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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Riikka Rinnan.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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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).

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