We are constantly surrounded by them. Though we cannot see or feel them, we can often catch their whiff.
We are constantly surrounded by them. Though we cannot see or feel them, we can often catch their whiff. Volatile gases are emitted into the atmosphere by nearly everything around us – both by human creations and from nature itself: furniture, cosmetics, plants, fungi, bacteria – and even by our own bodies. These chemical compounds, which evaporate easily and mix with other things in the air, are collectively referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
In nature, all organisms produce VOCs and use them to communicate with each other and protect themselves from enemies by way of scent and chemistry. For example, leaf-eating insects cause plants to begin releasing VOCs that eventually repel the same insects. On the other hand, flowers make themselves irresistibly delicious to attract honeybees and ensure for their own pollination. In this way, organisms 'talk' to each other across ecosystems with the help of VOC gases.
But VOC gases from ecosystems also influence global climate. Among other things, they contribute to the formation of more atmospheric greenhouse gases. The problem is that we do not yet know by how much. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have now dedicated the next few years to finding out.
Read more at: University of Copenhagen
Associate Professor Kathrin Rousk on a field trip in a primary forest in Costa Rica (Photo Credit: Johannes Rousk)