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Ultraviolet radiation induced flux of nitrogen oxides from pine needles

14.03.2003


In the latest edition of Nature (March 13th, 2003) a group of scientist led by professor Pertti Hari from the University of Helsinki presents a novel observation: ultraviolet radiation induced a flux of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from pine needles to the atmosphere. This result is interesting because nitrogen oxides participate in several essential chemical reactions in the atmosphere. On the other hand, plants can utilize the nitrogen of NOx as their nutrient.



It has been difficult to detect the UV-induced NOx emission in earlier studies, because the measuring chambers usually are constructed with UV-opaque materials. However, the cover of the scientists measuring chamber now is made of UV-transparent quartz glass, which enables UV radiation to reach the pine needles. This technical detail might explain why this phenomenon has not been observed earlier.

The origin of the NOx flux is not known yet. It might come from plant metabolism, or UV radiation might release the NOx from needle surfaces.


Magnitude of the flux that the scientists observed was 1 ng s-1 m-2 (needle area). If a flux this large is scaled up to global level we obtain an amount that is comparable to known NOx sources, such as, traffic and industry. The result is important for the atmospheric NOx balance and, besides, it might affect the nitrogen budget of plants.

Minna Meriläinen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.helsinki.fi/english/

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