Friday, May 24, 2024
Local Gardener

Good or Bad: The Impact of Thick Smoke on Animals and Plants

Thick smoke has recently blanketed Eastern Canada and the Prairies, affecting both animals and plants in various ways. According to CBC and the public news in Canada, we edited this article to share with you some interesting points verified by the scientists.

Negative Impacts:

  1. Animals:

    • Respiratory Problems: Animals, like humans, suffer from respiratory issues due to smoke inhalation. Birds are particularly vulnerable as they easily absorb toxins from the smoke but struggle to clear the particulates due to their sensitive respiratory systems.
    • Fatigue: The presence of smoke leads to increased fatigue among animals.
    • Disorientation and Eye Irritation: Thick smoke can disorient animals and irritate their eyes, making it difficult for them to navigate and find food.
    • Behavioral Changes: Animals may alter their behaviors, such as foraging, mating, and reproduction, in response to the smoke.
    • Habitat Loss: Wildfires, which can burn through a forest at a speed of 10 kilometers (6 miles) an hour, greatly impact all animals by destroying their habitats. Species that return annually to the same breeding grounds and nesting sites are especially threatened.  
  2. Plants:

    • Stomatal Closure: Tiny pores on plant surfaces, called stomata, close in response to the dry atmosphere created by smoke. This reaction, intended to conserve water during perceived drought conditions, slows plant growth.
    • Reduced Photosynthesis: “Even a simple 30-minute exposure to smoke can reduce photosynthesis by almost 50 percent,” says Raju Soolanayakanahally, a researcher with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon.

Positive Impacts:

  1. Plants:
    • Efficient Photosynthesis: Smoke scatters solar radiation, reducing heat stress on plants and enabling more efficient photosynthesis.
    • Moisture Retention: Smoke slows the evaporation of moisture from plants and surrounding soil, helping plants retain water.
    • Germination: In areas affected by forest fires, smoke can trigger germination, bringing new life to charred landscapes.

While thick smoke poses significant challenges for both animals and plants, it also offers some unexpected benefits, particularly for plant growth and regeneration in fire-affected areas.