Plants can interact with a variety of organic compounds, and thereby affect the fate and transport of many environmental contaminants. Volatile organic compounds may be volatilized from stems or leaves (direct phytovolatilization) or from soil due to plant root activities (indirect phytovolatilization). Fluxes of contaminants volatilizing from plants are important across scales ranging from local contaminant spills to global fluxes of methane emanating from ecosystems biochemically reducing organic carbon. In this article past studies are reviewed to clearly differentiate between direct- and indirect-phytovolatilization and we discuss the plant physiology driving phytovolatilization in different ecosystems. Current measurement techniques are also described, including common difficulties in experimental design. We also discuss reports of phytovolatilization in the literature, finding that compounds with low octanol-air partitioning coefficients are more likely to be phytovolatilized (log KOA < 5). Reports of direct phytovolatilization at field sites compare favorably to model predictions. Finally, future research needs are presented that could better quantify phytovolatilization fluxes at field scale.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering


This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (CBET 1336877) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through a Postdoctoral Fellowship to M.L.

Keywords and Phrases

Carbon; Contamination; Ecology; Ecosystems; Impurities; Organic compounds; Plants (botany); Volatile organic compounds; Environmental contaminant; Fate and transport; Measurement techniques; Model prediction; Organic contaminant; Partitioning coefficients; Plant physiology; Research needs; Organic carbon; Aniline; Atrazine; Benzene; Ethylbenzene; Meta xylene; Methane; Naphthalene; Nitrobenzene; Octanol; Pentachlorophenol; Phenol; Soil; Soil pollutants; Experimental design; Literature review; Partition coefficient; Physiological response; Pollutant; Research work; Root system; Volatile substance; Air; Controlled study; Ecosystem; Nonhuman; Plant leaf; Plant root; Plant stem; Review; Volatilization; Plants; Acacia koa; Ecosystem; Plant Roots

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0013-936X; 1520-5851

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2016 American Chemical Society (ACS), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jul 2016