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A unifying explanation for variation in ozone sensitivity among woody plants

Feng, Zhaozhong, Büker, Patrick, Pleijel, Håkan, Emberson, Lisa, Karlsson, Per Erik, Uddling, Johan
Global change biology 2018 v.24 no.1 pp. 78-84
air pollutants, air pollution, biomass, climate, ecosystem services, interspecific variation, leaf area, leaf morphology, leaves, ozone, risk assessment, trees, troposphere, vegetation, woody plants
Tropospheric ozone is considered the most detrimental air pollutant for vegetation at the global scale, with negative consequences for both provisioning and climate regulating ecosystem services. In spite of recent developments in ozone exposure metrics, from a concentration‐based to a more physiologically relevant stomatal flux‐based index, large‐scale ozone risk assessment is still complicated by a large and unexplained variation in ozone sensitivity among tree species. Here, we explored whether the variation in ozone sensitivity among woody species can be linked to interspecific variation in leaf morphology. We found that ozone tolerance at the leaf level was closely linked to leaf dry mass per unit leaf area (LMA) and that whole‐tree biomass reductions were more strongly related to stomatal flux per unit leaf mass (r² = 0.56) than to stomatal flux per unit leaf area (r² = 0.42). Furthermore, the interspecific variation in slopes of ozone flux–response relationships was considerably lower when expressed on a leaf mass basis (coefficient of variation, CV = 36%) than when expressed on a leaf area basis (CV = 66%), and relationships for broadleaf and needle‐leaf species converged when using the mass‐based index. These results show that much of the variation in ozone sensitivity among woody plants can be explained by interspecific variation in LMA and that large‐scale ozone impact assessment could be greatly improved by considering this well‐known and easily measured leaf trait.