With predictions for temperatures to rise into the 60's by the end of this week, first daughter proclaimed winter has had its last gasp and spring is around the corner! In celebration we went together to the annual Deep Cut Orchid Society Show in Holmdel. There were lots of lovely plants besides orchids of course, and so this post will have, instead of the usual pictures of dying and dead trees, flowers from the greenhouse scattered in between excerpts from actual scientific studies.
If I had been more industrious, I would have posted on Valentine's Day...instead I wound up too distractedreally upset dejected by the episode referred to in title of this post (the real jerks at Real Climate) - but that part will not come until the end, because there is much more important information to take a look at, first.
Following are passages from the website for The ICP - the International Cooperative Programme on Effects of Air Pollution on Natural Vegetation and Crops. Their purpose is to study and report on not only ozone, but heavy metal deposition, and nitrogen. They are headquartered in Europe, but cooperate with scientists from all over the world, because ozone damage to trees and crops is a growing global problem. They are working on the best way to measure impacts, because the complex, rapid chemical reactions that produce ozone and the uptake by vegetation are very challenging to determine.
From their "Major Results for Ozone" page(all quotes are colored violet):
There is evidence of widespread ozone damage to vegetation in Europe. Ambient levels of ozone cause visible leaf damage, reduce crop yield, affect crop quality and reduce the biomass of sensitive plant species.
Vegetation at sites with the highest ozone concentration may not have the highest uptake of ozone because of the modifying effects of climatic conditions (such as temperature, humidity, soil dryness) on stomatal conductance. Therefore, a stomatal flux-based approach was developed to establish ozone critical levels for vegetation. This flux-based approach is better at predicting areas at risk of ozone damage. The flux-based method can take into account the modifying affect of the future climate.
Ozone critical levels for vegetation are regularly exceeded across Europe.
Policies only aiming at protecting human health will not protect vegetation from adverse effects of ozone in the northern third of the European area.
Ozone-induced yield losses for 23 crops (mainly arable) in 47 countries in Europe were estimated to be €6.7 billion per year for year 2000 ozone concentrations.
Several plant communities of (semi-)natural vegetation were identified as potentially ozone-sensitive after calculating the percentage of ozone-sensitive species within each community.
Evidence suggests that ozone and nitrogen can have both synergistic and antagonistic effects on species and ecosystem processes; they may interact in unpredictable ways to affect plant communities.
The targets for impacts of ozone on vegetation were set to avoid most (by 2020) and all (by 2050) detectable ozone damage to receptors and a reduction in ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration. Indicators to achieve these targets are a reduction in (2020) or no exceedance (2050) of ozone critical levels for vegetation.
The ICP Vegetation Task Force recommended to apply the principal of gap closure to reduce exceedances in 2020. The aim is to secure food production and quality, protect against loss of carbon storage and loss of ecosystem services (e.g. flood prevention, protection from soil erosion and avalanches) provided by trees and protect against loss of fodder quality and vitality of (semi-)natural
Additional photochemical reactions involving NOx, carbon monoxide and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) released due to anthropogenic emissions (especially from vehicle sources) increase the concentration of ozone in the troposphere.
These emissions have caused a steady rise in the background ozone concentrations in Europe and the USA since the 1950s (The Royal Society, 2008).
Superimposed on the background tropospheric ozone are ozone episodes where elevated ozone concentrations in excess of 50-60 ppb can last for several days.
Ozone episodes can cause short-term responses in plants such as the development of visible leaf injury (fine bronze or pale yellow specks on the upper surface of leaves) or reductions in photosynthesis.
If episodes are frequent, longer-term responses such as reductions in growth and yield and early die-back can occur.
Several meta-analyses of results in peer-reviewed papers confirm that current ambient ozone concentrations have an adverse effect on plant photosynthesis and reduce crop productivity and tree growth.
