Articles | Volume 9, issue 6
Research article
07 Jun 2012
Research article |  | 07 Jun 2012

Snowpack concentrations and estimated fluxes of volatile organic compounds in a boreal forest

H. Aaltonen, J. Pumpanen, H. Hakola, T. Vesala, S. Rasmus, and J. Bäck

Abstract. Soil provides an important source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to atmosphere, but in boreal forests these fluxes and their seasonal variations have not been characterized in detail. Especially wintertime fluxes are almost completely unstudied. In this study, we measured the VOC concentrations inside the snowpack in a boreal Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) forest in southern Finland, using adsorbent tubes and air samplers installed permanently in the snow profile. Based on the VOC concentrations at three heights inside the snowpack, we estimated the fluxes of these gases. We measured 20 VOCs from the snowpack, monoterpenes being the most abundant group with concentrations varying from 0.11 to 16 μg m−3. Sesquiterpenes and oxygen-containing monoterpenes were also detected. Inside the pristine snowpack, the concentrations of terpenoids decreased from soil surface towards the surface of the snow, suggesting soil as the source for terpenoids. Forest damages (i.e. broken treetops and branches, fallen trees) resulting from heavy snow loading during the measurement period increased the terpenoid concentrations dramatically, especially in the upper part of the snowpack. The results show that soil processes are active and efficient VOC sources also during winter, and that natural or human disturbance can increase forest floor VOC concentrations substantially. Our results stress the importance of soil as a source of VOCs during the season when other biological sources, such as plants, have lower activity.

Final-revised paper