Current and future impacts of ultraviolet radiation on the terrestrial carbon balance

W. Kolby Smith, Wei Gao, Heidi Steltzer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


One of the most documented effects of human activity on our environment is the reduction of stratospheric ozone resulting in an increase of biologically harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In a less predictable manner, UV radiation incident at the surface of the earth is expected to be further modified in the future as a result of altered cloud condition, atmospheric aerosol concentration, and snow cover. Although UV radiation comprises only a small fraction of the total solar radiation that is incident at the earth's surface, it has the greatest energy per unit wavelength and, thus, the greatest potential to damage the biosphere. Recent investigations have highlighted numerous ways that UV radiation could potentially affect a variety of ecological processes, including nutrient cycling and the terrestrial carbon cycle. The objectives of the following literature review are to summarize and synthesize the available information relevant to the effects of UV radiation and other climate change factors on the terrestrial carbon balance in an effort to highlight current gaps in knowledge and future research directions for UV radiation research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-41
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers of Earth Science in China
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This study was funded by the USDA UV-B Monitoring and Research Program under a grant from USDA CSREES (Agreement 2006-06106). In addition, many colleagues contributed to the development of ideas within this manuscript including Jim Slusser, Matthew Wallenstein, William Parton, and Roger Tree.


  • Carbon cycle
  • Climate change
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Ozone
  • Photodegradation
  • Solar radiation
  • UV-B
  • Ultraviolet radiation


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