, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 367-380

Carboxylic monoacids in the air of mayombe forest (Congo): Role of the forest as a source or sink

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In the tropical rain forests of the Congo during the dry season, from June to September 1987, carboxylic acid partial pressures (P gas) in the air above the canopy, at ground level, and at the boundary layer, were estimated from water samples such as fog and rainwater. The concentrations of these acids were also measured in the sap of tree leaves. Tree leaves act as a sink or as a source if the acid P gas is greater of lower than the acid concentrations in molecular form in sap. For each of these soluble gases, there is a value of P gas where the exchange is nul. This is called the compensation point. Values of the compensation point for some tree leaves were evaluated according to Henry's law. Henry's law coefficients at ppm levels were redetermined for formic (HCOOH), acetic (CH3COOH), propionic (CH3CH2COOH), and isobutyric (CH3CH(CH3)COOH) acids.

By comparison of P gas and compensation points, it is concluded that the forest was a potential source for these acids. The soil-or the litter-acts as a significant source of a carboxylic acid of C3 or C4 atoms in the aliphatic chain. This carboxylic acid, not yet fully characterized, could play an important role in the rain acidity in forested zones of the equatorial areas.

The direct emission of these carboxylic acids by vegetation was the main source in the boundary layer above the forest. The average emissions were 3.1×109, 7.8×109, and 8.4×109 molecules cm-2 s-1 for HCOOH, CH3COOH, and CH3CH2COOH, respectively. The savanna is an exogenous source of HCOOH and CH3CH2COOH during moderately rainy days for 30% of the time. The ozonolysis of isoprene seems to be a small source of HCOOH.