Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers Pursue Process By Which Oak Trees Contribute To Air Pollution

Date:
June 26, 2002
Source:
Texas A&M University
Summary:
Trees may not actually commit suicide, but certain species do produce pollutants that hamper their own growth while contributing to global climate changes and causing harm to other life forms, contend two Texas A&M University researchers.

COLLEGE STATION - Trees may not actually commit suicide, but certain species do produce pollutants that hamper their own growth while contributing to global climate changes and causing harm to other life forms, contend two Texas A&M University researchers.

Related Articles


Renyi Zhang, an atmospheric chemist, is studying one such substance, isoprene, given off by oak trees and leading to increased ozone in our atmosphere. Working under a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Zhang and chemistry professor Simon North have taken on the challenge of unraveling the more than 1,000 reactions that transform organically released isoprene into toxic atmospheric pollutants.

"Air pollution is probably one of the most serious problems facing humankind in the 21st century," said Zhang, a professor in the College of Geosciences. "And certainly, much of that pollution results from human activities. But most people are not aware of the role played by chemical reactions which change substances produced by biogenic species into harmful airborne pollutants.

"Isoprene - C5H8 - is released by the respiration of oak trees and is the second-most abundant naturally produced hydrocarbon (after methane) in our atmosphere," he continued.

"After a complicated series of chemical reactions, isoprene facilitates ozone production, so increased isoprene means more ozone in the air."

Ozone in the upper atmosphere blocks out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, Zhang explained, but nearer the ground, it traps infrared radiation reflected back up from Earth and contributes to heating the air near the planet's surface, the so-called "Greenhouse Effect." So, more ozone can mean rising temperatures near ground-level, contributing to global warming.

"Although near-ground ozone has some beneficial effects, providing excited oxygen atoms needed to produce the free OH radicals that help to bind other chemicals like sulfur and cleanse them from the atmosphere, excess ozone proves harmful to the health of humans and plants," Zhang said. "For example, too much ozone can retard tree growth or even kill trees. And if too many trees die, there will be more CO2 in the air, further trapping heat and raising the temperature of the planet."

Zhang and North are studying isoprene oxidation related to oak trees in the Houston area, where ozone is contributing to increasing air pollution. They are seeking to understand the critical reactions out of the 1,000 in the isoprene to ozone chain in order to find ways to abate air pollution and allow trees to continue their life-cycle without increasing environmental damage.

Zhang will be using laboratory apparatus to study isoprene using chemical ionization mass spectrometry, while North will look at the chemical process using laser-induced fluorescence. Both researchers also employ methods of quantum chemical calculation to analyze their experimental results. In addition to the NSF grant, their work is being funded by the Welch Foundation, the Texas Advanced Research Program (Chemistry) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

"The isoprene chain reaction is very complicated - in fact, it's been studied for over 30 years without significant results with regard to fundamental details," said Zhang. "Dr. North and I seeking to discover the direction in which reaction pathways proceed. If we can fully understand the critical steps in the reaction, maybe we can determine where best to intervene in the process to keep both our oak trees and ourselves healthier."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Texas A&M University. "Researchers Pursue Process By Which Oak Trees Contribute To Air Pollution." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 June 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020626070834.htm>.
Texas A&M University. (2002, June 26). Researchers Pursue Process By Which Oak Trees Contribute To Air Pollution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020626070834.htm
Texas A&M University. "Researchers Pursue Process By Which Oak Trees Contribute To Air Pollution." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020626070834.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) — A strong cold front moving across the eastern U.S. has dumped deep snow in some regions, creating hazardous conditions from Kentucky to New England. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Keurig Co-Founder Says Company Has A Waste Problem

Keurig Co-Founder Says Company Has A Waste Problem

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) — Keurig co-founder John Sylvan told The Atlantic he doesn&apos;t even own a Keurig because they&apos;re too expensive and produce too much waste. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) — An explosion ripped through a coal mine before dawn Wednesday in war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing at least one miner, officials said. Graphic video of injured miners being treated in a Donetsk hospital. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins