Environmental Woes of Tierra del Fuego -- Ozone Depletion
Matt Robson measures the growth of a single leaf on one of three species of beech tree in the Utah State ozone study. Trees are examined over a period of years for growth rate, stem extension, number of branches, number and size of leaves produced, pigments, damage from insects and fungi, and the waxy deposits that indicate ultraviolet radiation damage. At rear, assistant Nico Garibaldi notes the statistics.
"Leaves may produce more wax as a sunscreen which may reduce availability of nutrients to fungi, which in turn reduces decomposition after the leaves fall," Robson says of the beech trees. The waxy secretion "tastes bad for some insects," he says. The insects tend to eat less of the plants in areas of high exposure, which could cause ripples through the rest of the region's short food chain. Fewer insects mean fewer fish and birds.