Stockholm university

From Trees to Clouds: towards understanding the role of forests in climate change

Plants are known to not only remove CO2 from the atmosphere but to also emit thousands of compounds, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), whose role in climate change has largely been “overlooked.” Now, researchers from Stockholm University will launch a new research project into the role of VOC emissions in climate change.

Claudia Mohr
Claudia Mohr is awarded a grant to learn more about the role of volatile organic compounds role in climate change. Photo: KAW/Magnus Bergström

Update: Claudia Mohr will take up a position abroad in 2023. Ilona Riipinen, professor at the Department of Environmental Science, will then take over responsibility for this project.

Forests are the largest sources of natural VOCs, which, though amounting to only a small fraction of the global carbon exchange, have a big impact on climate by providing tiny air particles that act as building blocks for clouds, potentially altering the Earth’s radiative budget. In a rapidly changing climate, how will future CO2 emissions and global temperature changes affect the amount and chemical makeup of VOCs and how could these then feed back into the climate system?

Claudia Mohr
Claudia Mohr
Photo: KAW/Magnus Bergström

“With this project we want to address the overlooked connection between climate change and physiological processes in plants and how it influences the Earth´s carbon- and water cycles. This task will require us to look at many different parts of the climate system, which can only be done with an interdisciplinary team of researchers. We are very excited to be given this opportunity by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation,” says Claudia Mohr, Associate Professor at Stockholm University.


Gathering data from climate simulations and harvesting

During the next five years, Claudia Mohr and her colleagues will gather data from the boreal forests of Sweden and tropical forests of Brazil. Using greenhouses set up in Panama, the team will expose tropical plants from the rainforest to an environment designed to simulate future CO2 and temperature conditions, and identify the types of VOCs they will emit. In Sweden, the researchers will collect observational data during harvesting to understand the impact current forest management practices have on emissions of VOCs. According to Mohr, the findings will paint a more accurate picture of the role forests play in climate change.

Watch film and read article on Claudia Mohr´s research on the Knut and Alice Wallenbergs Foundation´s web: Particles provide clues to climate change

Read article: Four large Wallenberg grants to Stockholm University