NECC1013: Strategies to Evaluate and Mitigate Ozone Impacts on the Structure and Function of Vegetation

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Active

NECC1013: Strategies to Evaluate and Mitigate Ozone Impacts on the Structure and Function of Vegetation

Duration: 10/01/2012 to 09/30/2017

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Tropospheric ozone is a component of global climate change that is becoming critical to profitable production of agronomic and horticultural crops, efficient management of grazing lands, and appropriate stewardship of National Forests and Parks. Ozone is pervasive and the most damaging air pollutant in the US and the world, impacting the most productive US landscapes in the far West, Southeast, Northeast and Midwest (Booker et al., 2009). Twelve major crops and eight important trees are ozone-sensitive, with models indicating crop productivity losses up to five billion dollars, and forest and range losses in addition (Booker et al., 2009; Fishman et al., 2010; Krupa et al., 2001). Adverse effects of ozone on scenery and biodiversity in National Parks and Forests are also well documented (Kohut, 2007; U.S. EPA, 2006). There is recent evidence that ambient ozone may be damaging forests ecosystems by injuring understory vegetation, altering plant-herbivore relationships, and decreasing stream flow during drought periods (McLaughlin et al., 2007).

The biology of ozone impacts has been the focus of studies for many years (Bell and Treshow, 2002). However, existing knowledge of the mechanistic details of phytotoxicity and biochemical sites of attack are still insufficient to allow scaling from cell to organ to plant communities. As a result, efforts to predict ozone impacts and to utilize modern techniques of agronomy, horticulture, silviculture and plant breeding to mitigate them have been relatively unsuccessful. In addition, subtle effects of ozone on the nutritional quality of crops and grasslands can have profound effects on mammalian herbivore health and productivity (Krupa et al., 2004). New information will be required to address current agricultural practices in which new crop cultivars, many of which are genetically-modified, are being placed into production without specific consideration of their sensitivity to ambient ozone. Little is known about differential ozone effects on crops, weeds and invasive species (Booker et al., 2009), particularly with global increases in temperature and carbon dioxide. These issues are important to plant breeders, range managers, air quality regulators, ecosystem managers and climate modelers.

Customers and stakeholders for this information include the US EPA, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, USDA, US Forest Service, The National Arboretum, commodity groups such as the United Soybean Board and seed producers such as Monsanto Corporation, environmental groups, and various European and Asian environmental research organizations (for example, UNECE/ICP Vegetation, UNECE/ICP Forests, and IUFRO). In the past, stakeholders and clientele of Committee members have requested information to help them determine whether current and proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone are appropriate. Producers have requested development of ozone-tolerant crops, forages and forest trees. Land managers have requested spatial and temporal projections of impacts of ozone and climate change on vegetated landscapes. Climate change modelers are concerned about interacting effects of ozone, atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature on global C cycles.

No single institution or research group can evaluate ozone phytotoxicity at all relevant scales and in all informative biological systems. Linkages from molecular to ecosystem responses are critical and highly influenced by environmental and genetic factors. Current and previous Multi-State Research projects in this series have brought together a broad group of Experiment Station researchers with colleagues from USDA/ARS, non land-grant colleges and universities, and a number of foreign research universities and governmental agencies. Expertise spans the full range of plant biology, from genomics, through molecular biology, cellular and whole plant physiology, to community and landscape scale plant atmosphere exchange. A recent review by this group received an award as best review of the year by the publisher (Booker et al., 2009).

With the current proposal this effective group is moving from a research project to a coordinating and synthesis role. The continued multi-state effort is critical to further progress in activities of individual members, and to the review, synthesis and dissemination of available knowledge on management practices and tools related to ozone effects on vital US interests. The project will continue ongoing collaborations and further integrate the efforts of additional investigative groups. The technical outreach component of this committee has been especially important in transferring information to its members as well as to the general research community. The committee is especially valuable for younger scientists, since it provides an excellent opportunity for them to interact with experienced researchers from different areas of the country. A major strength of the group is the diversity of member research interests.

Applications of this work can: 1) improve ozone tolerance of crops and commercial trees through conventional breeding and molecular genetic technology; 2) better determine ozone effects on the structure, function and inter-species competition among plants including alterations in nutritive quality and impacts on genetically modified crops; 3) determine the combined effects of ozone with other growth regulating factors (e.g. elevated carbon dioxide and temperature) on crop and tree growth and productivity; and, 4) provide and evaluate indicators of ambient ozone impacts on plants that can be used to assess National Ambient Air Quality Standards and related Clean Air Act regulations.


  1. Coordinate research collaborations and information exchange on strategies to evaluate and mitigate detrimental effects of ozone on the structure and function of vegetation.
  2. Establish an organized group of ozone researchers who can mutually support the development of new, relevant knowledge about ozone effects on vegetation and ecosystems.
  3. Conduct education and outreach activities for advanced training of educators, regulators and the public regarding the effects of ambient ozone pollution on plants, including training of the next generation of scientists. Co-sponsor symposia at national and international meetings.
  4. Coordinate the outreach and communication of information on the oxidant component of global change via publications in scientific journals, consultations with regulatory agencies and continued operation of a Committee website.

