Chemical Characterization of Biogenic Secondary Organic Aerosol Generated from the Oxidation of Plant and Leaf Litter Emissions
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Atmospheric aerosol impact climate by scattering and absorbing radiation and contributing to cloud formation processes. One of the largest uncertainties in climate change predictions is due to limitations in our understanding of the formation of secondary organic aerosol (SOA). This dissertation investigated SOA formation from the oxidation of plant and leaf litter emissions in a laboratory chamber. To accurately measure the biogenic volatile organic compound (BVOC) emissions, a dynamic dilution system was developed and is described in the first study. This system was used to calibrate the GC-MS-FID and improve quantitation with a maximum instrumental error of ±10%. In the second study, two separate sets of soil and leaf litter samples were transported from the University of Idaho experimental forest and brought back to the lab. The BVOC emissions from these samples were pumped to an aerosol growth chamber where they were oxidized to generate SOA. The resulting SOA composition was similar to SOA formed from the oxidation of other biogenic SOA precursors. Soil/leaf litter BVOC missions were compared to a canopy emission model and contributed from 12-136% of canopy emissions during spring and fall. Results suggest this could be a significiant emission source during those times of the year. In the third and fourth study, coniferous plants were treated with a plant hormone, methyl jasmonate, to simulate herbivory stress. The third study focused on the plant responses to the stress treatment by investigating changes to the BVOC emission profile. There was a high degree of inter- and intra-plant species variability. Some of the compounds most affected by the stress treatment were alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, limonene, 1,8-cineol, beta-myrcene, terpinolene, and the aromatic cymene isomers. The fourth study investigated changes to SOA composition due to changes in the BVOC emission profiles. Most pre-treatment SOA was very similar in composition with Pearson correlation coefficients between the AMS spectra greater than 0.88. The SOA generated after MeJA treatment produced aerosol mass spectra with similar m/z enhancements. This could indicate an herbivory stress mass spectral fingerprint that could be used to identify plant stress at an ecosystem scale.