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The ScienceDaily reported on September 27, 2011 that there is a new revolutionary and very accurate method of predicting the ground-level pollutant of ozone. It is possible thanks to new research into plant circadian rhythms. The research was published in the journal Nature Geoscience and quided by Professor Nick Hewitt of the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancester University.
Hewitt has found that the rate at which plants emit isoprene is influenced by their body clock or the 24-hour circadian rhythm Isoprene is an organic compound of plants and can be emitted by some. Ozone is formed in the atmosphere when isoprene reacts with nitrogen oxides from car engines or industry machinery.
Ozone is not only a greenhouse gas that hurts the atmosphere; at ground level is very harmful to human health and may decrease crop yields. According to sciencedaily.com, isoprene emission has been observed in a stand of trees for the first time and this research proves that ground-level ozone concentrations, calculated in this way, are better and more accurate than commonly used computer stimulation.
According to ScienceDaily professor Hewitt, “We spend billions of pounds trying to control ozone — for example, by putting catalytic convertors in new cars in order to prevent emissions of oxides of nitrogen. This discovery of the circadian rhythm operating on the forest canopy scale is another step in better understanding ozone and improving our models of the atmosphere.”
Not only Hewitt did the observations about isoprene. Researchers from Sabah in Malaysia did measurements of isoprene produced above tropical rainforest and oil palm plantations as a part of a £2.5m UK/Malaysian scientific research project. This research was noted by Dr Eiko Nemitz of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
“Our flux measurements show that emissions of isoprene are under circadian control, strongly in the oil palm plantation and less strongly in the rainforest. These ecosystems therefore emit less isoprene than current emissions models predict.”
Professor Rob MacKenzie of the University of Birmingham, who was responsible for the initial ozone modeling studies, added; “Using various models of atmospheric chemistry, we show that this more complete understanding of the processes controlling isoprene emissions yields a better predictive capability for ground-level ozone, especially in isoprene-sensitive regions of the world.”
By the isoprene-sensitive regions he meant: the southeastern US, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, parts of South East Asia and Japan. Professor MacKenzie’s team compared simulated ground-level ozone with real-life ozone measurements from selected sites by using computer simulations from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado.
Results showed that their model works more efficiently when includes circadian control of isoprene emissions and the results of this work was discovered by the Natural Environment Research Council and published as part of the Royal Society’s South East Asian Rainforest Research Programme.