In addition, a recent meta-analysis of published data on tree responses indicated that an ambient ozone concentration of ca. 40 ppb was sufficient to reduce the total tree biomass by 7% compared with pre-industrial levels (Wittig et al., 2009). Consistency of results across countries provides further strength to the derived flux-based critical levels for forest trees (e.g. Karlsson et al., 2007).
Some of the highest ozone concentrations in Europe are found in the crop growing areas of the Mediterranean region. In these areas, current ambient ozone concentrations have been shown to induce negative impacts on the production and quality of over 20 agricultural and horticultural crop species of economical importance (Fumagalli et al., 2001).
Reductions in yield have been observed in for example potato, tomato, bean, watermelon, artichoke and lettuce (Calvo et al., 2007, 2009; Gerosa et al., 2009a; Gimeno et al., 1999; Goumenaki et al., 2007; Sanz et al., 2002). Moreover, effects on food quality like reduced sugar concentration (Figure 3.3a), delayed fruit ripeness or alterations in nutritional value have been observed in bean, tomato and watermelon (Bermejo, 2002; Gimeno et al., 1999; Iriti et al., 2009), resulting in a decrease in their marketable value.
In tomato, virus infection rates were increased at elevated ozone exposure (Porcuna, 1997). In some cases, high ozone episodes caused high economic losses in commercial fields over large areas due to the appearance of visible injury on leafy crops such as lettuce, spinach and chichory (Fumagalli et al., 2001). Ozone can also induce physiological effects on orchard species of great economical importance in the Mediterranean areas like citrus or olive tree (Iglesias et al., 2006; Minnocci et al., 1999).
4.3.2 Forest trees
Revision of critical levels Ozone causes negative effects on forest trees such as reduced photosynthesis, premature leaf shedding and growth reductions. Some forest tree species are present in large areas of Europe: birch, Scots pine and Norway spruce are particularly important in central and northern Europe; beech and deciduous oaks are frequent across several European regions, in particular in central and southern areas; Holm oak and Aleppo pine are frequent in Mediterranean Europe.
Sensitivity to ozone has been detected in all of these species, with effects such as biomass reduction commonly reported (e.g. Karlsson et al., 2007). Negative effects of ambient ozone on forest trees are already occurring all over Europe. For example, visible injury has been detected in ICP Forests surveys (Ferretti et al., 2007a), reduced stem growth has been reported in Switzerland (Braun et al., 2007) and leaf loss occurs in Greece.
To provide the greatest protection against loss of carbon storage capacity in the living biomass of trees and other beneficial ecosystem services provided by trees such as reducing soil erosion, avalanches and flooding, we recommend the use of the flux-based critical level for beech and birch (POD1 of 4 mmol m-2) or that for Norway spruce (POD1 of 8 mmol m-2).
Ozone negatively impacts on (semi-)vegetation by causing early die-back, reduced seed production, reduced growth and reduced ability to withstand other stresses such as drought and over-wintering in sensitive species.
Current ambient ozone concentrations in the Mediterranean area induced negative impacts on the production, quality and appearance of over 20 agricultural and horticultural crop species of economical importance.
Ambient ozone concentrations also caused visible leaf damage and effects on growth and plant physiology in ozone sensitive deciduous tree species such as beech and some evergreen forest species common in the Mediterranean area, such as Holm oak, carob tree and Aleppo pine.
The aims of this review are to:
• Further develop an existing ozone sensitivity index for crops, including flux-basedconsiderations;
• Assess the implications of increasing atmospheric ozone concentrations for food
security in Europe and globally, using south-east Asia as a case-study;
• Consider the impacts of ozone in a changing climate with special focus on ozone and
• Use the above to write a glossy report on the current state of knowledge of ozone
impacts on food security at the local, regional (Europe and south-east Asia) and global scale, including policy implications.
Summary and Future Work Plan:
Coordinated from CEH Bangor in the UK, the ICP Vegetation continues to comprise over 200 scientists from 35 countries in the UNECE region with outreach activities to other regions such as Asia, Central America and South Africa...
