Ozone damage to vegetation made clear thanks to computer model

In cooperation with the Flemish Environment Agency (Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij, VMM), VITO developed a computer model to better monitor ozone damage to vegetation. The newest method no longer relies on ozone readings in the air, but looks at leaves.

Ozone (O3) adversely affects the growth of plants and trees. The substance is not only toxic in large quantities; many plants also take protective steps against high ozone values, causing them to waste energy unnecessarily. For years, the impact of ozone damage on vegetation and agricultural crops was not measured with sufficient accuracy, since many scientists studied the ozone concentrations in the atmosphere and projected those data onto plants. In the last 10 years, they have also been looking at leaves, which gives a more realistic estimate of ozone damage to vegetation. The focus is on the amount of ozone that stomata absorb when there are high concentrations in the atmosphere. A new conceptual model, designed by VITO in collaboration with VMM, builds on this view to monitor ozone damage to vegetation in Flanders accurately.

VITO’s role

To adjust an outdated method, VITO conducted research in two phases. First, a literature study revealed which models and calculating methods were best suited for an accurate computer model. Next, scientists developed a conceptual model tailor-made to the forest and agricultural area in Belgium, complemented with data from the international ozone network of the United Nations.

Ozone monitoring: facts & figures
  • Partner project of the Flemish Environment Agency, CODA-CERVA and VITO
A new conceptual model builds on this view to monitor ozone damage to vegetation in Flanders accurately.