Fluxes and mixing ratios of biogenic volatile organic compounds in temperate plant canopies
Biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOC) are a wide-ranging group of trace gas components in the atmosphere which are emitted naturally from Earth’s surface. It is now recognised that biogenically sourced VOCs are far more significant on a global scale than those from anthropogenic sources, with up to 10 times greater emissions. Very few field-based studies of fluxes from plant canopies have been undertaken, particularly for non-terpenoid compounds. This thesis presents mixing ratio and flux measurements of BVOC from a range of temperate plant canopies: Douglas fir, short-rotation coppice willow, Miscanthus and mixed peatland vegetation. The virtual disjunct eddy covariance technique (vDEC) using a proton transfer reaction mass spectrometer (PTR-MS) as a fast VOC sensor was used for all measurements except for peatlands, where grab samples were collected on adsorbent sampling tubes for later chromatographic analysis. The PTR-MS was also utilised for measuring the rate of degradation of VOCs during laboratory chamber experiments. Mixing ratios and fluxes of VOCs measured within and above a Douglas fir forest were the first canopy-scale measurements for this species. Fluxes of monoterpenes were comparable to previous studies while isoprene was also detected (standard emissions factors up to 1.15 μg gdw -1 h-1 and 0.18 μg gdw -1 h-1, respectively). Emissions of oxygenated VOCs were also found to be significant, highlighting the importance of quantifying a wider variety of VOCs from biogenic sources, other than isoprene and monoterpenes. Results for bioenergy crops Miscanthus and willow showed that willow was a high isoprene emitter (20 μg gdw -1 h-1), but no measureable VOCs were detected from Miscanthus. This indicates that future expansion of bioenergy crops, and hence species selection, should take resultant air quality and human health impacts – due to changing VOC emissions – into account. Fluxes of BVOC from a Scottish peatland are the first reported measurements for this ecosystem in a temperate climate. Additionally, to assess the impact of nitrogen deposition on VOC fluxes, BVOC measurements were taken from sample plots in a pre-existing, long-term field manipulation study to assess impacts of wet nitrate or ammonium deposition on peatland. The peatland was found to be a significant source of isoprene and monoterpenes (590 and 1.5 μg m-2 h-1 respectively) and there was evidence that emissions were affected by wet nitrogen treatment. Isoprene emissions were reduced by both nitrate and ammonium treatment, while nitrate increased β- pinene fluxes. Increasing atmospheric nitrogen concentrations are therefore predicted to have an impact on VOC emission. Chamber studies showed that the rate of loss of α-pinene from the gas-phase during oxidation – and hence potential formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) – decreased with increasing isoprene mixing ratio. This was not observed for limonene. These results show that as isoprene mixing ratios increase with increasing global temperatures, negative feedback on radiative forcing from SOA particles may be suppressed. Results from this thesis provide valuable experimental data for a range of temperate plant canopies, which will help constrain modelled predictions of future VOC emissions. Additionally, the importance of understanding the effects of land use and environmental change on VOC emissions was demonstrated.