Student's Guide - Effects of UV Radiation on You
NSF Polar Programs UV Monitoring Network
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Effects on the Environment


The largest problem with the depletion of the ozone layer are likely ecological impacts. Even though some species respond positively, extensive tests in several countries have shown that hundreds of species of plants and animals display negative effects from an increase in UV radiation. 


Effects on phytoplankton

Ultraviolet radiation can harm phytoplankton in the oceans. This is of great concern as this type of plankton is the first link of the marine food chain. Variations in its population could potentially cause greater disturbances in the balance of other life forms like fish or whales. Specifically the effects of UV on phytoplankton inhabiting the Antarctic waters are extensively investigated by scientists as UV-B exposure in these waters has greatly increased during the last decades due to the seasonal ozone hole (This is one of the reasons why the NSF network has stations in Antarctica).


Effects on plants

Another issue that may seem more relevant to the human population is the effect of UV on plants and food crops. Greater exposure of plant life to UV-B can result in a decrease in production rates, meaning less food available world-wide. 

Throughout the world efforts are being made to increase the level of UV resistance in staple crops, such as rice, where some species are extremely sensitive to UV radiation, and other species of rice can withstand a great increase. With this knowledge, scientists can find the most effective and economical species to use in rice farming, thereby increasing the UV resistance of much of the world's food supply.

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