From the climate frontline – genetically modified flowers to save the day.
Flowers losing scent due to climate change
KUALA LUMPUR: A rose may stop smelling like a rose.
Mon, Mar 22, New Straits Times
This is the concern of environmentalists as flowers are losing their scent due to climate change and air pollution. And their fragrance may be lost forever.
Science and Technology Professor Emeritus at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Dr Abdul Latif Mohamad, said genetically modified flowers might be the way out.
Climate change is also the reason Kuala Lumpur City Hall is increasingly turning to shady trees, because flowers which previously formed the centrepiece of its beautification programme have been wilting fast.
Datuk Bandar Datuk Ahmad Fuad Ismail said City Hall used to spend RM1.5 million ($635,100) a month to plant and maintain flowers in the city, but the contractor’s services were terminated in March last year.
City Hall has taken over the planting, opting for bougainvillea and the tropical shrubs, Ixora, for their durability and cheaper cost.
Under the previous arrangement, some of the small flowers cost RM3.50 per seedling.
“It was getting too costly to beautify the city. Flowers were dying fast,” he said, adding that City Hall would continue to plant shady trees more suited for soaking up the increasing pollution and coping with global warming.
Latif said UKM might have offered plausible reasons as to why some pollinators were not spreading flower seeds, a pattern caused by the missing “scent trail” with scent tissues burning easily due to global warming.
“The aroma producing chemical compounds in flowers dry up faster now compared with before.”
The only way out, he said, was to genetically modify the flowers so that the effects would not be permanent and the future generation would not be robbed of nature’s beauty.
“The act is almost like producing essential oils. Scientists add on certain chemicals for stronger scent.”
He said scents in flowers last longer in colder climate as plants can hold on to their essential oils longer.
“The flowers may still have strong scents in colder climate. But locally, we fear this might be lost forever.”