Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Large increases in Arctic biogenic volatile emissions are a direct effect of warming


Biogenic volatile organic compounds are reactive gases that can contribute to atmospheric aerosol formation1. Their emission from vegetation is dependent on temperature and light availability2. Increasing temperature, changing cloud cover and shifting composition of vegetation communities can be expected to affect emissions in the Arctic, where the ongoing climate changes are particularly severe3. Here we present biogenic volatile organic compound emission data from Arctic tundra exposed to six years of experimental warming or reduced sunlight treatment in a randomized block design. By separately assessing the emission response of the whole ecosystem, plant shoots and soil in four measurements covering the growing season, we have identified that warming increased the emissions directly rather than via a change in the plant biomass and species composition. Warming caused a 260% increase in total emission rate for the ecosystem and a 90% increase in emission rates for plants, while having no effect on soil emissions. Compared to the control, reduced sunlight decreased emissions by 69% for the ecosystem, 61–65% for plants and 78% for soil. The detected strong emission response is considerably higher than observed at more southern latitudes, emphasizing the high temperature sensitivity of ecosystem processes in the changing Arctic.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Biogenic volatile organic compound emission across the season.
Figure 2: Growing season average of biogenic volatile organic compound emission.
Figure 3: Correlation between measured background variables and isoprene emission for the tundra ecosystem.


  1. Paasonen, P. et al. Warming-induced increase in aerosol number concentration likely to moderate climate change. Nature Geosci. 6, 438–442 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Laothawornkitkul, J., Taylor, J. E., Paul, N. D. & Hewitt, C. N. Biogenic volatile organic compounds in the Earth system. New Phytol. 183, 27–51 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. IPCC Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013);

    Google Scholar 

  4. Smith, S. J., Edmonds, J., Hartin, C. A., Mundra, A. & Calvin, K. Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change. Nature Clim. Change 5, 333–336 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Carslaw, K. S. et al. Atmospheric aerosols in the Earth system: a review of interactions and feedbacks. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 9, 11087–11183 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Guenther, A. B. et al. The Model of Emissions of Gases and Aerosols from Nature version 2.1 (MEGAN2.1): an extended and updated framework for modeling biogenic emissions. Geosci. Model Dev. 5, 1471–1492 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Grote, R. & Niinemets, Ü. Modeling volatile isoprenoid emissions—A story with split ends. Plant Biol. 10, 8–28 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Holst, T. et al. BVOC ecosystem flux measurements at a high latitude wetland site. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 10, 1617–1634 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Potosnak, M. J. et al. Isoprene emissions from a tundra ecosystem. Biogeosciences 10, 871–889 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Rinnan, R., Steinke, M., McGenity, T. & Loreto, F. Plant volatiles in extreme terrestrial and marine environments. Plant Cell Environ. 37, 1776–1789 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Körner, C. in Plant Growth and Climate Change (eds Morison, J. I. L. & Morecroft, M.) 48–69 (Blackwell, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Niinemets, Ü., Loreto, F. & Reichstein, M. Physiological and physicochemical controls on foliar volatile organic compound emissions. Trends Plant Sci. 9, 180–186 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Valolahti, H., Kivimäenpää, M., Faubert, P., Michelsen, A. & Rinnan, R. Climate change-induced vegetation change as a driver of increased subarctic biogenic volatile organic compound emissions. Glob. Change Biol. 21, 3478–3488 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Faubert, P. et al. Doubled volatile organic compound emissions from subarctic tundra under simulated climate warming. New Phytol. 187, 199–208 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Monson, R. K. et al. Isoprene emission from terrestrial ecosystems in response to global change: minding the gap between models and observations. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 365, 1677–1695 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Peñuelas, J. & Staudt, M. BVOCs and global change. Trends Plant Sci. 15, 133–144 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Elmendorf, S. C. et al. Plot-scale evidence of tundra vegetation change and links to recent summer warming. Nature Clim. Change 2, 453–457 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Elmendorf, S. C. et al. Global assessment of experimental climate warming on tundra vegetation: heterogeneity over space and time. Ecol. Lett. 15, 164–175 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic (SWIPA): Climate Change and the Cryosphere (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, 2011);

