Impact of air pollution on plants and animals
We have seen different aspects of air pollution in this website. In this article, we will go in-depth into the detailed study of how plants and animals are affected due to air pollution. How pollution becomes a killer was one of our topics, in which we saw how dangerous it is on humans. Here we will swiftly go through the causes of air pollution naturally and man-made, shall discuss about the major pollutants and then walk in to the impact on animals and also plants.
In the article of air pollution- a silent killer; we discussed about an aspect on pollutants entering indirectly our body through plants and animals. Hence it is very clear that air pollution is not only affecting humans, but also plants and animals. Air pollution means the contamination of the pure air that encumbers the normal consumption of air by the living beings and affect their welfare and comfort.
What are the natural causes of air pollution?
Air pollution is being done naturally also. In spite of being it a surprising fact, it is a big bold truth. The society has an outlook that air pollution is only man-made which is not true. Let’s see what are the natural causes of air pollution.
- Volcanic eruption: it is one of the important natural air polluting factors. It releases tremendous volume of ashes, sulfur and chlorine to the atmosphere. It spreads very widely by wind and get dispersed over a large area.
- Wild fire: wildfires occur naturally due to the excess sunlight in dry wooden area. This can happen when there is lack of precipitation. The wildfires have ended up killing many animals. Moreover, it releases smoke and carbon monoxide to the atmosphere heavily.
- Wind: isn’t it shocking that wind is a natural air pollution factor? Unfortunately, being it a source of energy, it is also an air pollution factor. Wind carries away all kind of pollutants with them and spread it very widely. How ever it also creates a lot of dust in dry dusty areas.
- Natural calamities: when talking about natural calamities, we need to keep in mind that volcanic eruption and wild fires themselves are natural calamities. The other calamities like flood, earth quake etc adds to the air pollution as it spreads out the waste widely.
- Radioactive decaying: it is too common that there is presence of radioactive materials in the atmosphere or environment. These materials tend to release hazardous ionizing radiation when they start decaying. The emission of gamma, beta and alpha rays in the environment cause pollution to a very great extent.
- Microbial decaying: decaying is a natural process that happens with the help of micro-organisms present in the environment. This decaying is very essential for the natural life-cycle to occur. Landfills are one of the examples for this. The decaying releases gases like methane to the environment causing air pollution.
- Increase in temperature: the natural phenomenon of increase in temperature enables the increase in vaporizing the contaminated water to the air that naturally contaminates the air.
These are the natural causes of air pollution.
What are the man-made causes of air pollution?
- Burning of fossil fuels: Man burns the fossil fuels for transportation and electricity on a large scale. It not only cause pollution but also its depletion of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels burning releases a large amount of carbon monoxide to the environment.
- Landfills: waste disposition has become a great headache for all authorities across the World. The huge waste dumps on the isolated land start decaying with the help of the micro-organisms and produce hectic amount of methane to the atmosphere there by polluting the air.
- Agriculture: agriculture done by man is a main source of pollution. The pesticides and fertilizers used for enhancing the growth of crops are one of the biggest air pollutants in the world. The smell of these pesticides and fertilizers spread through air by polluting it.
- Industrial emission: the industries emit such a lot of pollutants like sulphur oxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter 2.5 and 10. We will be discussing how these pollutants are affecting us in the next section. The industrial areas are the most polluted areas than what we see.
- Transportation: the number of vehicles on road is directly proportional to the air pollution. We have witnessed the fact that the sale of vehicles is on the rise and obviously they are on the road. The burning of gasoline of the vehicle releases harmful gases to the atmosphere and that is the reason why the pollution is more on to the urban side.
- Indoor air pollution: use of toxic cleaning components, scarce ventilation, irregular humidity and temperature causes indoor air pollution which affect the air. Using wood as stove and heaters inappropriately also affects the air inside and disturbs health of a person within no time.
What are the main pollutants in air and how it affects
There are enormous pollutants found in air, but we are discussing about the main and dangerous pollutants found in air. (Please see “Main pollutants in ‘Air pollution: The silent Killer'”) Even though we are discussing about effects of pollutants on plants and animals, we will just put across the health issues caused to humans. This is for a comparative study to know how worse it can be on plants and animals if it so bad on human.
- Carbon monoxide: inhaling air with carbon monoxide reduces the ability of heart to pump and thus oxygen supply to the body reduces.
