Spatiotemporal patterns and deposition of organophosphate esters (OPEs) in air, foliage and litter in a subtropical forest of South China

Tao Wang, Yufeng Guan, Yuan Zeng, Pingjian Yang, Kai Xiang, Shejun Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Recent studies revealed the un-negligible impact of airborne organophosphate esters (OPEs) on phosphorus (P)-limited ecosystems. Subtropical forests, the global prevalence P-limited ecosystems, contain canopy structures that can effectively sequester OPEs from the atmosphere. However, little is known about the behavior and fate of OPEs in subtropical forest ecosystem, and the impact on the P cycling in this ecosystem. OPE concentrations in the understory air (at two heights), foliage, and litterfall were investigated in a subtropical forest in southern China. The median ∑OPE concentrations were 3149 and 2489 pg/m3 in the upper and bottom air, respectively. Foliage exhibited higher ∑OPE concentrations (median = 386 ng/g dry weight (dw)) compared to litter (median = 267 ng/g dw). The air OPE concentrations were ordered by broadleaved forest > mixed forest > coniferous forest, which corresponds to the results of canopy coverage or leaf area index. The spatial variation of OPEs in foliage and litter was likely caused by the leaf surface functional traits. Higher OPE concentrations were found in the wet season for understory air while in the dry season for foliage and litter, which were attributed to the changes in emission sources and meteorological conditions, respectively. The inverse temporal variation suggests the un-equilibrium partitioning of OPEs between leaf and air. The OPE concentrations during the litter-incubation presented similar temporal trends with those in foliage and litter, indicating the strong interaction of OPEs between the litter layer and the near-soil air, and the efficient buffer of litter layer played in the OPEs partitioning between soil and air. The median OPEs-associated P deposition fluxes through litterfall were 270, 186, and 249 μg P/m2·yr in the broadleaved, mixed, and coniferous forests, respectively. Although the fluxes accounted for approximately 0.2% of the total atmospheric P deposition, their significance to this P-limited ecosystem may not be negligible.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119059
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Deposition
  • Leaf
  • Organophosphate esters
  • Spatiotemporal variation
  • Subtropical forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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