18 Feb 2022
18 Feb 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Reviews and syntheses: VOC emissions from soil cover in boreal and temperate natural ecosystems of the Northern Hemisphere 

Valery A. Isidorov1 and Andrej A. Zaitsev2 Valery A. Isidorov and Andrej A. Zaitsev
  • 1Institute of Forest Sciences, Białystok University of Technology, 15-351 Białystok, Poland
  • 2Faculty of Geography of Perm State University, 614990 Perm, Russia

Abstract. The purpose of this review is to draw attention to the decaying litter of trees and the living soil cover of forests, as poorly considered sources of photochemically active components of the Earth’s atmosphere. Plant litter decomposition is a biogeochemical process underlying the carbon cycle in terrestrial ecosystems and between the biosphere and the atmosphere. For the latter, it serves as one of the most important sources of not only carbon dioxide, but also volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have not yet been taken into account in atmospheric models for various purposes and scales, from local to large regional and global. This review owes its appearance to the growing interest in decaying leaf litter and living forest floor cover as a hitherto unaccounted-for source of photochemically active components of the Earth’s atmosphere. This interest is understandable if we take into account the size of this source: for terrestrial ecosystems, the global production of litter is at 10 × 1016 g dry matter. The living vegetation cover of the soil on the forest floor, mainly comprising mosses and small shrubs, should also be regarded as a potentially significant source of atmospheric VOCs, as its total biomass may be comparable to or even exceed that of canopy foliage, which is considered the main source of these compounds. This implies a need to integrate these sources into biogenic VOC emission models, which in turn requires extensive research on these sources to understand the conditions and factors that influence VOC emissions. The decomposition of leaf litter, accompanied by the release of VOCs, is a very complex process that depends on a number of biological, chemical and physical environmental factors, but little information is currently available on the role each plays. Equally limited is information on the chemical composition and emission rates of VOCs from these sources.

The review focuses on the main gaps in our knowledge of the sources of biogenic VOCs under the forest canopy, and we are confident that filling them will make a significant contribution to solving such an important task as closing the global organic carbon budget.

Valery A. Isidorov and Andrej A. Zaitsev

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-15', Arnaud P. Praplan, 23 Mar 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Valery Isidorov, 31 Mar 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2022-15', Anonymous Referee #2, 23 May 2022

Valery A. Isidorov and Andrej A. Zaitsev

Valery A. Isidorov and Andrej A. Zaitsev


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Short summary
Biogenic VOCs play a critical role in earth-system processes: they are the "main players" in the formation of tropospheric O3 and secondary aerosols, which have a significant impact on the climate as well as on human health and crops. A complex mixture of VOCs, formed as a result of physicochemical and biological processes, is released into the atmosphere from the forest floor. This review presents the data on the composition of VOCs and the contribution of various processes to their emission.