Unique in the world, the project MOTTLES takes place in the main European areas at highest and medium risk of O3 injury, relative to human well-being and vegetation impacts, i.e. Southern and central Europe and combines field epidemiology with plant-responses to O3. A standard for forest protection is considered biologically relevant when it translates into real-world forest impacts. For this reason, epidemiological investigations where large-scale biological responses (e.g radial growth, crown defoliation and visible foliar O3 injury) are compared with ambient data in the field provide useful information for establishing the best standards and thresholds for forest protection from O3. Ozone effects on vegetation depend on the air concentrations but also on the O3 uptake through the stomata, i.e. Phytotoxic Ozone Dose above a threshold Y of uptake (PODY). With the effort of implementing permanent new-generation monitoring stations across Europe, capable to return continuous hourly O3 concentrations with meteorological and environmental parameters in real-time, PODY is estimated and correlated to measured forest-response indicators to develop flux-based critical levels (CLef) for forest protection against O3. Based on real-world flux-effect relationships, derivation of suitable species-specific epidemiologically-based O3 critical levels for European tree species represents a considerable progress in the development of methods for quantifying O3 effects on vegetation at the regional scale. This work was carried out with the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union (LIFE15 ENV/IT/000183) in the framework of the MOTTLES project “Monitoring ozone injury for setting new critical levels”.
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