The Exchange of Acetaldehyde between Plants and the Atmosphere: Stable Carbon Isotope and Flux Measurements

TitleThe Exchange of Acetaldehyde between Plants and the Atmosphere: Stable Carbon Isotope and Flux Measurements
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsJardine K
AdvisorMak J.E, Lerdau M., Riemer N, Guenther A
Academic DepartmentMarine and Atmospheric Science, Stony Brook University
Number of Pages169
Date Published05/2008
UniversityStony Brook University
Thesis TypeDissertation

The exchange of acetaldehyde between plant canopies and the atmosphere may significantly influence regional atmospheric chemistry and plant metabolism. While plants are known to both produce and consume acetaldehyde, the exchange of this compound with forested ecosystems is complicated by physical, biological, and chemical processes that range from being poorly understood to completely unknown. This precludes a quantitative understanding of acetaldehyde exchange rates between the atmosphere and the biosphere. In this study, the processes controlling the exchange of acetaldehyde with plant canopies was investigated using concentration, flux, and natural abundance 13C measurements of gas phase acetaldehyde from individual plants, soils, and entire ecosystems. Although previously only considered important in anoxic tissues, it was discovered that acetaldehyde is produced and consumed in leaves through ethanolic fermentation coupled to the pyruvate dehydrogenase bypass system under normal aerobic conditions. These coupled pathways determine the acetaldehyde compensation point, a major factor controlling its exchange with the atmosphere. Carbon isotope analysis suggests a new pathway for acetaldehyde production from plants under stress involving the peroxidation of membrane fatty acids. This pathway may be a major source of acetaldehyde to the atmosphere from plants under biotic and abiotic stresses. Plant stomata were found to be the dominant pathway for the exchange of acetaldehyde with the atmosphere with stomatal conductance influencing both emission and uptake fluxes. In addition, increasing temperature and solar radiation was found to increase the compensation point by increasing the rates of acetaldehyde production relative to consumption. Under ambient conditions, bare soil was neutral to the exchange of acetaldehyde while senescing and decaying leaves were found to be strong source of acetaldehyde to the atmosphere due to increased decomposition processes and the loss of biological sink(s). Vertical concentration profiles and within-canopy turbulence characterization allowed for the estimation of fine scale source/sink profiles of acetaldehyde in forested ecosystems in Michigan, California, and North Carolina. The different vertical and temporal acetaldehyde exchange patterns between the sites were well described using a simple canopy exchange model based on the results from the process based branch studies. We find that net ecosystem acetaldehyde emission rates are inversely related to foliage density by influencing the extinction of sunlight in a plant canopy. While high foliage density canopies can effectively mitigate regional air pollution by behaving as a net sink of atmospheric acetaldehyde, lower density canopies may aggravate it by acting as a net source.