Plants will still grow in ‘smog’ conditions, but will grow at slower rates. Smog, O3 (ozone), is released into our air when we burn fossil fuels and ‘chokes’ out plant life. The ozone gets into the plants ‘breathing’ cells and prevents the leaves from ‘inhaling’ CO2 and slowly kills off the foliage. In association with harming the plants, it prevents them from respiring carbon dioxide from our air and also prevents them from producing clean oxygen for the atmosphere. It is estimated that smog destroys $3 billion annually in crops in the US alone.
Yes, this article maintains that smog is responsible for the loss of 50% of nearby trees in Los Angeles, CA. It seems that trees planted in the downtown area have an average lifespan of less than 10 years, when an urban tree needs to be over 30 years old before the surrounding area can reap the environmental benefits it provides (e.g., acting as a carbon sink). These shorter life expectancies can be attributed to contaminated or oxygen-deficient soil, lack of nutrients, and insufficient space for root growth.
However, lifespan also depends on the species of tree. The golden rain tree is apparently tolerant of air pollution, which makes it a suitable candidate for urban areas.
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