The study, published in Nature Communications, reveals that plants exposed to high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) -- similar to levels recorded in major urban centres -- are able to better defend themselves against herbivorous insects.
Led by Dr Stuart Campbell from the University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, the research has discovered that plants exposed to increased levels of pollution produce more defensive chemicals in their leaves.
Results - Study - Show - Leaves - Levels
Results from the study show that insects feeding on these leaves grew poorly, which suggests high levels of air pollution may be having cascading negative effects on communities of herbivorous creatures.
Dr Campbell, who is also part of the P3 Centre -- a centre of excellence for translational plant science at the University of Sheffield, said: "Nitrogen dioxide is a pollutant that causes severe health problems in humans, but our research has found that it may also be having a significant impact on plants and insects.
Insects - Part - Nature - World - Insects
"Insects are a crucial part of nature and the world we live in. Insects are critical to the healthy functioning of ecosystems.
"Many people may be aware that insect pollinators, such as the thousands of species of bees, along with flies, moths and butterflies, are crucial for food production -- but they also ensure the long-term survival of wildflowers, shrubs and trees."
Dr - Campbell - Feed - Plants - Insects
Dr Campbell added: "Insects that feed on plants (herbivorous insects) help return plant nutrients to the soil, and are themselves food for wild birds, reptiles, mammals, and yet more insects. Insects are also immensely important for decomposing decaying organic matter and maintaining healthy soils. Scientists are warning about massive declines in insect numbers, which should be incredibly alarming to anyone who values the natural world and our sources of food.
"Nitrogen dioxide is a major component of smog and is an example of pollution caused from human activity, particularly our...
Wake Up To Breaking News!
Aim and timing is evereything.