New Phytologist Editors' choice: January 2016, 209:1

Last updated: 2 Dec, 2015

Ozone, VOCs, and pollinator attraction


In the latest issue of New Phytologist Farré-Armengol et al. report new research highlighting the fascinating finding that high concentrations of ozone in ambient air induces the degradation of floral volatile organic carbon compounds (VOCs), which in turn influences the behaviour of the pollinators attracted to the floral scents. In an accompanying commentary, Manuel Lerdau explores the history of research on pollination, VOC emissions from plants and chemical degradation in the atmosphere, and considers future directions in light of Farré-Armengol et al.’s findings.


Farré-Armengol and colleagues analysed the degradation of floral scent volatiles in Brassica nigra flowers in response to ozone and the subsequent behaviour of the generalist pollinator Bombus terrestris. They concluded that high ozone concentrations can reduce the distance over which floral VOCs can be detected by pollinators, and that this can have a significant negative impact on the pollinators’ attraction to the plants in question. 


Figure 1 from Farré-Armengol et al. Pollinator visitation to artificial flowers for the behavioural tests comparing: (a) floral scent (distance 0 at 0 ppb O3) vs clean air (filtered air with no flower scent) (n = 21); (b) floral scent (distance 3 at 120 ppb O3) vs clean air (filtered air with no flower scent) (n = 24); (c) floral scent (distance 0 at 120 ppb O3) vs degraded floral scent (distance 3 at 120 ppb O3) (n = 21). Asterisks indicate the level of significance of paired t-tests (*, P < 0.05). Error bars indicate standard error of the mean (SEM).


Farré-Armengol G, Peñuelas J, Li T, Yli-Pirilä P, Filella I, Llusia J, Blande JD. 2015. Ozone degrades floral scent and reduces pollinator attraction to flowers. New Phytologist 209: 152–160.

Lerdau M. 2015. Minding (and bridging) the gap between evolutionary ecology and atmospheric biogeochemistry in a study of plant pollinator behaviour. New Phytologist 209: 11–12.


David Ackerly, Editor, New Phytologist

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, CA, USA


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Originally published 2 December 2015

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