Articles | Volume 12, issue 11
Ideas and perspectives
03 Jun 2015
Ideas and perspectives |  | 03 Jun 2015

Ideas and perspectives: on the emission of amines from terrestrial vegetation in the context of new atmospheric particle formation

J. Sintermann and A. Neftel

Abstract. In this article we summarise recent science which shows how airborne amines, specifically methylamines (MAs), play a key role in new atmospheric particle formation (NPF) by stabilising small molecule clusters. Agricultural emissions are assumed to constitute the most important MA source, but given the short atmospheric residence time of MAs, they can hardly have a direct impact on NPF events observed in remote regions. This leads us to the presentation of existing knowledge focussing on natural vegetation-related MA sources. High MA contents as well as emissions by plants was already described in the 19th century. Strong MA emissions predominantly occur during flowering as part of a pollination strategy. The behaviour is species-specific, but examples of such species are common and widespread. In addition, vegetative plant tissue exhibiting high amounts of MAs might potentially lead to significant emissions. The decomposition of organic material constitutes another, potentially ubiquitous, source of airborne MAs. These mechanisms would provide sources, which could be crucial for the amine's role in NPF, especially in remote regions. Knowledge about vegetation-related amine emissions is, however, very limited, and thus it is also an open question how global change and the intensified cycling of reactive nitrogen over the last 200 years have altered amine emissions from vegetation with a corresponding effect on NPF.

Final-revised paper