Considering the Air Quality Impacts of Bioenergy Crop Production: A Case Study Involving Arundo donax
The expanding production of bioenergy crops may impact regional air quality through the production of volatile organic compounds such as isoprene. To investigate the effects of isoprene-emitting crops on air quality, specifically ozone (O3) and secondary organic aerosol (SOA) formation, we performed a series of model runs using the Weather Research and Forecasting model with Chemistry (WRF/Chem) coupled with the Model of Emissions of Gases and Aerosols from Nature (MEGAN) simulating a proposed cropland conversion to the giant cane Arundo donax for biomass production. Cultivation of A. donax in the relatively clean air of northeastern Oregon resulted in an average increase in 8 h O3 levels of 0.52 ppb, while SOA was largely unaffected (<+0.01 μg m–3). Conversions in U.S. regions with reduced air quality (eastern Texas and northern Illinois) resulted in average 8 h O3 increases of 2.46 and 3.97 ppb, respectively, with daily increases up to 15 ppb in the Illinois case, and daytime SOA increases up to 0.57 μg m–3. While cultivation of isoprene-emitting bioenergy crops may be appropriate at some scales and in some regions, other areas may experience increased O3 and SOA, highlighting the need to consider isoprene emissions when evaluating potential regional impacts of bioenergy crop production.