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Volatile organic compound emission rates from mixed deciduous and coniferous forests in Northern Wisconsin, USA

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Atmospheric Environment





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Biogenic emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from forests play an important role in regulating the atmospheric trace gas composition including global tropospheric ozone concentrations. However, more information is needed on VOC emission rates from different forest regions of the world to understand regional and global impacts and to implement possible mitigation strategies. The mixed deciduous and coniferous forests of northern Wisconsin, USA, were predicted to have significant VOC emission rates because they are comprised of many genera (i.e. Picea, Populus, Quercus, Salix) known to be high VOC emitters. In July 1993, a study was conducted on the Chequamegon National Forest near Rhinelander, WI, to identify and quantify VOC emitted from major trees, shrubs, and understory herbs in the mixed northern forests of this region. Emission rates were measured at various scales – at the leaf level with cuvettes, the branch level with branch enclosures, the canopy level with a tower based system, and the landscape level with a tethered balloon air sampling system. Area-average emission rates were estimated by scaling, using biomass densities and species composition along transects representative of the study site. Isoprene (C5H8) was the primary VOC emitted, although significant quantities of monoterpenes (C10H16) were also emitted. The highest emission rates of isoprene (at 30°C and photosynthetically active radiation of 1000 μmol m-2 s-1) were from northern red oak (Quercus rubra, >110 μg(C) g-1 h-1); aspen (Populus tremuloides, >77); willow (Salix spp., >54); and black spruce (Picea mariana, >10). Emission rates of hybrid poplar clones ranged from 40 to 90 μg(C) g-1 h-1 at 25°C; those of Picea provenances were generally <10, and emission rates of a hybrid between North American and European spruces were intermediate to parental rates. More than 30 species of plants were surveyed from the sites, including several from previously unstudied genera such as Alnus, Chamaedaphne, Ledum, Tilia, Rubus, and Sphagnum. Based on the measured isoprene concentrations in the daytime atmospheric surface layer and mixed layer, area-averaged fluxes of isoprene were estimated to be about 1 mg(C) m-2 h-1. This estimate agrees reasonably well with model predictions. Our results indicate that mixed forests in the Lake States region of the USA are a significant source of reactive VOC to the atmosphere. Accurate estimates of these emissions are required for determining appropriate regulatory air pollution control strategies. Future studies are needed to extrapolate these estimates to other landscapes and to better understand the factors controlling observed variations in VOC emissions.