Fifty eight delegates from 18 Parties to the Convention, Cuba and Japan, including a representative from EMEP/MSC-East, attended the 23rd ICP Vegetation Task Force Meeting, 1 - 3 February 2010 in Tervuren, Belgium.
The ICP published this report, titled "Evidence of Widespread Ozone Damage to Vegetation in Europe."
This report has established that effects of ambient ozone on crops and (semi-) natural vegetation are actually occurring in the field, with leaf injury and reductions in biomass or crop yield developing under ambient ozone conditions.
Additional tropospheric ozone is formed from complex photochemical reactions involving NOx, carbon monoxide (CO) and NMVOCs released due to anthropogenic emissions (especially from vehicle sources).
Superimposed on the background tropospheric ozone are ozone episodes where elevated ozone concentrations in excess of 60 ppb can last for several days (e.g. in the Snowdonia National Park, UK, 2003, Figure 1.1).
Models predict that, even with full compliance with the Gothenburg Protocol and European Union controls, 24h mean ozone concentrations are likely to continue to rise in Europe in the coming decades due in part to hemispheric transport of the precursors of ozone from developing areas of the world.
Ozone damage to vegetation
Exposure experiments have shown that ozone causes:
•Visible injury, present as fine yellow/brown/red specks initially on the upper leaf surface that gradually coalesce to form large lesions
• Increased/premature die-back (senescence)
• Reductions in photosynthetic rate and changes in biomass partitioning resulting in less growth and reduced seed production
• Decreased ability to over-winter or survive natural stresses (e.g. drought, freezing)
It's clear from visiting their website and reading the various reports that the scientists at ICP view ozone as a serious threat to crop production, natural vegetation and trees, not just in Europe, but all over the world.
When they talk about "premature senescence" and "reduced growth" what that really means, eventually, is death. Trees aren't static, they are either growing, or they are dying.
They also make clear linkage between ozone exposure and drought, insects, cold tolerance, disease, and even landslides, which is something I have been expecting as roots shrivel.
So, in light of their findings, is it any wonder that food prices are rising, and have pushed 44 million people into poverty since last June? And it begs the question, given that crop yields are known to be significantly reduced from tropospheric ozone (not to mention the levels in the atmosphere are rising), why isn't anybody making that link in articles referring to a food shortage and rising prices? Why doesn't Lester Brown talk about it, for instance?
Okay, so finally we have arrived at a discussion about the real jerks at Real Climate, whose gatekeepers decided to move almost all reference to Richard Pauli's initial comment, which included a link to Wit's End, to the off-topic thread, which is understandable...but then they closed comments at the off-topic thread, before I could respond to a torrent of attacks that were nasty while pretending not to be! What are they afraid of? Following are the comments that I could retrieve, more or less in order, tothis post the premise of which - whether blogs can replace science - can only be considered silly, to begin with! And NO, no more pretty orchids. The rest of the pictures are screenshots from that ICP website, of leaves damaged by ozone - which happen to correspond exactly to all the leaves I have been photographing and uploading on this blog for almost two years, from New Jersey, Massachusetts, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego and Costa Rica.
First, though, let me make clear something those posters chose to ignore throughout the discussion: I do not claim to be a scientist! I do not purport to practice science, or even understand much of it. I am a photographer, and a gardener, and a writer, and a witness. Accusing me of not adhering to scientific standards is just febrile nonsense. It's akin to Holocaust deniers attacking a blogger (had there been any around in, say, 1943) for posting pictures of Jews lying of the floor of a gas chamber - with deprecating insults such as: You're not a doctor! So how do you know those people are dying, or dead? Even if they are dead, how do you know they died from exposure to a gas? Did you do a post-mortum? If you didn't do a post-mortum, how do you know why they died? Just because everyone knows the gas is there - and everyone knows, it's poisonous?? ...Maybe they died from thirst, or a disease!
