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Environmental Pollution
Vol. 257, 2020, 113595

Differences in plant metabolites and microbes associated with Azadirachta indica with variation in air pollution

Garima Sharmaa, Rahula,b, Randeep Guleriac, Vartika Mathura

Animal-Plant Interactions Lab, Department of Zoology, Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi, Delhi, India.


Mitigation of air pollution by plants is a well-established phenomenon. Trees planted on the roadside are known to reduce particulate matter pollution by about 25%. In an urban ecosystem, especially in a metropolitan city such as Delhi, roadside trees are constantly exposed to air pollution. We, therefore, evaluated the effect of air pollution on a common Indian roadside tree, Neem (Azadirachta indica), and its associated microbes in areas with high and low levels of particulate matter (PM) pollution in Delhi. We hypothesized that alteration in the air quality index not only influences plant physiology but also its microbiome. A 100-fold increase in the number of epiphytic and 10100 fold increase in endophytic colonies were found with 1.7 times increase in the level of pollutants. Trees in the polluted areas had an abundance of Salmonella, Proteus and Citrobacter, and showed increased secondary metabolites such as phenols and tannins as well as decreased chlorophyll and carotenoid. The number of unique microbes was positively correlated with increased primary metabolites. Our study thus indicates that, alteration in air quality affects the natural micro-environment of plants. These results may be utilized as sustainable tools for studying plant adaptations to the urban ecosystem.

Keywords:Plant microbes; Plant secondary metabolites; Plant microbiome; Air quality index; Endophytes; Epiphytes.

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