Ylva van Meeningen
Most of us have probably heard about "rainforests being the lungs of our planet". That through photosynthesis, plants produce oxygen which is a vital component for life here on Earth. But did you also know that plants affect global warming by the way that they smell? Most plants release BVOCs (which stands for Biogenic Volatile Organic Compounds) which are thousands of different compounds that give each plant its characteristic smell. To the plant, these BVOCs have different benefits, such as decreasing the leaf temperature, attract predators to insect herbivores and is even used as a way of communication from tree to tree. But once they are released into the air, they react with other compounds in various ways. Some compounds can in highly polluted areas lead to the production of smog (a poisinous mist which often occur over larger cities) or prolong the lifetime of other greenhouse gases, whilst other compounds in cleaner air produce clouds which blocks out incoming solar radiation which would otherwise heat up the planet's surface. These processes are known to happen simultaneously, but it is unknown how big of an impact each of them has.
In my project, I analyse the various sources of variability of BVOC emissions from English oak, European beech and Norway spruce on four levels: between leaves of a single plant, locations, seasons and plant ages. All experimentsare done with plants growing in International Phenological Gardens (IPG), a network which have many sites throughout Europe. The plants present in these gardens are cloned in a special nursery, which means that no genetic variation exists within plants in this network. The aim of this project is to try and get a better understanding of what BVOCs the selected trees emit, how these emissions might vary with different climates and evidentally get a better understanding on how BVOCs affect our environment.
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