Global Warming May Hinder Our Ability To Stop And Smell The Roses

There’s something magical about a summer garden — flowers, shrubs, and even vegetables produce a garden that is vibrant and enchanting. Of course, as humans, we experience life through our five core senses — one of those being our olfactory system.

As you walk through a garden that is brimming with life, you’re hit with a range of scents — all of which add to the overall experience. The floral and earthy fragrances you experience are one of the most appealing aspects of a thriving garden. So I ask you, what if something could essentially take that away?

How would you feel? Robbed? Disappointed? Incomplete?

Well, unfortunately, global warming may make this scenario a potential reality, as rising temperatures blunt the smell of flowers. We could essentially lose this special and unique experience, but there’s a bigger picture here. Scientists are concerned about something greater — extreme changes in pollination.

The effects of global warming

How often have you heard this debate? Some individuals state that the facts cannot be ignored, while others say global warming is all a bunch of bologna. Regardless of the argument, a new study has shown that flowers provide less fragrance when exposed to higher ambient temperatures.

After all, it’s important to remember that flowers are living species. In order for them to give off a fragrant scent, an immense amount of energy is required. As rising temperatures reduce growth, flowers aren’t able to waste energy producing perfume. Although this would affect our interaction with flowers, there’s something greater at stake.

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Sure, we use flowers to extract fragrances, but flowers do not naturally produce these perfumes for us. Just as with shape and color, scent is an important feature in terms of attracting pollinators. While taking a closer look, it was remarkable what a PhD student discovered.

New study — rising temperatures are leading to less floral fragrance

It’s been well established among researchers that global warming has a dramatic effect on plant growth. Alon Cna’ani, a PhD student from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has found that a rise in ambient temperature leads to reduced floral scent production. The study by Cna’ani and colleagues was published in the journal Plant, Cell & Environment.

Cna’ani has also been focusing on ways to overcome the decreased production of volatile substances. During his lab work, Cna’ani noticed that when petunia plants were exposed to elevated temperatures, they suffered from a reduced production and emission of scent compounds. However, he demonstrated that plants could bypass this adverse effect by “turning on” a specific gene. When this gene is expressed, production is increased, regardless of the ambient temperature. For his research and potential solution, Cna’ani was awarded the Smith Vision Prize.

Although his findings are interesting, it’s all a bit odd. Turning on and turning off genes — doesn’t really seem that natural. Have we gotten to the point where we need to edit nature? Without pollination, what will happen? There are just far too many questions and not enough answers.

How floral fragrances influence pollination

The floral fragrances we’ve been discussing are what attract insects to the reproductive organ of a plant. Once an insect, such as a bee, lands on the flower, it takes pollen to another flower in order to reproduce. If these plants stop attracting insects, the existence of various plant species could be in jeopardy.

Pollination is needed for 90 percent of wildflowers to thrive. Flowers wouldn’t be the only things affected by this phenomena either. Pollinators that are attracted to a flower’s fragrance help ecosystems and even food systems thrive. Cross-pollination is said to help at least 30 percent of the world’s food crops — in turn, supporting global economies.

To add fuel to the fire, global warming is also significantly threatening pollinator populations — not to mention the heavy pesticide use and increased habitat loss. Do not think that you cannot do your part. You may not be a large corporation with dozens of factories, but you do make choices each and every day.

  • Be energy efficient: When you are not using appliances, unplug them; if you don’t have a clothesline outside, invest in a hanging rack; change all your bulbs to energy-efficient bulbs, etc.
  • Eat wisely: Locally grown, organic foods are not only good for your health, but also the environment. The truth is, approximately 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from meat and dairy production. Consume at least two meat-free dinners a week, eating low on the food chain.
  • Be mindful of your garbage: Landfills give off methane, so be eco-friendly when it comes to waste. Kitchen scraps and garden trimmings can be composted, and recycling is far too easy not to take part in your local pick-up programs.
  • Walk, cycle or carpool: The David Suzuki Foundation has stated that in Canada 25 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions are from transportation. Whenever possible, cycle or walk. If you need to go somewhere further for work, carpool.

Like so many things, change cannot happen until we acknowledge the problem. The fact that people are still debating whether or not global warming is real is troublesome in itself. Nature is resilient, there’s no doubt about that, but it can also be pushed too far.

If you are making eco-friendly choices on a daily basis, please feel free to share below — we’d love to hear what you’re doing to improve your local or national environment. It’s all about spreading the word, providing inspiration for other like-minded individuals — ensuring that we can stop and smell the roses for years to come.
—Krista Hillis

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