Bloom Time a Bust for Pollinators

Air pollution reduces ability of bees and bats to find flowers

08-01-2008 // Hannah Schardt

BAD NEWS for 21st century birds, bees and bats: Researchers at the University of Virginia have created a model of the way flower scents travel with the wind, and it shows that pollution is seriously interfering with pollinators’ ability to detect the blossoms of such plants as evening primrose at which they feed. Scent molecules bond with pollutants such as ozone, chemically altering the floral aromas. Researchers say that in the less polluted 19th century, the flowers’ scent could travel as far as 4,000 feet. Now, in urban areas, the sweet smell peters out at less than 1,000 feet, severely limiting pollinators’ ability to find the plants they need to survive.

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