Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Trees may contribute to ozone problem


Trees may not actually commit suicide, but certain species do produce pollutants that hamper their own growth while contributing to global climate changes and causing harm to other life forms, contend two Texas A&M University researchers.

Renyi Zhang, an atmospheric chemist, is studying one such substance, isoprene, given off by oak trees and leading to increased ozone in our atmosphere. Working under a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Zhang and chemistry professor Simon North have taken on the challenge of unraveling the more than 1,000 reactions that transform organically released isoprene into toxic atmospheric pollutants.

"Air pollution is probably one of the most serious problems facing humankind in the 21st century," said Zhang, a professor in the College of Geosciences. "And certainly, much of that pollution results from human activities. But most people are not aware of the role played by chemical reactions which change substances produced by biogenic species into harmful airborne pollutants.

"Isoprene - C5H8 - is released by the respiration of oak trees and is the second-most abundant naturally produced hydrocarbon (after methane) in our atmosphere," he continued.

"After a complicated series of chemical reactions, isoprene facilitates ozone production, so increased isoprene means more ozone in the air."

Ozone in the upper atmosphere blocks out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, Zhang explained, but nearer the ground, it traps infrared radiation reflected back up from Earth and contributes to heating the air near the planet’s surface, the so-called "Greenhouse Effect." So, more ozone can mean rising temperatures near ground-level, contributing to global warming.

"Although near-ground ozone has some beneficial effects, providing excited oxygen atoms needed to produce the free OH radicals that help to bind other chemicals like sulfur and cleanse them from the atmosphere, excess ozone proves harmful to the health of humans and plants," Zhang said. "For example, too much ozone can retard tree growth or even kill trees. And if too many trees die, there will be more CO2 in the air, further trapping heat and raising the temperature of the planet."

Zhang and North are studying isoprene oxidation related to oak trees in the Houston area, where ozone is contributing to increasing air pollution. They are seeking to understand the critical reactions out of the 1,000 in the isoprene to ozone chain in order to find ways to abate air pollution and allow trees to continue their life-cycle without increasing environmental damage.

Zhang will be using laboratory apparatus to study isoprene using chemical ionization mass spectrometry, while North will look at the chemical process using laser-induced fluorescence. Both researchers also employ methods of quantum chemical calculation to analyze their experimental results. In addition to the NSF grant, their work is being funded by the Welch Foundation, the Texas Advanced Research Program (Chemistry) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

"The isoprene chain reaction is very complicated - in fact, it’s been studied for over 30 years without significant results with regard to fundamental details," said Zhang. "Dr. North and I seeking to discover the direction in which reaction pathways proceed. If we can fully understand the critical steps in the reaction, maybe we can determine where best to intervene in the process to keep both our oak trees and ourselves healthier."

Contact: Judith White, 979-845-4664,; Renyi Zhang, 979-845-7656,

Judith White | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>