Articles | Volume 6, issue 11
02 Aug 2006
02 Aug 2006

Estimates of global terrestrial isoprene emissions using MEGAN (Model of Emissions of Gases and Aerosols from Nature)

A. Guenther, T. Karl, P. Harley, C. Wiedinmyer, P. I. Palmer, and C. Geron

Abstract. Reactive gases and aerosols are produced by terrestrial ecosystems, processed within plant canopies, and can then be emitted into the above-canopy atmosphere. Estimates of the above-canopy fluxes are needed for quantitative earth system studies and assessments of past, present and future air quality and climate. The Model of Emissions of Gases and Aerosols from Nature (MEGAN) is described and used to quantify net terrestrial biosphere emission of isoprene into the atmosphere. MEGAN is designed for both global and regional emission modeling and has global coverage with ~1 km2 spatial resolution. Field and laboratory investigations of the processes controlling isoprene emission are described and data available for model development and evaluation are summarized. The factors controlling isoprene emissions include biological, physical and chemical driving variables. MEGAN driving variables are derived from models and satellite and ground observations. Tropical broadleaf trees contribute almost half of the estimated global annual isoprene emission due to their relatively high emission factors and because they are often exposed to conditions that are conducive for isoprene emission. The remaining flux is primarily from shrubs which have a widespread distribution. The annual global isoprene emission estimated with MEGAN ranges from about 500 to 750 Tg isoprene (440 to 660 Tg carbon) depending on the driving variables which include temperature, solar radiation, Leaf Area Index, and plant functional type. The global annual isoprene emission estimated using the standard driving variables is ~600 Tg isoprene. Differences in driving variables result in emission estimates that differ by more than a factor of three for specific times and locations. It is difficult to evaluate isoprene emission estimates using the concentration distributions simulated using chemistry and transport models, due to the substantial uncertainties in other model components, but at least some global models produce reasonable results when using isoprene emission distributions similar to MEGAN estimates. In addition, comparison with isoprene emissions estimated from satellite formaldehyde observations indicates reasonable agreement. The sensitivity of isoprene emissions to earth system changes (e.g., climate and land-use) demonstrates the potential for large future changes in emissions. Using temperature distributions simulated by global climate models for year 2100, MEGAN estimates that isoprene emissions increase by more than a factor of two. This is considerably greater than previous estimates and additional observations are needed to evaluate and improve the methods used to predict future isoprene emissions.

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