Air Quality Impacts of Climate-Induced Changes on Forest Composition

Project Type: 
Core Research Project
Project Leader: 
Research Partners: 
Frank Thompson (University of Missouri); Alex Guenther (UC Irvine); Allison Steiner (University of Michigan); Jacob Fraser (U Missouri)
Project Fellows: 
Science Themes: 

Forests play a role in air quality by supplying the atmosphere with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), precursors to ozone and aerosols. Different tree types emit different VOCs, each with different capacity to form ozone and aerosols. Therefore, shifts in forest composition may impact ozone and aerosol yields. Climate change is one of the expected drivers of forest change. In particular, the current range boundaries of a variety of species are expected to shift northward. The impacts of these climate-induced shifts in forest composition on air quality, particularly VOC emissions and subsequent ozone and aerosol formation, is little understood. This project aims to explore the relative contribution of shifts in approximately 25 tree species to changes in the VOC, ozone, and aerosol environment using a suite of high-resolution models.

In order to maintain good air quality in a changing climate, land managers should know the natural precursors to ozone and aerosols that are expected for their management zone. Policy makers should consider revising legislation around air quality standards based on a new forest landscape in a changing climate.


Ashworth, K., S. H. Chung, R. J. Griffin, J. Chen, R. Forkel, A. M. Bryan, and A. L. Steiner (2015): "FORest Canopy Atmosphere Transfer (FORCAsT) 1.0: a 1-D model of biosphere–atmosphere chemical exchange", Geoscientific Model Development, 8, 3765--3784, doi:10.5194/gmd-8-3765-2015.

Bryan, A. M., S. J. Cheng, K. Ashworth, A. B. Guenther, B. Hardiman, G. Bohrer, and A. L. Steiner (2015): "Forest-atmosphere BVOC exchange in diverse and structurally complex canopies: 1-D modeling of a mid-successional forest in northern Michigan", Atmospheric Environment, 120, 217--226, doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2015.08.094.


  • Ferguson D, Bryan A M, Fraser J, Guenther A B, Geron C, Thompson F, Steiner A: Climate Change Impacts on Biogenic Emissions in the Central Hardwoods, American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, CA, Dec 12, 2016.