Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Research article
29 Feb 2012
Research article |  | 29 Feb 2012

The atmospheric potential of biogenic volatile organic compounds from needles of white pine (Pinus strobus) in Northern Michigan

S. Toma and S. Bertman

Abstract. The key role that biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOC) play in atmospheric chemistry requires a detailed understanding of how BVOC concentrations will be affected by environmental change. Large-scale screening of BVOC emissions from whole forest ecosystems is difficult with enclosure methods. Leaf composition of BVOC, as a surrogate for direct emissions, can more easily reflect the distribution of BVOC compounds in a forest. In this study, BVOC composition in needles of 92 white pine trees (Pinus strobus), which are becoming a large part of Midwest forests, are tracked for three summers at the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS). α-Pinene, the dominant terpene in all samples, accounts for 30–50% of all terpenes on a mole basis. The most abundant sesquiterpenoid was a C15 alcohol identified as germacrene D-4-ol. The relationship between limonene and total other monoterpenes shows two distinct trends in the population of these forests. About 14% (n = 13) of the trees showed high levels of limonene (up to 36% of the total BVOC) in the same trees every year. Assuming that needle concentrations scale with emission rate, we estimate that hydroxyl radical reactivity due to reaction with monoterpenes from white pine increases approximately 6% at UMBS when these elevated concentrations are included. We suggest that chemotypic variation within forests has the potential to affect atmospheric chemistry and that large-scale screening of BVOC can be used to study the importance of BVOC variation.

Final-revised paper