Emissions Foil Flower Pollination | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: April 16, 2008

Emissions Foil Flower Pollination

When common flower scents meet atmospheric pollutants, insects lose the trail to the bloom
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Environmental SCENE

Floral fragrances waft far and wide in clean air, but polluted air is another story. Emissions from sources such as cars and power plants are destroying the perfumed chemical trails that direct pollinators to flowers. This sort of environmental interference might contribute to a recently observed reduction in pollinating insects such as bees, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Virginia (Atmos. Environ. 2008, 42, 2336).

Environmental sciences professor Jose D. Fuentes and graduate students Quinn S. McFrederick and James C. Kathilankal created a model to assess what happens in the wind when linalool, β-myrcene, and β-ocimene—volatile hydrocarbon compounds and common flower scents—meet atmospheric pollutants such as ozone and hydroxyl and nitrate radicals. The researchers based the model on the snapdragon, a flower whose aroma cocktail includes all three compounds, and found that the scents degraded quickly with distance from the source.

Prior to the 1880s, insects could detect scents up to a few kilometers away, but under today???s more polluted conditions, the researchers find, insects can???t detect scents farther than 200 meters away. That could become a big problem for the survival of pollinators and isolated flower patches, the scientists warn.

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