Certain species of animals have astonishing physiological responses to pollution or to the announcement of an imminent natural disaster. Their instincts and physiologies, their proximity to nature, make them our allies in the prevention of natural and industrial risks that threaten our Earth.
From plants to animals, a multitude of living organisms are being studied by scientists trying to gain a better understanding of atmospheric pollution.
More than a century ago, the canary, used by miners, demonstrated its extreme sensitivity to gas in coal mines. Today, lichens, mosses, birds of prey and cattle are the focus of highly advanced research projects being carried out by the scientific community worldwide.
But the effects on ecosystems and human health are already dramatic. In the Netherlands, researchers such as Professor Marcel Visser emphasise the impact of global warming, which is disrupting food web cohesion and contributing to the imminent extinction of migratory birds.
In France, researchers at the French national research agencies, INRA and CNRS, are using bees as sentinels for urban pollution; in Spain, Dr. Marta Lopez Alonso has proven, through her experiments with cows and dogs, the extreme toxicity of coal-burning thermal power plants. In the United States, homing pigeons equipped with GPS systems and cameras transmit information to scientists on the level of air pollution in major Californian cities.