Article

Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 116, Issue 1, pp 199-226

First online:

Ozone - a Risk Factor for Trees and Forests in Europe?

  • R. MatyssekAffiliated withLehrstuhl für Forstbotanik, Universität München
  • , J.L. InnesAffiliated withSwiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Zürcherstrasse 111

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Abstract

Tropospheric ozone (O3) may adversely affect tree growth, with critical levels for O3 being exceeded in many parts of Europe. However, unequivocal evidence for O3-induced foliar injury on woody species under field conditions has only been found in a few places. Visible O3 injury appears to occur mainly in the Mediterranean Basin, which is also the area where the least amount of information is available on O3 exposure as well as the sensitivity of individual species. Overall, the quantitative risk assessment of O3 impacts on mature trees and forests is vague at the European scale, as most knowledge is derived from controlled O3 fumigations of young trees, grown in isolation in exposure chambers. Research suggests that risks exist, but these need to be validated for stand conditions. O3-induced changes in resource allocation rather than productivity appear to be crucial as they affect competitiveness and predisposition to parasite attack and may eventually lead to the loss of genetic diversity. ‘Free-air’ O3 fumigations in forest canopies may reveal processes that are susceptible to O3 stress under field conditions and provide a scientific basis towards quantitative risk assessment and realistic definitions of critical levels for O3 in forest ecosystems.

Tropospheric ozone Forests Ecological risk analysis Critical levels Free-air fumigation Visible injury European Alps