Analysis of the effect of abiotic stressors on BVOC emissions from urban green infrastructure in northern Germany


Many plants are well known to emit biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). Under certain conditions BVOCs strongly enhance the photochemical formation of ozone (O3) and impact the levels of atmospheric photo-oxidants. Urban environments under the influence of climate change may face an increasing risk of elevated ozone formation potentials, because abiotic stressors such as heat and drought can stimulate BVOC emissions. However, it is largely uncertain how a combination of heat episodes and reduced soil water potentials affects air quality in cities. The effect of abiotic stress on BVOC emissions and urban O3 formation was assessed for the coastal metropolitan area of Hamburg in Germany during the vegetation period of 2018, characterized by remarkable drought and heat periods. BVOC emissions were modelled using the Model of Emissions of Gases and Aerosols from Nature (MEGAN) version 3 that accounts for several abiotic stresses. Isoprene is the single VOC with the highest share (∼60%) in the BVOC emissions of the study area. Drought stress was identified as the most important abiotic stressor that modulates BVOC emissions in this area. Modelled biogenic emissions calculcated with MEGAN3 were included together with emissions of relevant anthropogenic sectors in simulations with the chemistry transport model EPISODE-CityChem to calculate ozone concentrations under a scenario of prolonged drought stress. As a major result we identified that isoprene concentrations in Hamburg were reduced by 65% (range 6% to 95%) under drought stress during the growing period compared to non-stress conditions. Reduction of isoprene concentrations due to drought stress spatially coincided with a reduction of ozone concentrations. To asses the importance of chemical reactions involved in the formation of ozone, concentrations of isoprene, methacryloyl peroxy nitrate (MPAN) and methacrolein (MACR) have been analysed. The drought stress effect on isoprene emissions led to reductions of MACR and MPAN by approximately 80% and 20%, respectively. Since a VOC limited regime is found presently for Hamburg, it is likely that further reductions in anthropogenic NOx emissions and/or increased BVOC emissions driven by extended green infrastructure and long-term temperature increases may lead to an enhanced photochemical production of ozone in Hamburg in the future.
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