Plants could worsen air pollution on a warming planet

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New research shows that plants such as oak and poplar trees will emit more of a compound called isoprene as global temperatures climb. Isoprene from plants represents the highest flux of hydrocarbons to the atmosphere after methane. Although isoprene isn’t inherently bad — it actually helps plants better tolerate insect pests and high temperatures — it can worsen air pollution by reacting with nitrogen oxides from automobiles and coal-fired power plants. The new publication can help us better understand, predict and potentially mitigate the effects of increased isoprene emission as the planet warms.