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Impact of bioenergy crops on ozone formation

The need for renewable energy has resulted in the planting of fast-growing biomass crops such as poplar trees (Populus). An EU-funded team of researchers investigated the impacts of their cultivation on the formation of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone.
Impact of bioenergy crops on ozone formation
Emission of isoprene and other biogenic VOCs from vegetation plays an important role in the creation of ozone (O3) in the troposphere. Therefore, a potentially large increase of isoprene-emitting tree species such as poplars for bioenergy production could impact the formation of tropospheric O3 formation.

The project SRF-OZO (Impact of poplar bioenergy cultivation on ozone and volatile organic compound emissions) was established to quantify greenhouse gases (GHGs), BVOC and O3 emissions at leaf and ecosystem levels and identify the environmental variables that drive these fluxes. This information will help to provide a complete overview of the gaseous exchanges between plants and the atmosphere.

Eddy covariance was used to conduct the first simultaneous measurements of the fluxes of O3 and the emission of biogenic BVOCs from short rotation forestry of poplar trees. The fluxes of the main GHGs: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide were also measured.

Researchers used the chemistry transport model LOTOS-EUROS to scale-up emissions of isoprene and also observed emissions associated with the current surface area planted with poplar for bioenergy in Europe. This allowed scientists to assess the impact of isoprene fluxes on ground level O3 concentrations.

Results indicated that isoprene emissions from existing poplar plantations do not significantly affect the ground level of O3 concentration.

Furthermore, the overall land in Europe covered with poplar plantations has not significantly changed over the last two decades despite policy incentives to produce bioenergy crops. The current surface area of isoprene emitting poplars-for-bioenergy therefore remains too limited to significantly enhance O3 concentrations and to be considered a potential threat for air quality and human health. This showed that SRF-OZO represents an important tool for policy makers involved in the bioenergy sector.

Related information

Subjects

Life Sciences

Keywords

Biomass, poplar, volatile organic compounds, ozone, SRF-OZO
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