Worldwide, plants emit about 100 million tonnes of monoterpenes into the atmosphere each year.
Worldwide, plants emit about 100 million tonnes of monoterpenes into the atmosphere each year. These volatile organic molecules include many fragrances such as the molecule pinene – known for its pine fresh scent. Since these molecules are highly reactive and can form tiny aerosol particles that can grow into nuclei for clouds droplets, natural emissions play an important role in our climate. Therefore, it is important for climate predictions to know how monoterpene emissions will change as temperatures rise.
As with pinene, many monoterpenes occur in two mirror-image forms: (+) alpha-pinene and (-) alpha-pinene. Plants can release both forms of these volatile molecules directly after biosynthesis or from storage pools in leaves. Because the two chiral or enantiomeric forms have identical physical and chemical properties, they are often not considered separately in atmospheric modeling. However, in a new study published this week in Nature, researchers from the Max Planck Institute have shown that the two mirror-image molecules are released via different processes in the plant and that they respond differently to stress, particularly drought.
Read More: Max Planck Institute for Chemistry