1Institute for Chemistry and Dynamics of the Geosphere, Institute 2: Troposphere, Research Centre Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
2Institute for Chemistry and Dynamics of the Geosphere, Institute 3: Phytosphere, Research Centre Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
3Centre for Atmospheric Science, Department of Chemistry, Lensfield Road, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, CB2 1EW, UK
4Department of Environmental Sciences, Weizmann Institute, Rehovot 76100, Israel
Abstract. By emission of volatile organic compounds (VOC) which on oxidation form secondary organic aerosols (SOA) the vegetation is coupled to atmosphere and climate. New particle formation from tree emissions was investigated in a new setup: a plant chamber coupled to a reaction chamber for oxidizing the plant emissions and for forming SOA. The boreal tree species birch, pine, and spruce were studied and α-pinene was used as reference compound. Under the experimental conditions OH radicals were essential for inducing new particle formation, although O3 (≤80 ppb) was always present and a part of the monoterpenes and the sesquiterpenes reacted already with ozone before OH was generated. Formation rates of 3 nm particles were linearly related to the carbon mixing ratios of the VOC, as were the maximum observed volume and the condensational growth rates. The threshold of new particle formation was lower for the tree emissions than for α-pinene. It was lowest for birch with the largest fraction of oxygenated VOC (OVOC) suggesting that OVOC may play a pivotal role in new particle formation. Incremental mass yields were ≈5% for pine, spruce and α-pinene, and ≈10% for birch. α-Pinene was a good model compound to describe the yield and the growth of SOA particles from coniferous emissions. The mass fractional yields agreed well with observations for boreal forests. Despite our somewhat enhanced VOC and OH concentrations our results may thus be up-scaled to eco-system level. Using the mass fractional yields observed for the tree emissions and weighting them with the abundance of the respective trees in boreal forests we calculate SOA mass concentrations which agree within 6% with field observations. For a future VOC increase of 50% we predict a particle mass increase due to SOA of 19% assuming today's mass contribution of pre-existing aerosol.