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article imageOzone has major climate effect on lower atmosphere

By Paul Wallis     Jul 26, 2007 in Environment
Another wrinkle in the atmospheric chemistry has appeared. Ozone in the lower atmosphere operates in damaging ways. It’s not only toxic to us, it’s toxic to plants. It affects CO2 uptake by plants between 14-23%, according to models.
Ozone is a major factor in the modern world. The US EPA publishes daily ozone level reports. It is recognized as a health hazard, and US local government has established emergency procedures to deal with excessive ozone levels.
The chemistry of the ozone effects on plants is explained in depth in the BBC article. It is believed that the effects on plant stomata are themselves a factor in climate change.
Ozone is a particularly highly reactive chemical, and its chemical properties are well known. Biologically, it would be the definitive “free radical”. It has the ability to form strong chemical bonds with the three oxygen atoms it contains, and the fundamental concept of this study is plausible enough. The ozone is effectively operating as a growth retardant, inhibiting important biological processes, transpiration, and carbon uptake.
This effect on plants hasn’t been studied before, and actually, as science, it’s a pretty inconvenient bit of news for scientists, creating a further dimension to a situation that’s already pretty tricky, and has provided so much unappealing data. From a botanical point of view, the reduction in carbon processing has ramifications for crop production, biodiversity, and dealing with invasive plants. (If native plants are weakened by pollution, their ability to deal with invasive plants is reduced.) Ecologically, the considerations are much the same, but the overall effects on global biota are imponderable. In theory, they could be very wide ranging.
More about Ozone, Pollution, Carbon dioxide
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