- Ground level ozone: inhaling the ground level ozone activates congestion, chest pain, throat itching, cough etc and it is more than enough to accelerate bronchitis, asthma etc. it also affects functioning of the lungs and permanently leave marks on tissues.
- Sulphur dioxide: this may cause irritation to nose, throat and eyes. It also develops dry cough, choking, flu and burning eyes etc.
- Particle pollution: when these particles enter our body, it damages our heart health causing heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias. It also triggers asthma attacks and other lung diseases. The capacity of lungs is also affected.
- Nitrogen dioxide: nitrogen dioxide when entered inside may cause genetic mutations resulting in genetic diseases in children. It also affects the oxygen carrying capacity of blood followed by fatigue, dizziness, headache etc. It may also bring blueish color to the skin and lips.
Effect of air pollution on plants
Plants are the foremost ones that get exposed to air pollution, which is very apparent. The leaves absorb the pollutants in the atmosphere very quickly, resulting in releasing of reactive oxygen species along with free radicals. This can damage the whole of the plant at any point of time.
The Ozone also enters the plant and cause damage. It can hinder the growth of the plants and completely decay the plant at once. It affects the respiratory aid, stomata and there by affecting growth of the plant leading to its death. Acid rain, exposure to particulate pollution, sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxides restricts the nutrients and mineral absorption of plants. When coming to the agriculture side, it will end up in reduced yield. Thus, in a way pollution affects the economical growth of the country.
The main direct effects of pollution on plants are:
- It affects the absorption of nutrients and minerals
- Chlorophyll ruining
- The health of the plant as a whole due to insufficient minerals.
Acid rain is said to be damage the nutrients in the soil, impairs the roots and stems of the plant arresting its growth and hence death of it. Acid rain affects the Ph level which cannot be tolerated by certain plants and chances are high that they extinct forever from Earth. The percentage of plant species extinction is really frightening. Around 40% of the plant species have extinct due to pollution according to the global surveys conducted. Ozone holes have a commendable role in the extinction of many plants.
Effects of air pollution on animals
We saw the effects of air pollution on plants and now let us see the effects of it on animals. The impact may not be evident when we see them but it can be easily made out with the fact study. We have seen the health issues caused to humans when exposed to air pollution. The animals also have the respiratory system and the tolerance level is different from each species.
The exposure to the air pollutants or the pollutants entering the body of animals can consequently change the behaviour of the animals. They can act weird than usual when they are affected by the pollutants. The particulate pollution, nitrogen oxide etc have proved that they change the public behavior as well as the breeding activities of animals.
The exposure to pollutants has increased the diseases in animals. The habitual exposure has paved way to the death of the whole species and there by making them extinct. A species being extinct directly affects the ecosystem and food chain system of the nature. The air pollution has affected the reproductive ability, endocrine functioning, immune system, interna organ health etc.
Thus, summing up the effects of air pollution on animals:
- The health of the animals as a whole, its reproduction and weakness to diseases are the highlighted ones.
- Death of the animals at a higher rate due to diseases or illness.
- Threat of the extinction of the species which directly affects the ecosystem of nature
- The food chain system being affected as a whole as one species being extinct naturally ends
in the increase in the species, which was a food for the extinct species.
Birds are the most affected category among animals due to air pollution. Since they have the most efficient respiratory system than any other animal species. This is one of the reasons and the other one is they are the ones those get exposed to air pollution to the most because they fly all over the cities, industrial areas, landfills etc. unlike all other animals they don’t remain at a short area.
Disturbance to the bird community by air pollution is hefty. Inhaling of O3 and nitrogen oxides damages the lungs of the birds directly. It also affects the reproductive system resulting in the decline of its total number. Damage to the immune system, lung failure etc are the other consequences of air pollution on birds.
Air pollution is a monster which is powerful enough to pause the life on Earth. Animals and human depend on plants to live. Plants are considered to be the air purifier. But what happens when the plants themselves cannot survive due to air pollution. Human depend on animals too for their food. And what if they too become extinct. These are the questions raised to ourselves as well because man-made pollution is the major contributor to the air pollution rather than the natural causes. We have the obligation to cut down the proportion of pollution made to the environment. Else it is very apparent that the plants get extinct or its growth retards by the end of this century.