Plant volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in ozone (O3) polluted atmospheres: the ecological effects

J Chem Ecol. 2010 Jan;36(1):22-34. doi: 10.1007/s10886-009-9732-3.


Tropospheric ozone (O3) is an important secondary air pollutant formed as a result of photochemical reactions between primary pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). O3 concentrations in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) are predicted to continue increasing as a result of anthropogenic activity, which will impact strongly on wild and cultivated plants. O3 affects photosynthesis and induces the development of visible foliar injuries, which are the result of genetically controlled programmed cell death. It also activates many plant defense responses, including the emission of phytogenic VOCs. Plant emitted VOCs play a role in many eco-physiological functions. Besides protecting the plant from abiotic stresses (high temperatures and oxidative stress) and biotic stressors (competing plants, micro- and macroorganisms), they drive multitrophic interactions between plants, herbivores and their natural enemies e.g., predators and parasitoids as well as interactions between plants (plant-to-plant communication). In addition, VOCs have an important role in atmospheric chemistry. They are O3 precursors, but at the same time are readily oxidized by O3, thus resulting in a series of new compounds that include secondary organic aerosols (SOAs). Here, we review the effects of O3 on plants and their VOC emissions. We also review the state of current knowledge on the effects of ozone on ecological interactions based on VOC signaling, and propose further research directions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Atmosphere
  • Oxidants, Photochemical / metabolism*
  • Ozone / metabolism*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / metabolism*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Oxidants, Photochemical
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Ozone