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Environ Manage. 2008 Jun;41(6):937-48.

An approach for evaluating the effectiveness of various ozone air quality standards for protecting trees.

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U.S. EPA, Office of Research and Development, National Environmental and Health Effects Laboratory, Western Ecology Division, Corvallis, Oregon 97333, USA.


We demonstrate an approach for evaluating the level of protection attained using a variety of forms and levels of past, current, and proposed Air Quality Standards (AQSs). The U.S. Clean Air Act requires the establishment of ambient air quality standards to protect health and public welfare. However, determination of attainment of these standards is based on ambient pollutant concentrations rather than prevention of adverse effects. To determine if a given AQS protected against adverse effects on vegetation, hourly ozone concentrations were adjusted to create exposure levels that "just attain" a given standard. These exposures were used in combination with a physiologically-based tree growth model to account for the interactions of climate and ozone. In the evaluation, we used ozone concentrations from two 6-year time periods from the San Bernardino Mountains in California. There were clear differences in the level of vegetation protection achieved with the various AQSs. Based on modeled plant growth, the most effective standards were the California 8-hr average maximum of 70 ppb and a seasonal, cumulative, concentration-weighted index (SUM06), which if attained, resulted in annual growth reductions of 1% or less. Least effective was the 1-hr maximum of 120 ppb which resulted in a 7% annual reduction. We conclude that combining climate, exposure scenarios, and a process-based plant growth simulator was a useful approach for evaluating effectiveness of current or proposed air quality standards, or evaluating the form and/or level of a standard based on preventing adverse growth effects.

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