Environmental stresses

Having dealt with the processes occurring in the natural habitat and in horticulture, it remains to mention some of the factors working against a diverse habitat. The main stresses to ecosystems in Britain and other parts of Western Europe are acidity, excess nutrients, high water tables and heavy metals.

Research suggests that in the last 25 years in Holland, for example, there has been a 25 per cent decrease in woodland species attributable to the increased acidity in the air. The same survey indicated species losses of 50 per cent, 6 per cent and 5 per cent in lakes due to excess nutrients, high water table and air acidity respectively.

Plants are resilient organisms, but stresses imposed on habitats such as those near large towns, those in the wind-path of polluted air, those watered by rivers receiving industrial effluent, and agricultural fertilizers and pesticides are likely to lose indigenous species. The rapid increase in annual temperatures attributed to 'the greenhouse effect' is likely to change wild plant communities in as important a way as the environmental stresses mentioned above.

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