You are on page 1of 5


Name removed Biology 10 Mr. Abrams Period: 2 05/06/13 Research paper Air pollution affects trees and how they interact with it with the environment in ways which arent in our benefit. I chose this as my research question because I know that air pollution is has an immense affect on the planet and the ozone layer so I sought after to know the effects of pollution on trees, our planets oxygen making machines. An adequate sub-question which I thought goes along with my main address is Do trees actually help the environment? The affects that air pollution has on trees are that the soil is altered, physical changes to the tree happen; surrounding water sources become contaminated and then alter the trees DNA and way of growth. Air quality has seen a steady improvement in the last 20 years, according to the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, issues still persist, affecting trees and other plants. Coal burning power plants are a major source of toxic emissions. Air pollution is especially insidious because its effects can be felt from all over, even trees hundreds of miles from the source of the pollution. Air pollution alters pH levels, causing soils to become acidic when atmospheric sulfur dioxide combines with moisture in the air it evaporates and returns to the land as acid rain, which is extremely harmful to plants, then can acidify soils and impair tree growth. Air pollution can also cause soil leaching, where important tree nutrients such as calcium

and potassium are lost from the soil. Deficiencies in these nutrients can disrupt cell formation and photosynthesis, the process by which plants make food and energy so in turn the trees become malformed and become damaged and cant grow. Acid rain can even mobilize insoluble aluminum and other toxic metals such as lead and mercury, creating ecological dead zones in contaminated soils making it inhabitable and killing off more trees, which equals a reduced amount of clean air. Physical damage can happen too, leaves get damaged when acid rain comes in contact with plant tissues. Leaf or needle damage is especially dangerous because leaves are the primary site of photosynthesis. If leaves are damaged, photosynthesis slows or ceases which cause trees to die or even stop changes CO2 to O2. Contact with pollutants especially those from acid rain can cause nutrient leaching in the leaves as well creating a nutrient deficiency in the tree as it loses more nutrients than the roots can absorb. If this happens then trees become more vulnerable to disease and pest infestations, which can hurt the tree. Acid rain caused by air pollution can acidify surface and ground water resources. These acidic waters are then absorbed by tree root system, which harms the tree. Ground level ozone created by the accumulation of greenhouse gases can damage tree leaves and other plant structures. Sensitive species are at the most risk since they are more vulnerable than other trees or plants. Entire forests can be damaged by ground level ozone and its effects on the soil can result in a slowing of the decomposition of dead animals and plants. While decomposition is highly necessary to recycle nutrients within an ecosystem. Disruption of this cycle can negatively affect tree health which affects the ability to make O2.

Next, EPA researchers have discovered that controlling man-made sources of air pollution will have add benefit to assist reducing air pollution formed from compounds released from trees and plants. Trees and plants release more than just oxygen into the atmosphere as a result of photosynthesis, they also release a variety of gases that contribute to air pollution the planet's vegetation accounts for about two-thirds of the pollutants known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted globally. In the study, published in the May issue of Environmental Science &Technology, EPA researchers for the first time found out that emissions from vehicles and industry interact with natural emissions from vegetation to change the composition and create chemicals in the air far worse than if they were on their own. The implications of this study are extensive. "If we can control the man-made sources of emissions, we can indirectly affect the formation of these naturally derived atmospheric pollutant particles," says Dan Costa, National Program Director for Clean Air Research at EPA. This image to the bottom right displays the total amount of secondary organic aerosols (SOAs) formed in the atmosphere solely from the emissions of trees and other foliage, such as wildfires the blue color is the lowest emissions and red the highest. Now the total amount of SOAs formed when trees and foliage intermingle with pollutants emitted from cars and industry. As you can see in the image to the top right of the next page the same time period the pollution from cars and industry does not make much impact. So it begs to differ if trees do help the environment my other question. When computerized air quality

modeling was used investigators conducted simulations of natural and human-related pollution in the United States. When man-made pollutants were taken out of the simulation, there was a 50 percent drop in pollutants from trees and plants in the Eastern United States. This just proves that trees are equivalent in positive and negative effects. Future questions which could be addressed are How can tree emissions be reduced? or even Can we ever stop pollution? There are hundreds of question which one could choose but of those the two I chose I feel were as good as any. Why this was a critical question to research was because the leaves on the trees have these adaptations called "stomata" which open and close to let CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) polluted air in and release O2 (oxygen) clean air out. Without this there would not be an ozone layer, oxygen or even life on earth.

Work Cited Page Works Cited Carlton, A.G., R.W. Pinder, P.V. Bhave and G.A. Poulio. Research & Development. 25 January 2011. 4 May 2013. N/A. USDA Forest Service. 29 April 2013. 4 May 2013. Rogers, Chris Dinesen. eHow . 24 April 2013. 4 May 2013.