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Pollution helping 'thug plants' take over

Press Association logoPress Association 13/03/2017 Emily Beament

Air pollution isn't just harming human health, it's having a "devastating impact" on UK wildflowers and landscapes, conservation experts warn.

Nitrogen emissions from transport, power stations, farming and industry in the form of nitrogen oxides and ammonia are deposited back into the natural environment directly from the air, or in the rain, over-fertilising the soil.

The pollution creates nutrient-rich soils which allow "thuggish" plants such as nettles, hogweed and hemlock, that thrive in the conditions, to overpower rare and endangered wildflowers, a report by nature charity Plantlife warns.

The problem, which is "force-feeding the natural world a diet of nutrient-rich junk food" that harms plants and the wider habitat, is in addition to the impact of nitrogen fertilisers being spread on the land.

Dr Trevor Dines, Plantlife's botanical specialist, says nitrogen being deposited from the air and rain could present a far more immediate threat to parts of the countryside than climate change.

"We are force-feeding the natural world a diet of nutrient-rich junk food and it is having a devastating impact," he said.

"Once diverse habitats are becoming monotonous green badlands where only the thugs survive and other more delicate plants are being bullied out of existence."

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