Let's begin with RPaulis's comment, that sparked the (latest) exchange (and I apologize for the formatting chaos): 1. A fraternity hazing technique is to have the initiate hold a burning match while reciting the Greek alphabet. The challenge is to deliver answers before being burned. And similar games are played while holding ice cubes – merely an uncomfortable test.
We live in a world of radical change with an increasing rate of change, measuring astounding events. Scientific effort should be commesurate with the rate of change in our world. To meet the challenges of the future, we need far more research and faster reporting and review. Why not? The need is there.
I point to one amateur’s blog on the problem of ozone pollution…http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/p/basic-premise.html – by a non-scientist and mother, Gail Zawacki, who simply observes serious problems in the world she sees. She is in contact with researchers studing tropospheric ozone – and calls up some serious questions deserving of more study. (O3 generation from ethanol, damage to plant life, increase with heat, etc)
[Response: Well actually you're giving quite a good example of why "blog science" by amateurs is a real problem--and it doesn't matter which side of the "AGW fence" you're on to qualify it as such. You are sure right that we need more science, but that science has to be of high quality, and peer-reviewed by the scientific community, which much "blog science" is decidedly not. You don't just assemble whatever information you can find, throw it together on a blog, and act like that proves your pet theory (while at the same time accusing the mainstream science community of cover ups, malfeasance etc)--as the blog and person you refer to, has done. Nor do bloggers generally discover any important problems that scientists are not already aware of, though they dearly like to imagine so--Jim]
Blogs are not formal science research – but the rates of change increases and time compresses. In the midst of dire problems, we should welcome all comers who increase reporting.
[Response: NOPE, not unless they show they are credible--they simply add to the noise otherwise.--Jim]
This is no fraternity hazing, right now all humans are touched by increased combustion and rapidly melting ice.
At this point I decided to defend myself, and this comment was allowed through moderation:
“I certainly think that blogs can be of tremendous value in bringing up more context and dispelling the various mis-apprehensions that exist, but as a venue for actually doing science, they cannot replace the peer-reviewed paper – however painful that publishing process might be.”
I totally agree and have tremendous respect for real science. My blog was never intended to be scientific in the proper academic sense of the word.
When I first noticed that all the trees are dying (and they are, all dying, every species of every age in every habitat)
[Response: Is that a fact? You've been around the world observing this first hand have you. Or is it that you've gone thoroughly through all the various forest inventory data of various countries and analyzed tree mortality with respect to various possible causes?--Jim]
the first thing I did was write to all the scientists I could dredge up who might have some knowledge and ask them, why?
I emailed them pictures of damaged leaves so they could see the symptoms I referred to in my letters, but it was slow and cumbersome for me to send and people to download – and so I started the blog initially so that I could supply a link that would be fast and effortless.
At first I thought the trees were dying from climate-change drought, and so I learned everything I could about climate change. Eventually however I came to the conclusion that this explanation, although it will ultimately disrupt the climate enough to cause mass extinctions, could not be the source of the sudden and precipitous and universal damage to foliage that was occurring, not just on trees growing in the wild, but also young trees being watered in nurseries, and annuals in the ground and in pots with enriched soil, and even aquatic plants that are always in water. The only thing all this vegetation has in common is the composition of the atmosphere. This is the point at which I started looking, reluctantly, into tropospheric ozone.
I discovered there is much evidence that ozone is toxic to vegetation, and so the blog also became a repository for all the legitimate, peer-reviewed research I can find that has been published on the topic.
[Response: Yeah, so are certain insects. And numerous fungi. And invasive earthworms. And acidic precipitation. And over-crowding from alteration of natural disturbance regimes. And resource acquisition and allocation patterns related to age-related stand dynamics. And wind and ice storms. And fire. And....--Jim]
Scientists know that ozone damages plants and kills trees and causes crop yield decreases in the billions of dollars annually. They have proven that exposure to ozone increases the incidence of insects, disease, fungus, impacts from drought and extreme weather, the usual reasons cited for tree death. [edit accusations of conspiracy by scientists]
We should drastically curtail burning fuel, reserve it for only for the most essential purposes, and transition to clean sources of energy on an emergency basis.
