High ozone levels aren’t healthy for people, especially the very young, elderly or sick. But the pollution is bad for plants, too, and researchers at Mammoth Cave National Park are trying to determine its effects on the park’s flora.
Ozone is created when pollution cooks in the sun. There’s a federal standard for ozone pollution—and the EPA announced this week that it will become more stringent soon—but that’s based on human exposure.
Bobby Carson is the chief of science and resources management at Mammoth Cave. He says the National Park Service has been measuring ozone damage to plants annually, and has found many are sensitive to high ozone concentrations.
“What we’ve been seeing is obviously these plants, trees and vegetation are out there in the resource 24/7, so they’re getting a lot more exposure,” said Carson.
Carson says common symptoms on plants include black spots, and high exposure to ozone makes them more susceptible to disease and insects. He says ozone levels will have to be reduced in order to adequately protect the plant species in the national park.