Trace Gas Isotope Lab
The main research goal of the trace gas laboratory at Biosphere 2 is to advance our understanding of ecosystem functioning in a changing environment through observations and experiments. We are developing analytical techniques to measure atmospheric concentrations and stable isotope composition of trace gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and a wide range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The instruments in the lab are connected to air sampling ports in the various biomes at B2 through heated tubing.
The ecological importance of VOCs are immense and range from plant growth and maintenance, to carbon and energy metabolism, defense against herbivores and pathogens, plant-plant and plant-insect communication, and protection against abiotic stress (desiccation, UV radiation, etc.). Many compounds are highly volatile and remain as a gas once they enter the atmosphere. However, some of these compounds have lower volatility and can condense in the atmosphere to form small particles known as aerosols. Aerosols can have a dramatic influence on climate and air quality. Organic aerosols provide a cooling effect by scattering incoming solar radiation, and they can influence precipitation dynamics by allowing for the formation of cloud droplets. These effects may lead to enhanced precipitation and cooler air temperatures. However, many organic gases and the aerosols they form are harmful for humans to breathe and they reduce atmospheric visibility.