Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 2901–2920, 2016
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 2901–2920, 2016

Research article 07 Mar 2016

Research article | 07 Mar 2016

Urban stress-induced biogenic VOC emissions and SOA-forming potentials in Beijing

Andrea Ghirardo1,*, Junfei Xie2,3,4,*, Xunhua Zheng2, Yuesi Wang2, Rüdiger Grote5, Katja Block1, Jürgen Wildt6, Thomas Mentel7, Astrid Kiendler-Scharr7, Mattias Hallquist8, Klaus Butterbach-Bahl5, and Jörg-Peter Schnitzler1 Andrea Ghirardo et al.
  • 1Helmholtz Zentrum München, Research Unit Environmental Simulation (EUS) at the Institute of Biochemical Plant Pathology (BIOP), 85764 Neuherberg, Germany
  • 2State Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Boundary Layer Physics and Atmospheric Chemistry, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP-CAS), Beijing 100029, PR China
  • 3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, PR China
  • 4Beijing Institute of Landscape Architecture, Beijing 100102, PR China
  • 5Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
  • 6Institute of Bio- and Geosciences (IBG-2), Forschungszentrum, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 7Institute for Energy and Climate Research (IEK-8), Forschungszentrum, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 8Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Gothenburg, 41296 Gothenburg, Sweden
  • *These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract. Trees can significantly impact the urban air chemistry by the uptake and emission of reactive biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs), which are involved in ozone and particle formation. Here we present the emission potentials of "constitutive" (cBVOCs) and "stress-induced" BVOCs (sBVOCs) from the dominant broadleaf woody plant species in the megacity of Beijing. Based on the municipal tree census and cuvette BVOC measurements on leaf level, we built an inventory of BVOC emissions, and assessed the potential impact of BVOCs on secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation in 2005 and 2010, i.e., before and after realizing the large tree-planting program for the 2008 Olympic Games. We found that sBVOCs, such as fatty acid derivatives, benzenoids, and sesquiterpenes, constituted a significant fraction ( ∼  40 %) of the total annual BVOC emissions, and we estimated that the overall annual BVOC budget may have doubled from  ∼  4.8  ×  109 g C year−1 in 2005 to  ∼  10.3  ×  109 g C year−1 in 2010 due to the increase in urban greening, while at the same time the emission of anthropogenic VOCs (AVOCs) decreased by 24 %. Based on the BVOC emission assessment, we estimated the biological impact on SOA mass formation potential in Beijing. Constitutive and stress-induced BVOCs might produce similar amounts of secondary aerosol in Beijing. However, the main contributors of SOA-mass formations originated from anthropogenic sources (> 90 %). This study demonstrates the general importance to include sBVOCs when studying BVOC emissions. Although the main problems regarding air quality in Beijing still originate from anthropogenic activities, the present survey suggests that in urban plantation programs, the selection of low-emitting plant species has some potential beneficial effects on urban air quality.

Short summary
Trees can impact urban air quality. Large emissions of plant volatiles are emitted in Beijing as a stress response to the urban polluted environment, but their impacts on secondary particulate matter remain relatively low compared to those originated from anthropogenic activities. The present study highlights the importance of including stress-induced compounds when studying plant volatile emissions.
Final-revised paper