Joint research project

Tropospheric ozone effects on forest growth and diversity (TROZGRODIV2)

Project leaders
Giovannigiuseppe Vendramin, Badea Ovidiu
ROMANIA - RA - The Romanian Academy
CNR-RA 2017-2019
Biology, agriculture and food sciences
Thematic area
Biology, agriculture and food sciences
Status of the project
Report for renewal

Research proposal

This is a continuation of a very successful previous bilateral project (TROZGRODIV) on the same subject, i.e. the effects of ozone (O3) on forest growth and diversity. Ozone is a strong greenhouse gas and a severe phytotoxic pollutant. Ozone is an important air quality issue, causes serious health problems, damages materials and ecosystems, and drives climate change (Paoletti 2007; Kampa&Castanas 2008). Ground-level background O3 concentrations have doubled since pre-industrial times and continue to increase due to climate changes because are strongly dependent on temperature (Vingarzan 2004; IPCC 2007). Ozone plays a key role on forest physiological disturbances, by producing species-specific visible injury, growth loss, and higher vulnerability to secondary stressors.
In TROZGRODIV, we demonstrated that current European standards, based on the O3 exposure index AOT40, are inadequate to protect forests in Italy and Romania, so that a stomatal flux-based approach, or phytotoxic ozone dose POD, should be preferred (De Marco et al., submitted). To calculate POD, however, concurrent measurements of environmental variables, soil moisture and ozone concentrations must be carried out, which is challenging at forest sites where power is not available.
In order to validate the POD approach for the protection of forests, the parameters needed for calculation (e.g. air temperature, relative humidity, soil water content, ozone concentrations) and plant response indicators (e.g. radial growth, crown transparency, ozone visible foliar injury) are usually not available at the same sites. Therefore, the dose-response relationships have been mostly derived from chamber experiments (see citations in LRTAP 2010). Due to differences in the microclimates inside and outside a chamber, such a broad-scale field application is questionable (Paoletti 2007). This is why the effects of ambient ozone on forest growth and diversity under real-world conditions have not yet been quantified.
A major success of TROZGRODIV was the submission of a successful project proposal (LIFE15 ENV/IT/000183, entitled MOTTLES - Monitoring ozone injury for setting new critical levels and coordinated by CNR). A main aim of MOTTLES is to install integrated monitoring stations at forest sites (9 in Italy and 3 in Romania), and provide field data for POD validation. Unfortunately, the reviewers reduced the travel expenses relative to the original request, in spite of the need of field visits. Support to exchange visits by TROZGRODIV2 is thus strategical.
Another important result of TROZGRODIV was the start of a CNR-INCDS collaboration on developing dose-response and mechanistic studies on forest responses to ozone under realistic field conditions e.g. at the forest sites in MOTTLES and at FO3X, i.e. an ozone FACE (free air controlled exposure) facility installed at CNR.

Romania and Italy possess extensive and invaluable in-field data-bases that can be cross-compared to answer the fundamental question about ozone impacts on adult forest species-specific growth responses. Romania and Italy possess also complementary expertise. CNR is world leader in environmental protection, with its several institutes i.e. IBBR (forest genetic responses to climate change), IPSP (ozone impacts on forest ecophysiology), IBIMET (environmental monitoring) and IVALSA (forest radial growth). INCDS plays an initiating role in long-term monitoring of air pollutants effects on Romanian forests, and offers fundamental information on permanent forest plots in the framework of Long-Term Ecological Research Network (LTER) and ICP-Forests level II network. Also, INCDS have extensive experience in dendrometrics forest growth and dendrochronology (Dendrometrics, forest management planning and forest monitoring research team) and in genetics (Forest genetics and tree breeding research team).
Romania and Italy representative institutions have a mutual interest and willingness to strengthen their cooperation on evaluating the impact of air pollution on forests and to interchange and integrate their experience in present and future research projects.
The expected results are novel and of great significance in the international context, and will provide both countries with innovative findings about the responses of their forests to ozone pollution in terms of carbon sequestration and biodiversity. This bilateral agreement is a very important opportunity of collaboration for our research teams.
De Marco A., Popa I., Anav A., Badea O., Silaghi D., Leca S., Screpanti A., Paoletti E., Vitale M., Do ozone concentration influence the tree defoliation in a continental climate? Submitted to Environmental Pollution
IPCC WGI Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Kampa M, Castanas E 2008 Human health effects of air pollution. Environ Pollut 151, 362-367.
Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution -LRTAP- (2004) Mapping Manual, UNECE.
Paoletti E 2007 Ozone impacts on forests. CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources, 2 (No. 68), 13.
LRTAP (2010) Mapping Critical Levels for Vegetation. International Cooperative Programme on Effects of Air Pollution on Natural Vegetation and Crops, Bangor, UK.
Vingarzan R 2004 A review of surface ozone background levels and trends. Atm Environ 38, 3431-3442.

Research goals

Objectives 1500 characters
The scope of TROZGRODIV2 is to strengthen the cooperation of Romania and Italy developed by the previous TROZGRODIV in the area of quantifying ozone effects on forest growth and diversity. TROZGRODIV2 will work back-to-back with the LIFE15 project MOTTLES (where Romanian and Italian partners collaborate) and FO3X (a free air ozone exposure facility to simulate ozone impacts on vegetation), with the following major aims:
1. To validate the stomatal ozone flux approach for the protection of Italian and Romanian forests
2. To assess which are the most vulnerable forest species to ozone pollution in a changing climate
3. To develop science-based forest management strategies for the protection of forests from ozone under climate change
4. To develop research proposals with EU funding perspective and further consolidate the scientific cooperation between the participating countries

Last update: 07/10/2022