Climate change can significantly increase the risk of ozone damage to plants, especially in northern and central Europe by the end of this century, a new study has shown.
According to researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, ground-level ozone is an air pollutant that harms humans as well as plants and both climate and weather play a major role in triggering the damage.
Ozone is an atmospheric gas found at a height of 10-40 km above the Earth's surface.
It protects us against the sun's ultraviolet rays and is vital for life on Earth. Ozone is also formed at ground level when car exhaust fumes react in the presence of sunlight.
"The increased risk of ozone damage to vegetation is mainly due to rising ozone concentrations and higher temperatures in the future," said Jenny Klingberg at the University of Gothenburg's Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences.
"The most important effect on agricultural crops is premature aging, which result in smaller harvests with lower quality," he added.
The study aimed at estimating the risk of ozone damage to vegetation because of high temperatures in the future.
"The results show that the risk of ozone damage to plants is greatest in central Europe where ozone concentrations are high and climatic conditions promote uptake of ozone through the stomata. Weather and climate affect both the concentration of ground-level ozone in the ambient air and to what degree the stomata are open," Klingberg explained.
According to scientists, the risk of ozone damage is also affected by the carbon dioxide concentration in the air. It is known that the plants' stomata are less open when the concentration of carbon dioxide increases.