Air Pollution Makes Flowers Smell Less Appealing to Pollinators, Study Suggests | Smart News | News World

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A hawk moth lands on a primrose flower with an exhaust pipe polluting the interaction. Credit Floris Van Breugel.

Scientists have revealed a lesser known effect of burning fossil fuels: the disappearance of the world’s natural, vibrant scents.

In a new study published Thursday in the journal Science, researchers suggest the relentless stream of emissions from cars, factories and other industrial sources is interacting with and breaking down wild plant fragrances, an essential tool for attracting pollinators.

The team of nine researchers investigated the olfactory symbiosis between primrose, a wildflower that blooms only at night, and hawk moths, nocturnal insect pollinators that are drawn to the flowers’ aroma.

Their methods showed that some of air pollution’s most common chemical agents—ozone and nitrate radicals—significantly deteriorate the wildflower’s scent, deterring the moths from landing on polluted plants.

“We worry a lot about exposure of humans to air pollution, but there’s a whole life system out there that’s also exposed to the same pollutants,” study co-author Joel Thornton, an atmospheric chemist at the…

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