Effects of ecosystem’s degradation and the EEA report. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)
Recently the European Environment Agency has released a report about the “Effects of air pollution on European ecosystems“. “The overall goal of the report is to evaluate — for the whole of Europe — how aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems were affected by acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants. The EEA report assesses the proportion of ecosystems exposed to nitrogen dioxide and sulphur-containing pollutants above sustainable levels.”
In order to study the “Effects of air pollution on European ecosystems”, the EEA has chosen as an indicator changes on “biodiversity” in grasslands. Mainly, the assessment presented here looks at the impact of air pollution in plant growth success for a number of species (“possible impacts of nutrient nitrogen deposition on species richness in nutrient-poor grasslands”).
However, I find missing here the required attention to explore the effects that altering the health state of our ecosystems oppose into the healthiness of the environment that is generated from them such as the types and concentration of bioaerosols generated, i.e. pollen, fungi, bacteria, …
We live in a symbiotic relationship with our ecosystems. Studying the effects of anthropogenic air pollutants on natural ecosystems should go beyond covering biodiversity. They should also address the effects over the biological performance in order to evaluate how much impact do we get due to the degradation of our ecosystems.
Air pollutants (SO, NO, DEP…) have an impact on ecosystems beyond triggering changes in its composition and structure. They also trigger changes in:
• the metabolism of the species,
• the quantity and the innocuousness of the particles and substances that they release,
• and, ultimately, the level of exposure to hazards that “we” get resultant from the synergistic effects of combining anthropogenic and natural pollutants (i.e. pollen + SO, NO, DEP …).
I believe that this is important since our own health gets a huge impact from not only anthropogenic but also “natural” pollutants. Eventually, the report does not address two major questions:
How anthropogenic air pollutants affect ecosystem’s performance by means of
- Ecosystem resilience,
- Soil weathering, structure and composition,
- Synergistic effects soil-flora-fauna,
- Atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic Albedo,
- Water bodies,
- Biological productivity,
- Climatic events,
- Aerosol composition related with Drop nuclei processes, albedo and health.
- Alterations on plant metabolism,
- Protein synthesis,
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How the degradation of the ecosystem has an impact on human health by means of everything generated within/by them
- soil leaching,
- plant debris, …
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I was surprised by the big umbrella that the title covers and the lack of interactions and mechanisms considered in the report.