A paper recently published in Nature Communications reveals that forests do a great job of reducing ozone formation in the lower atmosphere. Ozone is a powerful greenhouse gas linked to respiratory problems, smog, climate change and crop damage.
The effects of forest canopy shading and turbulence on boundary layer ozone indicates that effectively measuring the level of ozone has been hindered by a previous inability to calculate the impact of forests. The paper notes that this has led to an over-estimation of the amount of ozone below forest canopies.
Published last month, the research was co-authored by several scientists at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).
“The shaded and relatively stagnant air of the forest ecosystem modifies the chemistry of air pollution, resulting in much less ozone formation than had been previously believed to take place. The study also showed that in the absence of forests, ground-level ozone levels would be as much as 50% higher,” states a news release from ECCC.
Research was carried out at a number of locations to test the scientists model. For example, measurements in the Amazon rain forest indicate an 80% decrease in ozone above the forest compared to levels near ground level. Equally, a forested site in Massachusetts had decreased ozone of more than a factor of two.
The key conclusion to derive from the research is that there is a substantial decrease in ozone below forest canopies and the air quality benefits “extend far above and downwind of the forests themselves and contribute to improved air quality in our communities.”