The Multilateral Implications of Changing Plant Biology

The significant role of plant biology in human health has largely been ignored so Ziska et al. 2009 studied the multiple aspects of altered plant biology due to climate change and the affects it will have on us. They examined aerobiology, contact dermatitis, pharmacology, toxicology, and pesticide use compared to a rise in CO2. Ziska et al. discovered substantial and highly impactful links between those factos and human health.  Increased CO2 stimulates plant growth generally, and that extends to enhancing the aerobiology of ragweed, loblolly pine, and other weeds. A greater food supply could result in an abundance of animal disease vectors. Plants with skin irritants causing contact dermatitis are increasing in response to more CO2, and some plants are becoming toxic to humans as they absorb carcinogens during growth. Plants are essential to medicine even as some develop toxic characteristics. At least one quarter of all pharmaceuticals contain plant extract and less than 1% of plant species have been studied for their pharmaceutical use. The lack of water and increasing temperatures will negatively impact the flowering state of plant growth. A rise in petrochemicals will impact animals and humans as the chemicals enter the environment.   Leah Kahn
Ziska, L., Epstein, P., and Schelsinger, W. 2009. Rising CO2, Climate Change, and Public Health: Exploring the links to Plant Biology. Environmental Health Perspectives 117, 155–159.

The intentions of this study were to elucidate the role of plant biology on nutrition and the impact of climate change on plant growth. Plants have always held a key role in healing. A large variety of plants provides diversity in the development of existing and new metabolites in pharmacology. For example, codeine, a common analgesic, comes from the Iranian poppy. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that more than 3.5 billion people depend on plants as a component of their primary health care.
Ziska et al. also studied unusual ways that our food supply will be affected. Blooming is the most thermal-sensitive stage of plant growth. Exposure to higher temperatures during reproduction will negatively affect pollen viability, fertilization, and fruit formation. Warmer temperatures and additional CO2 may extend growth periods however; this could further exacerbate reproductive sterility because of restricted transpirational cooling. These scientists predict that food crops will become starchier and protein-deficient, and digestibility will decline as is the case in paddy rice. There has also been a reduction in flour protein concentration and its optimum mixing time. As plant growth increases with rising CO2, the spread of human diseases will climb. Plants are not typically disease vectors but rodents and mosquitoes rely on plants as principle food. Since plant growth is increasing, Ziska et al. predict that animal vectors will multiply.
To control these rapidly growing plants, more pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides will be used. The concern is whether these chemicals will be able to limit and control the effects of climate forcing and CO2-induced changes in public health and plant biology. Due to similar studies of the Canada thistle, there is a rising concern of decreased chemical efficacy to control weeds. Greater use of petrochemicals risks human and animal health.

Plant-based respiratory allergies are a common health problem causing symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, nasal polyps, asthma, and pulmonary disease. Pollen is being produced in larger quantities and earlier in the season due to climate forcing of phenology—the study of animal and plant life cycles. A 35-year study of birch trees indicates earlier spring floral initiation and pollen release with anthropogenic warming. Also, diesel particles in the air help push allergens deep into airways and lungs. Data cited in this paper demonstrate that climate forcing and rising CO2 have a direct impact on increased pollen, spore production, and human exposure.

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