Effect of Pollution on Plants

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We often talk about pollution in terms of its effect on human beings. However, we usually don’t speak about the negative effect of pollution on plants. Unfortunately, there are many kinds of pollution, and each type has a specific effect on plant life.

This article looks at each type of pollution and its effect on plants.

Different Types of Pollution

There are eight types of pollution, and each affects plant life. So let’s take a closer look.

1. Air Pollution

Air pollution is created mainly by burning fossil fuels and includes gases from raising livestock, using volatile organic compounds, and more. The effect of air pollution on plant life can be direct or indirect.

Toxins are directly deposited onto the plants, which affects their ability to intake carbon from the air. Plants require carbon as energy to live, and they take carbon out of the air, which reduces pollution.

On the other hand, indirect pollution of plants occurs when heavy metals and other industrial chemicals fall on the ground. As a result, the soil is polluted, and plants then uptake that pollution and can’t get the nutrition they need to survive.

In addition, there are different types of air pollution worth talking about here. These include things like particulate matter and photochemical smog.

2. Photochemical Smog

One of the worst types of air pollution is known as photochemical smog when volatile or organic compounds interact with nitrous oxides. When they are hit with sunlight, they produce a chemical reaction that creates photochemical smog – an orangish haze you see when the sun shines into it just the right way.

This results in higher levels of ground-level ozone, which is very dangerous for plants. In addition, plants exposed to large amounts of photochemical smog are often weaker and have less chance of survival. Simply put, photochemical smog will poison and kill plants.

3. Particulate Matter

Particulate matter is very fine particles that are suspended in the air. This particulate matter can be harmful to plants and human beings. These are things like magnesium-lime dust, carbon soot, or cement dust. But, of course, simple dust is a problem as well.

This particulate matter can fall on plants and block light penetration, which plants need to function correctly. In addition, particulate matter can prevent photosynthesis, which means the plant will die.

Alkaline particulate matter is poisonous for plants in high quantities. In addition, when it seeps into the soil, it changes its acidity level, preventing plants from growing.

4. Ozone

Ozone pollution usually occurs due to photochemical smog. However, some plants are susceptible to ozone. It obstructs their stomata, restricts their respiration, and stunts their growth. Plants exposed to too much ozone cannot properly photosynthesize (turn light into energy) and will wilt and die.

Effect of Pollution on Plants

5. Acid Rain

Acid rain forms when nitrogen oxides react with sulfur dioxide, oxygen, water, and other chemicals in the atmosphere. This is something that usually occurs due to fossil fuel combustion.

Acid rain damages the soil of the earth and plants, and water. Acid rain can burn plants with high exposure. It can dissolve nutrients that plants need for growth and completely destroy soil and make it uninhabitable for plants. If the soil becomes too acidic, plants cannot survive.

6. Soil Pollution

We have already discussed soil pollution in terms of acid rain. However, improper waste disposal, pesticides, landfills, and oil spills cause soil pollution. These contaminants will completely strip the soil of all nutrients. They also build up in the ground.

Soil pollution prevents plants from taking nutrients and interferes in photosynthesis. In addition, some substances can outright poison and kill plants.

7. Water Pollution

Many harmful chemicals can be deposited in the water. Industrial spills, direct discharge, biological contamination, farm runoff, and sewage leakage can create water pollution. Like humans, plants need water to survive, and if they don’t get enough water, the plant will die.

However, many contaminants cause water to become highly acidic. This change in pH level can affect how these plants uptake nutrients and perform photosynthesis. Heavily polluted water will not only reduce plant growth but could also kill plants.

8. Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is a form of pollution that many people don’t consider. Although it is surprising, noise pollution affects plant life.

Many small animals are essential for the well-being of trees and plants, especially pollinators. Noise drives these little critters away, which adversely affects plant life. Plants cannot reproduce as easily without creatures such as bees.

Read also: How Does Recycling Help Reduce Pollution?

The Bottom Line

The effect of pollution on plants is massive and widespread. If we don’t do something to curtail pollution levels, plants and crops will eventually die. If our plants die, we are next.

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