Stress typically has negative effects on human health, but stress in plants may actually prove beneficial to the health of the planet as well as its human inhabitants.
Based on observation, genetic studies and computer modeling, a group of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) published a paper in Science Express Thursday stating that deciduous plants worldwide absorb about 36 percent more polluting chemicals, or oVOCs, than previously thought.
“Plants clean our air to a greater extent that we had realized,” said Thomas Karl, an NCAR scientist and the lead author of the study. “They actively consume certain types of air pollution.”
Oxygenated volatile organic compounds, or oVOCs, are a type of air polluting chemical with negative effects on both human health and the environment.
When the plants in the study were under stress, in the form of physical wounds or exposure to irritants such as ozone pollution, they absorbed more oVOCs from the atmosphere.
“As a response to various types of stress,” said Chhandak Basu, one of the study’s scientists from the University of Northern Colorado, “plants can actually adjust their metabolism and increase their uptake of atmospheric chemicals.”