  20. Niinemets, Ü. in Advances in Plant Physiology (ed. Hemantaranjan, A.) 233–268 (Scientific Publishers, 2004).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Guenther, A. B., Zimmerman, P. R., Harley, P. C., Monson, R. K. & Fall, R. Isoprene and monoterpene emission rate variability: model evaluations and sensitivity analyses. J. Geophys. Res. 98, 12609–12617 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Tiiva, P. et al. Climatic warming increases isoprene emission from a subarctic heath. New Phytol. 180, 853–863 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Le Roux, P. C., Aalto, J. & Luoto, M. Soil moisture’s underestimated role in climate change impact modelling in low-energy systems. Glob. Change Biol. 19, 2965–2975 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Dani, S., Jamie, I. M., Prentice, I. C. & Atwell, B. J. Increased ratio of electron transport to net assimilation rate supports elevated isoprenoid emission rate in eucalyptus under drought. Plant Physiol. 166, 1059–1072 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Loreto, F. & Schnitzler, J.-P. Abiotic stresses and induced BVOCs. Trends Plant Sci. 15, 154–166 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Peñuelas, J. et al. Biogenic volatile emissions from the soil. Plant Cell Environ. 37, 1866–1891 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Poorter, H. et al. Biomass allocation to leaves, stems and roots: meta-analyses of interspecific variation and environmental control. New Phytol. 193, 30–50 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Rinnan, R., Michelsen, A., Bååth, E. & Jonasson, S. Fifteen years of climate change manipulations alter soil microbial communities in a subarctic heath ecosystem. Glob. Change Biol. 13, 28–39 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Geladi, P. & Kowalski, B. R. Partial least-squares regression: a tutorial. Anal. Chim. Acta 185, 1–17 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Cleveland, C. C. & Yavitt, J. B. Microbial consumption of atmospheric isoprene in soil. Geophys. Res. Lett. 24, 2379–2382 (1997).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Jensen, L. M. & Rasch, M. (eds) NERO—Nuuk Ecological Reseach Operations 1st Annual Report 2007 (Danish Polar Center, Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, 2008);

  32. Tholl, D. et al. Practical approaches to plant volatile analysis. Plant J. 45, 540–560 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Ortega, J. et al. Approaches for quantifying reactive and low-volatility biogenic organic compound emissions by vegetation enclosure techniques—Part B: Applications. Chemosphere 72, 365–380 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Jonasson, S. Evaluation of the point intercept method for the estimation of plant biomass. Oikos 52, 101–106 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Jenkinson, D. S. & Powlson, D. S. The effects of biocidal treatments on metabolism in soil—V. A method for measuring soil biomass. Soil Biol. Biochem. 8, 209–213 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Wehrens, R., Putter, H., Lutgarde, M. & Buydens, C. The bootstrap: a tutorial. Chemometr. Intell. Lab. 54, 35–52 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank M. B. Dahl, P. C. Brusvang and M. S. Haugwitz for sharing excellent and invaluable data sets and G. Schurgers and C. Albers for constructive criticism and useful suggestions for the manuscript. We also thank the Villum Foundation, the Danish Council for Independent Research |Natural Sciences, and the Carlsberg Foundation for funding the project. The Danish National Research Foundation supported the activities within the Center for Permafrost (CENPERM DNRF100). Pinngortitaleriffik—Greenland Institute of Natural Resources and Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring Programme provided an excellent logistical basis for the work. Data from the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring Programme were provided by the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Denmark in collaboration with Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, Nuuk, Greenland, and Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



M.K. and I.V.-P. collected the data. M.K., I.V.-P., M.S. and R.R. analysed and interpreted the data set. Å.R. performed the PLS analysis. J.N. and H.R.-P. established the experimental site. M.K. wrote the manuscript with contributions from all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Riikka Rinnan.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 469 kb)

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (XLSX 45 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kramshøj, M., Vedel-Petersen, I., Schollert, M. et al. Large increases in Arctic biogenic volatile emissions are a direct effect of warming. Nature Geosci 9, 349–352 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing