16 Dec 2020

16 Dec 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Sesquiterpenes and oxygenated sesquiterpenes dominate the emissions of downy birches

Heidi Hellén1, Arnaud P. Praplan1, Toni Tykkä1, Aku Helin1, Simon Schallhart1, Piia P. Schiestl-Aalto2,3,4, Jaana Bäck2,3, and Hannele Hakola1 Heidi Hellén et al.
  • 1Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 503, 00101 Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research / Forest Sciences
  • 3Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 4Department of Forest Ecology and Management, SLU, 901 83 Umeå, Sweden

Abstract. Even though isoprene and monoterpene (MT) emissions of boreal needle trees have been studied quite intensively, there is less knowledge on the emissions of broadleaved deciduous trees and emissions of larger terpenes and oxygenated volatile organic compounds (OVOCs). Here we studied the downy birch (Betula pubescens) leaf emissions of terpenes, OVOCs and green leaf volatiles (GLVs) at the SMEAR II boreal forest site using in situ gas chromatographs with mass spectrometers in 2017 and 2019.

The highest emissions were detected during the early growing season, indicating that bud break and early leaf growth are a strong source of these compounds. Sesquiterpenes (SQTs) and oxygenated sesquiterpenes (OSQTs) were the main emitted compounds almost throughout the summer. Mean emissions (averaged over bud break/early/main and late growing season) of SQTs and OSQTs were 5–690 and 46–650 ng gdw−1 h−1, respectively. Isoprene emissions were very low or below detection limits (seasonal means < 0.4 ng gdw−1 h−1), whereas variable levels of emissions of MTs, C5-C10 aldehydes and GLVs were detected. On average SQT and OSQT emissions were 5 and 6 times higher than MT emissions, but variation over the growing season was high and during the late growing season MTs were the main compound group emitted.

Of the SQTs, β-caryophyllene and β-farnesene were the main compounds emitted in 2019, while in 2017 also high, possibly stress-induced emissions, of α-farnesene were detected. The main emitted OSQTs were tentatively identified as 14-hydroxy-β-caryophyllene acetate (M 262 g/mol) and 6-hydroxy-β-caryophyllene (M 220 g/mol). Of the MTs, α-pinene, β-pinene, limonene and sabinene were the most abundant compounds except during the last two days of the measurements in August in 2019, when β-ocimene emissions had the major contribution. In 2017, when the measured tree was suffering from leaf damages possibly due to drought and high chamber temperature, high emissions of GLVs, linalool, α-farnesene and an unidentified SQT were detected.

Emission potentials calculated for 30 °C had very high variation between seasons and the highest potentials were detected during bud break and early growing season. Emission potentials calculated separately for each measurement day followed the leaf growth and were highest during the most rapid leaf growth.

To our knowledge this is the first time when birch emission rates of OSQTs have been quantified. Even with low emissions, these compounds are expected to have strong impacts on the atmospheric chemistry and especially on secondary organic aerosol (SOA) production.

Heidi Hellén et al.

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Heidi Hellén et al.

Heidi Hellén et al.


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Short summary
Even though terpene emissions of boreal needle trees have been studied quite intensively, there is less knowledge on the emissions of broadleaved deciduous trees and emissions of larger terpenes and oxygenated volatile organic compounds. Here we studied the downy birch (Betula pubescens) emissions and especially sesquiterpene and oxygenated sesquiterpene emissions were found to be high. These emissions may have significant effects on SOA formation in boreal area.