Kudzu, a leafy vine native to Japan and southeastern China, produces the chemicals isoprene and nitric oxide, which, when combined with nitrogen in the air, form ozone, an air pollutant that causes significant health problems for humans. Ozone also hinders the growth of many kinds of plants, including crop vegetation.
"We found that this chemical reaction caused by kudzu leads to about a 50 percent increase in the number of days each year in which ozone levels exceed what the Environmental Protection Agency deems as unhealthy," said study co-author Manuel Lerdau, a University of Virginia professor of environmental sciences and biology. "This increase in ozone completely overcomes the reductions in ozone realized from automobile pollution control legislation."
Lerdau and his former graduate student, lead author Jonathan Hickman – now a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University – used field studies at three sites in Georgia to determine the gas production of kudzu. They then worked with Shiliang Wu and Loretta Mickley, atmospheric scientists at Harvard University, who used atmospheric chemistry computer models to evaluate the potential 50-year effect of kudzu invasion on regional air quality.
"Essentially what we found is that this biological invasion has the capacity to degrade air quality, and in all likelihood over time lead to increases in air pollution, increases in health problems caused by that air pollution, and decreases in agricultural productivity," Lerdau said.
"This is yet another compelling reason to begin seriously combating this biological invasion. What was once considered a nuisance, and primarily of concern to ecologists and farmers, is now proving to be a potentially serious health threat."
Ozone acts as an irritant to the eyes, nose and throat, and can damage the lungs, sometimes causing asthma or worsening asthma symptoms. It also is a mutagen and can cause lung cancer.
Ozone, while essential to the health of the Earth in the upper atmosphere where it shields the surface from excess ultraviolet radiation, is hazardous to human health when it forms at the earth's surface. This occurs most often in the summertime as plants grow and produce chemicals that react with the air.
Introduced to the United States in the late 19th century, kudzu, with its unique nitrogen-fixing physiology, allows a rapid, nearly uninhibited rate of growth, about three times the rate of trees and other vegetation. The vine was cultivated more extensively in the 1920s and 1930s as a control for soil erosion and rapidly became known as "the vine that ate the South."
In recent, milder winters, Kudzu has expanded its range northward into Pennsylvania and New York.
"What was once a Southern problem is now becoming an East Coast issue," Lerdau said.
Various strategies are used for controlling and eradicating kudzu, including livestock grazing, burning, mowing and herbicides.
Fariss Samarrai | EurekAlert!
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Urbanization to convert 300,000 km2 of prime croplands
27.12.2016 | Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) gGmbH
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction