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SOA Formation Potential of Emissions from Soil and Leaf Litter

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Soil and leaf litter are significant global sources of small oxidized volatile organic compounds, VOCs (e.g., methanol and acetaldehyde). They may also be significant sources of larger VOCs that could act as precursors to secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation. To investigate this, soil and leaf litter samples were collected from the University of Idaho Experimental Forest and transported to the laboratory. There, the VOC emissions were characterized and used to drive SOA formation via dark, ozone-initiated reactions. Monoterpenes dominated the emission profile with emission rates as high as 228 μg-C m(-2) h(-1). The composition of the SOA produced was similar to biogenic SOA formed from oxidation of ponderosa pine emissions and α-pinene. Measured soil and litter monoterpene emission rates were compared with modeled canopy emissions. Results suggest surface soil and litter monoterpene emissions could range from 12 to 136% of canopy emissions in spring and fall. Thus, emissions from leaf litter may potentially extend the biogenic emissions season, contributing to significant organic aerosol formation in the spring and fall when reduced solar radiation and temperatures reduce emissions from living vegetation.

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