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Short-rotation forest plantations could help reduce greenhouse gases, but can emit biogenic volatile organic compounds. Emissions were measured at a plantation trial in Scotland. Standardised emissions of isoprene from foliage were higher from hybrid aspen than from Sitka spruce, and low from Italian alder. Emissions of total monoterpene were lower. The forest floor was only a small source. Model estimates suggest an SRF expansion of 0.7 Mha could increase total UK emissions between < 1 %–35 %.
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-437
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-437

  11 Dec 2020

11 Dec 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Isoprene and monoterpene emissions from alder, aspen and spruce short rotation forest plantations in the UK

Gemma Purser1,2, Julia Drewer1, Mathew R. Heal2, Robert A. S. Sircus2, Lara K. Dunn2, and James I. L. Morison3 Gemma Purser et al.
  • 1UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian, EH26 0QB, UK
  • 2School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh, Joseph Black Building, David Brewster Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3FJ, UK
  • 3Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 4TT, UK

Abstract. An expansion of bioenergy has been proposed to help reduce fossil-fuel greenhouse gas emissions, and short-rotation forestry (SRF) can contribute to that expansion. However, SRF plantations could also be sources of biogenic volatile organic compound (BVOC) emissions, which can impact on atmospheric air quality. In this study, emissions of isoprene and 11 monoterpenes from the branches and forest floor of hybrid aspen, Italian alder and Sitka spruce stands in an SRF field trial in central Scotland were measured during two years (2018–2019) and used to derive emission potentials for different seasons. Sitka spruce was included as a comparison as it is the most extensive plantation species in the UK. Winter and spring emissions of isoprene and monoterpenes were small compared to those in summer. Sitka spruce had a standardised average emission rate of 15 μg C g−1 h−1 for isoprene in the dry and warm summer of 2018, more than double the emissions in 2019. However, standardised average isoprene emissions from hybrid aspen were similar across both years, approximately 23 μg C g−1 h−1 and standardised average isoprene emissions from Italian alder were very low. Average standardised total monoterpene emissions for these species followed a similar pattern of higher emissions in the warmer year: Sitka spruce emitting 4.5 μg C g−1 h−1 and 2.3 μg C g−1 h−1 for 2018 and 2019, aspen emitting 0.3 μg C g−1 h−1 and 0.09 μg C g−1 h−1 and Italian alder emitting, 1.5 μg C g−1 h−1 and 0.2 μg C g−1 h−1, respectively. In contrast to these foliage emissions, the forest floor was only a small source of monoterpenes, typically one or two orders of magnitude lower than foliage emissions on a unit ground area basis. Estimates of total annual emissions from each plantation type per hectare were derived using the MEGAN 2.1 model. The modelled total BVOC (isoprene and monoterpenes) emissions of SRF hybrid aspen plantations were approximately half those of Sitka spruce for plantations of the same age. Italian alder SRF emissions were 20 times smaller than from Sitka spruce. The expansion of bioenergy plantations to 0.7 Mha has been suggested for the UK to help achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The model estimates show that with such an expansion total UK BVOC emissions would increase between < 1 % and 35 %, depending on the tree species planted. Where increases might be small on a national scale, regional increases might have a larger impact on local air quality.

Gemma Purser et al.

 
Status: final response (author comments only)
Status: final response (author comments only)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment

Gemma Purser et al.

Gemma Purser et al.

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Short summary
Short-rotation forest plantations could help reduce greenhouse gases, but can emit biogenic volatile organic compounds. Emissions were measured at a plantation trial in Scotland. Standardised emissions of isoprene from foliage were higher from hybrid aspen than from Sitka spruce, and low from Italian alder. Emissions of total monoterpene were lower. The forest floor was only a small source. Model estimates suggest an SRF expansion of 0.7 Mha could increase total UK emissions between < 1 %–35 %.
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