[Response: Yep, and we should do it for the right reasons.--Jim]
[Response: if people want to discuss this specific topic can do so on the open thread. It is OT here. I moved a couple of responses there already. Thanks. - gavin]
You really damage your cause by blindly blaming everything you see on one thing. The world is more complicated than that, and you don’t even know what an oak apple is. How then can you hope to attribute all the many and various causes of leaf damage?
Some of your “science” links are broken, others refer to articles that don’t support your theories. In one particularly daft example, you attribute sheer fiction to the WHO. If you want to be taken seriously, then get serious. If you want your blog to form a useful adjunct to the science, then it must be accurate (or make a reasonable attempt to be) – or it’s just another anti-science conspiracy site.
If you can’t convince someone like me, think how quickly working scientists will dismiss you as a crank. They already know about ozone. Thinking of yourself as the sole beacon of light and wisdom…. not a good plan.
But you do accuse the foresters for a cover up and hiding the truth from the public on your blog. To simply say that bark beetles killing trees is inaccurate and misleading is meaningless as you fail to support your position with any science. Therefore it is only opinion based upon your observation, that admittedly is not scientific in nature. The USDA makes information readily available to the public. Effects of Ozone Air Pollution on Plants But you yourself cannot state with certainty whether ground level ozone is a contributing factor in all areas that are under attack from bark beetles unless you can provide the science to back that claim. Therefore it is blogs such as yours that are misleading. You may be entitled to your opinion, but remember that accuracy does count.
GailZawaki. Please don’t blame all the dying vegetation around your location on one aspect of the environment world wide [either drought or ozone], there are very many things, even directly related to climate, that have effects on trees and other levels of plant life. There are some varieties of trees in some specific eco-niches in my area that are noticeably dying from direct effects of drought, while other species right next to them are thriving, but the most massively affected areas are the beetle kill forests that are primarily a result of warmer winter temperatures. Ozone isn’t a primary culprit outside major urban centers. Drought, and floods, and heat waves will massively degrade world wide food production well before ozone eliminates all the decorative landscape in your yard.
Yes, burning all our carbon stores is a bad thing, but the low level ozone problem is more directly the NOx and VOC emissions that react with sunlight to create it, and they have come under regulation in the U.S., there is something being done about it. Please put your effort into insuring your newly elected politicians don’t kneecap those regulations!
Gail, without meaning to be nasty, your blog is an example of why so many blogs just ain’t representative of the peer review process in science publishing. On your blog you note that you found some dead trees in a forest near your home while on a walk. You then conclude: “I stopped soon after I realized the ecosystem is collapsing.” To echo Jim: “Oh, really?” You see some dead or dying trees, are not sure of the etiology of the dying trees, have not done any systematic survey to determine what genus or species or how many trees are dead or dying, do not appear to have done an exhaustive review of the related research literature, have not determined how this phenomenon relates to other processes in the surrounding ecosystems … and you conclude the ecosystem is “collapsing,” whatever that means.
Do you see the problems here? There are so many steps left out of the rigorous processes of observation, hypothesis formation, literature review, data collection, analysis, determining if your data support your hypothesis, and then having your learned peers methodically review your work.
With regard to climate science blogs, from what I can determine there are many blogs whose proprietors think they are doing science when in fact they have left out many of these steps, or have performed sloppily, or have become blinded by ideology, or are unwilling or unable (due to lack of rigor) to have their work reviewed by qualified peers.
Regarding my earlier comment #6 – I guess I wanted to convey some concern over the pace of climate change and to call for increased levels of science inquiry. Of course blogs have no role in doing science work, no one has asked for that level of respect. And I would not. But certainly we need to hear the calling of important questions.
