Simulated changes in biogenic VOC emissions and ozone formation from habitat expansion of Acer Rubrum (red maple)

Beth A. Drewniak, Peter K. Snyder, Allison L. Steiner, Tracy E. Twine, Donald J. Wuebbles

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A new vegetation trend is emerging in northeastern forests of the United States, characterized by an expansion of red maple at the expense of oak. This has changed emissions of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs), primarily isoprene and monoterpenes. Oaks strongly emit isoprene while red maple emits a negligible amount. This species shift may impact nearby urban centers because the interaction of isoprene with anthropogenic nitrogen oxides can lead to tropospheric ozone formation and monoterpenes can lead to the formation of particulate matter. In this study the Global Biosphere Emissions and Interactions System was used to estimate the spatial changes in BVOC emission fluxes resulting from a shift in forest composition between oak and maple. A 70% reduction in isoprene emissions occurred when oak was replaced with maple. Ozone simulations with a chemical box model at two rural and two urban sites showed modest reductions in ozone concentrations of up to 5-6 ppb resulting from a transition from oak to red maple, thus suggesting that the observed change in forest composition may benefit urban air quality. This study illustrates the importance of monitoring and representing changes in forest composition and the impacts to human health indirectly through changes in BVOCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014006
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014


  • Acer Rubrum
  • biogenic volatile organic compounds
  • isoprene
  • northeastern US forests
  • oak
  • ozone


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