Procedures and Activities

1. Committee members will meet annually to review individual research activities, to plan further individual and collaborative experimentation and syntheses, to share local and national regulatory information and stakeholder needs, and to discuss publications and educational activities.

2. Committee members will continue to publish new information and syntheses of available knowledge in peer reviewed, agency, and Cooperative Extension venues.

3. Subgroups of members with collaborative projects or interests will summarize their work for presentations at national meetings and in review papers.

4. Committee members will continue to serve on panels advising US EPA and the various states in regulatory matters, including on specialty panels of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

5. Committee members will continue to serve federal and state granting agencies as expert reviewers of grant proposals, and scientific journals as reviewers of publications.

6. Collaborations and ongoing relationships maintained through annual meetings of this Committee will foster consultations among members throughout the year, improving the knowledge base supporting all above activities.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • The proposed Coordinating Committee will provide an intellectual climate in which important research and synthesis on ozone impacts can continue and without which it would likely not continue, in which young researchers can be trained in appropriate techniques, and in which infrastructure can be maintained until more comprehensive research funding becomes available. In the absence of this project and its antecedents, most of the current ozone researchers have indicated that they would have further reduced their involvement in mitigation of ozone damage.
  • Dissemination of information through the committee website (
  • Previous projects in this series have provided the experts who have drafted the Welfare Effects chapters of the US EPA Air Quality Criteria Documents, and developed specialized reports required by US EPA, USDA (particularly in regard to the agricultural air quality issues), US National Park Service, US Forest Service, crop growers, members of the horticulture and forest production/management sectors, urban planners and industries contributing to the air emissions of precursors. At the local level, audiences include home and Master Gardeners, landscape and nursery managers, arborists and managers of public parks and recreational lands and individual crop producers, and state regulatory authorities in executing their regulatory mandates. In the absence of this project research and outreach on ozone impacts will decline and such expertise will become unavailable.
  • Success in this project will advance efforts to mitigate impacts on natural and managed ecosystems of global change. This will further goals of increased food and fiber production and global food security, more efficient and energy positive bioenergy production, prevented erosion of biological diversity, and reduced environmental impact of production systems as their efficiency increases.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

1. Updated information resources will continue to be made available on the committee website ( for use by a wide range of clientele: producers, crop consultants, Extension Educators, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, regulatory agencies and others who advise producers.

2. Information compiled and disseminated by the committee will be used in a wide range of settings, including Cooperative Extension workshops, USDA/ARS outreach, professional society presentations, supplemental websites, and regulatory decisions each year.

3. Membership to the committee will be sought from across the US and internationally to supplement the current membership and to continue to broaden input to the committee, and to more widely disseminate Committee information.

4. Field days at members respective research centers, campuses and outdoor air quality education areas will continue to educate growers and the public regarding air pollution challenges.


At each annual meeting, a Chair-Elect will be selected who will also serve as Secretary for a term of one year. At the conclusion of each annual meeting the Chair-Elect shall assume the Chair. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.

Literature Cited

Bell J.N.B., Treshow M. (2002) Air Pollution and Plant Life, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Chichester.

Booker F.L., Muntifering R., McGrath M.T., Burkey K.O., Decoteau D.R., Fiscus E.L., Manning W., Krupa S.V., Chappelka A., Grantz D.A. (2009) The ozone component of global change: Potential effects on agricultural and horticultural plant yield, product quality and interactions with invasive species. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 51:337-351.

Fishman J., Creilson J.K., Parker P.A., Ainsworth E.A., Vining G.G., Szarka J., Booker F.L., Xu X. (2010) An investigation of widespread ozone damage to the soybean crop in the upper Midwest determined from ground-based and satellite measurements. Atmospheric Environment 44:2248-2256.

Kohut R. (2007) Assessing the risk of foliar injury from ozone on vegetation in parks in the US National Park Servicess Vital Signs Network. Environmental Pollution 149:348-357.

Krupa S., Muntifering R., Chappelka A. (2004) Effects of ozone on plant nutritive quality characteristics for ruminant animals. The Botanica 54:1-12.

Krupa S., McGrath M.T., Andersen C., Booker F.L., Burkey K., Chappelka A., Chevone B., Pell E., Zilinskas B. (2001) Ambient ozone and plant health. Plant Disease 85:4-17.

McLaughlin S.B., Wullschleger S.D., Sun G., Nosal M. (2007) Interactive effects of ozone and climate on water use, soil moisture content and streamflow in a southern Appalachian forest in the USA. New Phytologist 174:125-136.

U.S. EPA. (2006) Air Quality Criteria for Ozone and Related Photochemical Oxidants U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

Appalachian State University, College Misericordia, North Carolina, USDA-ARS Air Quality Research Unit, USDA-ARS-Urbana
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