Changes in the Abundance of Monoterpenes from Breathable Air of a Mediterranean Conifer Forest: When Is the Best Time for a Human Healthy Leisure Activity?
The exposure to monoterpenes emitted by plants to the air might provide human health benefits during forest-based leisure activities. However, forests, especially Mediterranean ones, lack studies to relate forest production and the emission of monoterpenes, considering potential human forest exposure. Thus, the aim of this study was to analyze the variation in the abundance of monoterpenes in the human breathable air under the canopy of a Mediterranean conifer forest, evaluating the influence of different factors. For this purpose, from March to November 2018, we monitored the abundance of monoterpenes in the air at nose height, leaf development, air temperature and soil water potential in a mountain Mediterranean forest of Pinus pinaster located in Sierra de Albarracín (Teruel, Spain). We detected six monoterpenes, with α-pinene, β-pinene and limonene being the three most abundant. Temperature was the main environmental factor driving the abundance of monoterpenes in air, with a maxima of abundance found during summer. Leaf development in spring decreased the abundance, while after a drought period, the abundance increased. Thus, people enjoying forest-based activities in Mediterranean conifer areas would be more exposed to air monoterpenes when the temperature increases during the period after leaf development, as long as the trees are not severely water-stressed. If that is the case, the abundance of monoterpenes in the air would increase after the drought period.
Keywords: human health; forest air; monoterpenes; path analysis; Pinus pinaster