Navigation Links
Plants play larger role than thought in cleaning up air pollution
Date:10/21/2010

Vegetation plays an unexpectedly large role in cleansing the atmosphere, a new study finds.

The research, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo., uses observations, gene expression studies, and computer modeling to show that deciduous plants absorb about a third more of a common class of air-polluting chemicals than previously thought.

The new study, results of which are being published this week in Science Express, was conducted with co-authors from the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Arizona. It was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR's sponsor.

"Plants clean our air to a greater extent than we had realized," says NCAR scientist Thomas Karl, the lead author. "They actively consume certain types of air pollution."

The research team focused on a class of chemicals known as oxygenated volatile organic compounds (oVOCs), which can have long-term impacts on the environment and human health.

"The team has made significant progress in understanding the complex interactions between plants and the atmosphere," says Anne-Marie Schmoltner of NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research.

The compounds form in abundance in the atmosphere from hydrocarbons and other chemicals that are emitted from both natural sources--including plants--and sources related to human activities, including vehicles and construction materials.

The compounds help shape atmospheric chemistry and influence climate.

Eventually, some oVOCs evolve into tiny airborne particles, known as aerosols, that have important effects on both clouds and human health.

By measuring oVOC levels in a number of ecosystems in the United States and other countries, the researchers determined that deciduous plants appear to be taking up the compounds at an unexpectedly fast rate--as much as four times more rapidly than previously thought.

The uptake was especially rapid in dense forests and most evident near the tops of forest canopies, which accounted for as much as 97 percent of the oVOC uptake that was observed.

Karl and his colleagues then tackled a follow-up question: How do plants absorb such large quantities of these chemicals?

The scientists moved their research into their laboratories and focused on poplar trees. The species offered a significant advantage in that its genome has been sequenced.

The team found that when the study trees were under stress, either because of a physical wound or because of exposure to an irritant such as ozone pollution, they began sharply increasing their uptake of oVOCs.

At the same time, changes took place in expression levels of certain genes that indicated heightened metabolic activity in the poplars.

The uptake of oVOCs, the scientists concluded, appeared to be part of a larger metabolic cycle.

Plants can produce chemicals to protect themselves from irritants and repel invaders such as insects, much as a human body may increase its production of white blood cells in reaction to an infection.

But these chemicals, if produced in enough quantity, can become toxic to the plant itself.

In order to metabolize these chemicals, the plants start increasing the levels of enzymes that transform the chemicals into less toxic substances.

At the same time, as it turns out, the plant draws down more oVOCs, which can be metabolized by the enzymes.

"Our results show that plants can actually adjust their metabolism and increase their uptake of atmospheric chemicals as a response to various types of stress," says Chhandak Basu of the University of Northern Colorado, a co-author.

"This complex metabolic process within plants has the side effect of cleansing our atmosphere."

Once they understood the extent to which plants absorb oVOCs, the research team fed the information into a computer model that simulates chemicals in the atmosphere worldwide.

The results indicated that, on a global level, plants are taking in 36 percent more oVOCs than had previously been accounted for in studies of atmospheric chemistry.

Additionally, since plants are directly removing the oVOCs, fewer of the compounds are evolving into aerosols.

"This really transforms our understanding of some fundamental processes taking place in our atmosphere," Karl says.


'/>"/>

Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. UF to help sequence genome of flowering plants ancient living relative
2. Study finds monarch butterflies use medicinal plants to treat offspring for disease
3. Plants kick-start evolutionary drama of Earths oxygenation
4. Montana State, partners in 6 states consider converting invasive plants to fuel
5. Study: Fish near coal-fired power plants have lower levels of mercury
6. Plants that move: How a New Zealand species disperses seeds in a high alpine, wet environment
7. New study shows over one-fifth of the worlds plants are under threat of extinction
8. New VARI findings next step to growing drought-resistant plants
9. Rotating high-pressure sodium lamps provide flowering plants for spring markets
10. Ecologists find new clues on climate change in 150-year-old pressed plants
11. Learning to live on land: How some early plants overcame an evolutionary hurdle
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Plants play larger role than thought in cleaning up air pollution
(Date:6/9/2016)... 2016 Paris Police Prefecture ... security solution to ensure the safety of people and operations ... the major tournament Teleste, an international technology group ... announced today that its video security solution will be utilised ... up public safety across the country. The system roll-out is ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... Perimeter Surveillance & Detection Systems, Biometrics & ... & Other Service  The latest report from ... of the global Border Security market . Visiongain ... billion in 2016. Now: In November 2015 ... and hardware technologies for advanced video surveillance. ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... WearablesResearch.com , a brand of Troubadour ... from the Q1 wave of its quarterly wearables survey. ... receptivity to a program where they would receive discounts ... company. "We were surprised to see that ... LaColla , CEO of Troubadour Research, "primarily because there ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... WA (PRWEB) , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... announces the release of its second eBook, “Clinical Trials Patient Recruitment and Retention ... recruitment and retention in this eBook by providing practical tips, tools, and strategies ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 2016 Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has ... Association to serve as their official health care ... Willowbrook will provide sponsorship support, athletic training services, ... coaches, volunteers, athletes and families. "We ... Association and to bring Houston Methodist quality services ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... announced the launch of the Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, ... explore the future of how hardware projects are designed, built and brought to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 ... Review, 2016;12(1):22-8 http://doi.org/10.17925/OHR.2016.12.01.22 Published ... the peer-reviewed journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D ... cost of cancer care is placing an increasing ... of expensive biologic therapies. With the patents on ...
Breaking Biology Technology: