Project at a Glance

Title: Effects of ozone on primary determinants of plant productivity

Principal Investigator / Author(s): Olszyk, David M.

Contractor: Statewide Air Pollution Research Center, University of California, Riverside

Contract Number: A5-151-33

Research Program Area: Ecosystem & Multimedia Effects

Topic Areas: Ecosystem Impacts


The Statewide Air Pollution Research Center has a continuing mission to investigate the effects of air pollutants on vegetation, and to determine the amount of losses being caused by these pollutants. The Department of Botany and Plant Sciences has a continuing mission to investigate basic and applied aspects of plant science research. To further this mission we jointly conducted the pilot project "The Effects of Ozone on Primary Determinants of Plant Productivity." The study evaluated the relationships among ozone exposure, gas exchange. chlorophyll fluorescence. and whole plant productivity responses in depth for a baseline species: spinach (Spinacia oleracea); and for four species differing in ozone sensitivity: lettuce (Lactuca sativa). corn (Zea mays), squash (Cucumis pepo), and radish (Raphanus sativus). The study was conducted in a greenhouse using plants grown under conditions which allow for harvesting of both shoots and roots: i.e. a hydroponic system for spinach and a loose artificial media for the four other species. Spinach was exposed twice weekly for four weeks. Two patterns of exposure were used: a square wave (0.15 ppm continuously for four hours). or a triangle (0 to peak of 0.30 to 0 ppm over four hours for mean of 0.15 ppm). The four other species were exposed only to a triangle pattern with a peak of 0.24" ppm and a mean of 0.12 ppm ozone. The spinach experiment was repeated with four groups of plants. and the four species experiment was repeated with two groups. Gas exchange was measured in terms of net photosynthesis, stomatal conductance and transpiration using a portable photosynthesis system with associated computer. Productivity was measured in terms of fresh and dry weights for shoots and roots. Gas exchange was compared to productivity in terms of a relative growth rate calculation (RGR. a measure of total dry weight gain over time as a function of initial weight).

Both plant gas exchange and productivity were affected by the relatively mild ozone stress used in this study. Spinach showed statistically significant decreases in both stomatal conductance and transpiration due to ozone for nearly all groups of plants, with the triangle pattern producing greater effects than the square wave pattern of exposure. Net photosynthesis was not affected by ozone to the same extent as the other gas exchange parameters. with a statistically significant decrease found only for one group of plants. Spinach productivity was reduced by ozone, primarily when measured as leaf or shoot fresh weight. Spinach dry weights were reduced by ozone only for one of the four plant groups. The four species varied in 'their responses to ozone. Corn and radish showed decreases in stomatal conductance, radish showed a decrease in photosynthesis, and lettuce actually showed an increase in photosynthesis in response to ozone exposure. However, these responses did not necessarily occur for both groups of plants. Transpiration was not affected by ozone for any species. Radish was the only species showing consistent ozone effects on productivity, with decreases found in both shoot, root and total fresh or dry weights. Gas exchange was not consistently correlated with productivity (as indicated by RGR). Photosynthesis was correlated with RGR only for control plants. This occurred for two of the four groups of spinach plants and for one group each of radish and squash plants. Stomatal conductance was not correlated with RGR for any group of spinach plants, and only for the second group of squash plants (for both for control ozone exposed and second group of lettuce plants [ozone exposed]). The poor correlations between gas exchange and productivity were likely associated with the high degree of variability in plant responses, especially with ozone exposure.

The leaf sampling method for chlorophyll fluorescence determinations yielded stable, reproducible signals from control plants. However, alterations in fluorescence induced by low levels of ozone exposure were not as easily observed. The subtle ozone effects included a 10-20% lowering of the peak fluorescence and a slight distortion of secondary peaks. No changes could be seen in the initial (Fo) level of fluorescence (the so-called "dead" or baseline fluorescence unaffected by photochemistry). This study clearly indicated that even though changes in gas exchange and plant productivity occur with ozone exposure, that the relationships between them are difficult to detect. The correlations are highly dependent on species, gas exchange parameter, and group of plants. Recommendations for further research include: more intensive gas exchange and RGR measurements to determine correlations, measurement of gas exchange and productivity in the field, conduct additional chlorophyll fluorescence research in the laboratory, and use triangle exposure patterns in future research.

For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753

Stay involved, sign up with CARB's Research Email Distribution List