Stratospheric ozone reduction is occurring and will continue to increase in magnitude into the next century. Yet, the consequences for terrestrial ecosystems of the increased solar W-B (280-320 nm) radiation resulting from total column ozone reduction are not understood. Based on studies of higher plant response to UV-B, several possible consequences for ecosystems include decreased primary production, altered plant species composition, and altered secondary chemistry with implications for herbivory, litter decomposition and biogeochemical cycles. However, like the assessment of increased atmospheric CO2, extrapolation from studies with isolated plants to ecosystem function is very tenuous at best. Very few UV-B studies have dealt with multispecies systems. Most of the UV-B research in the past two decades (since the first suggestions of ozone reduction) has been conducted as short-term experiments in growth chambers and greenhouses where the unnatural spectral balance of radiation can lead to unrealistic conclusions. Technical difficulties in suitable measurement and manipulation of UV-B radiation also complicate the conduct of reliable experiments. This essay surveys and categorizes some 300 papers from the past 20 years on this subject, draws general conclusions from the research and offers some recommendations with respect to ecosystem consequences.
Caldwell, M. and Flint, S. (1994). Stratospheric ozone reduction, solar UV-B radiation and terrestrial ecosystems. Climatic Change, 28(4): 375-394.