Biogenic volatile organic compounds - release from plants, microbes and ecosystems

Main area:Ecology
Target group:Biology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics
Educational level:Masters, Bachelor
Project description:

Biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs) are reactive hydrocarbons released by vegetation. They participate in many atmospheric reactions and thereby affect global warming and the atmospheric burden of pollutants. They also participate in communication between organisms, e.g. in plant-pollinator, plant-herbivore or plant-plant interactions.

Our group has been a pioneer measuring BVOC emissions from arctic ecosystems. We have shown that the arctic BVOC emissions are highly temperature sensitive: a warming by 2 degrees more than doubles the release of many compounds. Knowing that the Arctic is exposed to a rapidly progressing climate warming, we continue the work in investigating mechanisms that underlie the production and emission of BVOCs from these ecosystems.

We can offer student projects focusing on plants, microbes or ecosystems, depending on your own interests. The projects can involve field work in the Arctic or elsewhere, or be conducted in the laboratory using growth chambers. Small projects can be based on already-existing datasets or literature.

Potential topics:
• Effects of different climate change factors on BVOC emissions at ecosystem or plant level
• Plant physiology and BVOC emissions
• VOC from urban environment - Do roadside trees enhance or worsen the air quality in Copenhagen
• Soil or litter emissions: What BVOCs are released and how is the release controlled (e.g. microbial biomass, microbial community composition, soil chemistry)
• Wetland emissions
• Uptake of BVOCs by microbes
• How does permafrost thaw affect BVOC emissions?
• Shoulder seasons – spring and autumn – are they important?
• Ecosystem modelling. E.g. topics related to nitrogen availability, vegetation distributions and VOC emissions

Read more about the activities of the BVOC group at

Methods used:GC-MS, PTR-Tof-MS, multivariate statistics, and other field and laboratory methods depending on the topic
Keywords:ecosystem-atmosphere interactions, gas emission, secondary metabolites, climate change, aerosol
Supervisor(s):  Riikka Rinnan and others depending on the topic