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Environ Pollut. 2009 Apr;157(4):1279-86. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2008.11.049. Epub 2008 Dec 30.

Responses of herbaceous plants to urban air pollution: effects on growth, phenology and leaf surface characteristics.

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Division of Biology, Imperial College London, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire, UK.


Vehicle exhaust emissions are a dominant feature of urban environments and are widely believed to have detrimental effects on plants. The effects of diesel exhaust emissions on 12 herbaceous species were studied with respect to growth, flower development, leaf senescence and leaf surface wax characteristics. A diesel generator was used to produce concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NO(x)) representative of urban conditions, in solardome chambers. Annual mean NO(x) concentrations ranged from 77 nl l(-l) to 98 nl l(-1), with NO:NO(2) ratios of 1.4-2.2, providing a good experimental simulation of polluted roadside environments. Pollutant exposure resulted in species-specific changes in growth and phenology, with a consistent trend for accelerated senescence and delayed flowering. Leaf surface characteristics were also affected; contact angle measurements indicated changes in surface wax structure following pollutant exposure. The study demonstrated clearly the potential for realistic levels of vehicle exhaust pollution to have direct adverse effects on urban vegetation.

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