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CHAPTER 3

EFFECTS OF INCREASED SOLAR ULTRAVIOLET RADIATION ON TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS


M.M. Caldwell, L.O. Björn, J. F. Bornman, S.D. Flint, G. Kulandaivelu,
A.H. Teramura and M. Tevini


Summary

Elevated solar UV-B radiation associated with stratospheric ozone reduction may exert effects on terrestrial ecosystems through actions on plants, microbes, and perhaps on some animals. At the ecosystem level, the effects are less well understood than at the molecular and organismal levels. Many of the most important, yet less predictable, consequences will be indirect effects of elevated UV-B acting through changes in the chemical composition and form of plants and through changes in the abiotic environment. These indirect effects include changes in the susceptibility of plants to attack by insects and pathogens in both agricultural and natural ecosystems; the direction of these changes can result in either a decrease or an increase in susceptibility. Other indirect effects of elevated UV-B include changes in competitive balance of plants and nutrient cycling. The direct UV-B action on plants that results in changes in form or function of plants appears to occur more often through altered gene activity rather than damage. The yield of some crop varieties can be decreased by elevated UV-B, but other varieties are not affected. Plant breeding and genetic engineering efforts should be able to cope with the potential threats to crop productivity due to elevated UV-B. For forest trees, this may be more difficult if effects of elevated UV-B accumulate over several years. All effects of elevated UV-B radiation must be considered in the context of other climate changes such as increased temperature and levels of carbon dioxide, which may alter the UV-B responses, especially for plants. The actions of elevated carbon dioxide and UV-B appear to be largely independent, but interactions occur between changes in UV-B and other factors. Other ecosystem-level consequences of elevated UV-B radiation are emerging and their magnitude and direction will not be easily predicted.


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