New research from the University of Birmingham reveals that car pollution is detrimentally impacting the ability of bees to locate flowers.

The study indicates that heightened levels of ozone in the environment diminish the range of a flower’s scent, resulting in a reduced attraction for bees. Field studies showed a 50% decline in bee visits to flowers due to pollution.

Professor Christian Pfrang, leading the research, expressed surprise at the substantial impact pollution had on this crucial ecological interaction.

The team conducted experiments in a large wind tunnel to comprehend the dynamics at play. Collaborating with the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and the Universities of Birmingham, Reading, Surrey, and Southern Queensland, they simulated flower scents and measured their dispersion in varying pollution levels.

Prof Pfrang said: “Our study provides robust evidence that the changes due to ground-level ozone on floral scent cause pollinators to struggle to carry out their crucial role in the natural environment, also with implications for food security.

“The straightforward solution is to reduce pollution, to reduce levels of air pollutant such as ozone and diesel exhaust.”

As ozone levels rise, the scent plume contracts because ozone interferes with the chemical composition of the flower’s fragrance. Bees rely on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to identify plants, guiding them to flowers without overwhelming their surroundings.

However, the research reveals that this delicate chemical balance is more susceptible to disruption from pollution than initially thought, emphasising the urgent need for environmental measures to safeguard essential pollinator activities.



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