A recent report out of Wageningen University in the Netherlands suggested that Wi-Fi was killing ash trees in areas where networks were present in large numbers. Headlines such as “Does Wi-Fi kill trees?” carried dire warnings for plant life. But as Yahoo News reports, some experts, including the scientists involved in the study, are toning down the rhetoric.
The report, titled “Trees are affected by electromagnetic radiation,” was first commissioned by the town of Alphen aan den Rijn in the western part of the Netherlands. Officials had noticed that local trees seemed to be under attack, showing damage such as cracks, discoloration and tissue deterioration.
During the study, scientists from Wageningen University looked at trees near Wi-Fi hotspots for a three-month period. They found a metal-like shine on the leaves, indicating that the upper and lower epidermis were dying. Experts also found that corn plants near the hotspots were growing much slower than usual. Some began to wonder if the presence of Wi-Fi access points was contributing to the blight. Was the need for wireless computing bringing on a "Silent Spring" moment?
As it turns out — not necessarily. The scientists concluded that they needed to perform more tests to declare that Wi-Fi was the reason for the tree decline. The Dutch Antennae Agency issued a statement further clarifying, “The researcher from Wageningen University indicates that these are initial results and that has not been confirmed in a repeat survey. He warns strongly that there is still no far-reaching conclusions from its results. Based on the information now available, it cannot be concluded that the Wi-Fi radio signals leads to damage to trees or other plants.”
Ultimately, can Wi-Fi harm our trees? It is entirely possible, but not yet conclusively proven. In the end, it may just be disease that is attacking the Dutch trees, not our need to download mobile information at high speeds. What’s more, similar studies on other trees did not come to the same conclusions and the complete research has not been released yet. Experts will discuss the study at a conference in February 2011.
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