Quantifying the effects of ozone on plant reproductive growth and development

Courtney P. Leisner, Elizabeth A. Ainsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tropospheric ozone (O 3) is a harmful air pollutant that can negatively impact plant growth and development. Current O 3 concentrations ([O 3]) decrease forest productivity and crop yields and future [O 3] will likely increase if current emission rates continue. However, the specific effects of elevated [O 3] on reproductive development, a critical stage in the plant's lifecycle, have not been quantitatively reviewed. Data from 128 peer-reviewed articles published from 1968 to 2010 describing the effects of O 3 on reproductive growth and development were analysed using meta-analytic techniques. Studies were categorized based on experimental conditions, photosynthetic type, lifecycle, growth habit and flowering class. Current ambient [O 3] significantly decreased seed number (-16%), fruit number (-9%) and fruit weight (-22%) compared to charcoal-filtered air. In addition, pollen germination and tube growth were decreased by elevated [O 3] compared to charcoal-filtered air. Relative to ambient air, fumigation with [O 3] between 70 and 100 ppb decreased yield by 27% and individual seed weight by 18%. Reproductive development of both C 3 and C 4 plants was sensitive to elevated [O 3], and lifecycle, flowering class and reproductive growth habit did not significantly affect a plant's response to elevated [O 3] for many components of reproductive development. However, elevated [O 3] decreased fruit weight and fruit number significantly in indeterminate plants, and had no effect on these parameters in determinate plants. While gaps in knowledge remain about the effects of O 3 on plants with different growth habits, reproductive strategies and photosynthetic types, the evidence strongly suggests that detrimental effects of O 3 on reproductive growth and development are compromising current crop yields and the fitness of native plant species. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)606-616
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Flower
  • Fruit
  • Global change
  • Meta-analysis
  • Ozone pollution
  • Pollen
  • Yield

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)


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