PLANTS, ATMOSPHERIC AEROSOL, AND GLOBAL CHANGE
Ecological climatology is the interdisciplinary study of the physical, chemical, and biological processes that influence interactions between terrestrial ecosystems and climate. One biosphere-atmosphere interaction with important implications for climate is the production of atmospheric aerosol via oxidation of plant volatile emissions. Atmospheric aerosol are the small solid or liquid particles that are suspended in the atmosphere. They influence climate directly by scattering the sun’s radiation, or indirectly by acting as cloud condensation nuclei and affecting cloud formation processes. A sub-set of atmospheric aerosol, called secondary organic aerosol, is formed via gas-phase oxidation of organic compounds which generates reaction products that partition to the particle-phase. Most secondary organic aerosol in the atmosphere is formed from plant volatile emissions. Global change is altering the environmental factors that regulate plant volatile emission rates. In fact, one of the most challenging problems in climate change science is accurately modeling current and future secondary organic aerosol derived from these plant volatiles. Our research investigates the biological production and release, atmospheric chemistry, and eventual fate of plant volatile emissions, and how all these components are evolving in a changing climate. To tackle this complex problem, we use field measurements and laboratory experiments to investigate plant stress impacts on plant volatile emissions and aerosol production at the individual plant scale. We integrate results from field and laboratory experiments into models to investigate impacts at the regional and global scale. Accurately predicting impacts of global change on plant-aerosol-climate interactions is vital for improving climate change mitigation policies.