the small pores known as stomata, found on the leaves. Visible injuries on the leaves of plants are also related to exposure to air pollutants. Since the plants remain static, they are severely damaged by automobile exhausts.

Leaves being the exposed part of the plant, are the most sensitive organ. All the industrial and automobile exhausts are released in the air and transported inside the plants through leaves. Apart from the leaves, the trunk of the trees is also severely affected by air pollutants. The heavy metals from the vehicular effluents get stuck to the branches and trunk of the trees thereby affecting the trees.  The toxic gases released from vehicles and industries clog the pores present in the leaves and harm the plants. The dust particles and the particulate matters also cover the surface of the leaf and hamper the overall growth of the plant.

How two Plants React to Air Pollution?

Every plant reacts differently to the environment and environmental changes. Some plants are sensitive to air pollution while others are tolerant. There are different methods to estimate which plant is sensitive and which plant is tolerant to the pollutants. One of such method is called Air Pollution Tolerance Index (APTI). This method is used to categorize plants and trees into different categories on the level of their sensitivity to air pollutants. The plants are that less sensitive to gaseous pollutants are referred as tolerant species. This is a very important study in environmental biology. The plants that are tolerant to polluted air can be used to create a green belt around polluted industrial areas and along the roadside.

Biomonitoring Air Pollution:

Some scientists also use avenue trees to monitor the air pollution level in the locality. This is known as biomonitoring of air pollution. This study is also gaining popularity among environmentalists as it is cost effective and does not require installment of big machines and equipment.

This is a very vast topic to be discussed in a single post. In coming posts, I would be sharing more such interesting facts about plants and their relationship to air pollution. There is so much to be talked about plants and our environment. Let’s understand a different prospective of air pollution. Let’s understand that plants are equally affected by air pollutants like animals.

About Dr Namrata, Ph.D.

Author is a PhD in Botany (Environmental Science) with keen interest in Biotechnology and Research work. Currently, she is a full time blogger, posting her views and thoughts related to Science and Life.

16 Responses

  1. True. All of us are using these resources without proper planning. Sadly, leaving behind unsafe environment for our loved ones.

    We need to act wisely and teach the younger ones the same. Or else, nature will fight back…like it has already started to….

    Liked by 1 person

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