Plant and Soil

, Volume 291, Issue 1–2, pp 249–261 | Cite as

On-line screening of soil VOCs exchange responses to moisture, temperature and root presence

  • Dolores Asensio
  • Josep Peñuelas
  • Iolanda Filella
  • Joan Llusià
Original paper


The exchanges of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) between soils and the atmosphere are poorly known. We investigated VOC exchange rates and how they were influenced by soil moisture, temperature and the presence of plant roots in a Mediterranean forest soil. We measured VOC exchange rates along a soil moisture gradient (5%–12.5%–20%–27.5% v/v) and a temperature gradient (10°C–15°C–25°C–35°C) using PTR-MS. Monoterpenes were identified with GC-MS. Soils were a sink rather than a source of VOCs in both soil moisture and temperature treatments (−2.16 ± 0.35 nmol m−2 s−1 and −4.90 ± 1.24 nmol m−2 s−1 respectively). Most compounds observed were oxygenated VOCs like alcohols, aldehydes and ketones and aromatic hydrocarbons. Other volatiles such as acetic acid and ethyl acetate were also observed. All those compounds had very low exchange rates (maximum uptake rates from −0.8 nmol m−2 s−1 to −0.6 nmol m−2 s−1 for methanol and acetic acid). Monoterpene exchange ranged only from −0.004 nmol m−2 s−1 to 0.004 nmol m−2 s−1 and limonene and α-pinene were the most abundant compounds. Increasing soil moisture resulted in higher soil sink activity possibly due to increases in microbial VOCs uptake activity. No general pattern of response was found in the temperature gradient for total VOCs. Roots decreased the emission of many compounds under increasing soil moisture and under increasing soil temperature. While our results showed that emission of some soil VOCs might be enhanced by the increases in soil temperature and that the uptake of most soil VOCs uptake might be reduced by the decreases of soil water availability, the low exchange rates measured indicated that soil-atmosphere VOC exchange in this system are unlikely to play an important role in atmospheric chemistry.


Monoterpenes PTR-MS Roots Soil moisture Soil VOC exchange Temperature 



This research was supported by Spanish MEC grants REN2003-04871, and CGL2004-01402/BOS and CGL2006-04025/BOS. We also gratefully acknowledge the partial funding by the ISONET European Commission contract MC-RTN-CT-2003-504720, the ESF program VOCBAS, the ALARM European Commision contract 506675, and a Fundación BBVA 2004 and a Catalan Government SGR2005-003/12 grants.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dolores Asensio
    • 1
  • Josep Peñuelas
    • 1
  • Iolanda Filella
    • 1
  • Joan Llusià
    • 1
  1. 1.Unitat Ecofisiologia CSIC-CEAB-CREAF, Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), Edifici CUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterra (Barcelona)Spain

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