“The world’s largest oil companies are showing surprising interest in financing alternative energy research at U.S. universities. Over the past decade, five of the world’s top 10 oil companies—ExxonMobil Corp., Chevron Corp., BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell Group, and ConocoPhillips Co.—and other large traditional energy companies with a direct commercial stake in future energy markets have forged dozens of multi-year, multi-million-dollar alliances with top U.S. universities and scientists to carry out energy-related research. Much of this funding by “Big Oil” is being used for research into new sources of alternative energy and renewable energy, mostly biofuels.”http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/10/big_oil.html (another blog!)
In light of this trend, it seems unwise to leave it solely to formal science to select the questions for further inquiry — not doing the science, but selecting the question. RC seems to be very touchy about biofuel combustion – yet there are more than a few formal studies that showhttp://bit.ly/dVtxOg that biofuels are dangerous.
I hope that academic funding awards will be able to overlook funding biases arising from specified carbon fuel sources. This is precisely the kind of question that can be loaded and misguided by political and business interests. How should this question get the attention it might deserve? [OT, moved]
Mortality increases are also verified by PNW. Causes are not known with precision, but logging and ozone could clearly be important factors. Foresters are not professionally or politically equipped to make those determinations.
Gavin and Eric, forestry is not like other disciplines.
[Response: Maybe Mike Roddy would realize, if he read the paper he refers to, and RC, that I wrote an RC article specifically about it two years ago when it came out, that the authors took real pains in their experimental design to exclude exactly the kinds of hand-waving causes that he mentions, and that Jerry Franklin is not the lead author of that paper. Maybe he should also not use the term "alarming" for the small percentage increases in background mortality that the authors detected over a relatively short period of time, disparage the knowledge of professional foresters in one fell swoop, and should realize that this entire subject is off topic and has been thus moved to the open thread.--Jim]
Mike Roddy @62 citing van Mantgem et al., suggests that logging and ozone may be important factors in increased tree mortality in the Western U.S. Actually, the authors of that paper observe that “the available evidence is inconsistent with major roles for two possible exogenous causes: forest fragmentation and air pollution.”
[Response: Correct. Thanks for paying attention Rick.--Jim]
flxible, I have been to California, Washington state, Costa Rica, and from Boston to Virginia, and seem the same degree of destruction. It’s not limited to my location, or “the decorative landscape” in my yard. (what!?) And the level of background ozone is rising everywhere. For example, all of the national park services, even those in remote areas, are concerned about the impact of ozone on trees.
Ron Crouch, the aspen are dying off too, and they don’t get bark beetle:
“Something is killing the aspen trees of the Rocky Mountain West. Or so it seems to some scientists, who say the slender, white-bark trees that paint the hills gold every autumn are dying, leaving bald patches across the Rockies. They are scrambling to figure out what’s happening. “As soon as we understand what’s going on, then maybe we can do something about it,” said Dale Bartos, a U.S. Forest Service ecologist based in Utah. Bartos thinks a fungus may be to blame, while others suggest such possibilities as hungry caterpillars, drought, human interference with the natural cycle of forest fires, and resurgent herds of hungry elk nibbling saplings to death.”
Susan, I think you may have missed some very thinly veiled hostility towards me way back when.
Didactylos, I don’t think ozone is to blame for everything. There is plenty else going on. The problem I see is, no one is taking the ozone problem seriously enough. It’s really quite frightening how quickly trees are dying. It used to be just the old ones but now even very young trees have bark falling off.
It’s comparable to the bleaching of coral reefs. It’s one thing to say oh, the corals reefs are bleaching by warming water, no wait, it’s that the water is becoming acidified, no wait, the ecosystem in the ocean is collapsing because the corals are dying.
I promise to be perfectly gracious when it becomes so obvious the terrestrial ecosystem is collapsing because trees are dying from a toxic atmosphere that even Real Climate has to admit it’s so.
At this point I decided to defend myself, and this comment was allowed through moderation: