Hedges "can be more effective than trees against traffic pollution"

Low hedges can reduce the impact of pollution from vehicles far more effectively than taller trees in cityscapes where there are large buildings close to roads, a new international study has found.

Image: East Midtown (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: East Midtown (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Led by the University of Surrey chair in air quality and health Professor Prashant Kumar, the review by partners from the UK, Europe and the USA found that some environments, trees actually make the pollution more concentrated depending on prevailing wind conditions and built-up configurations.

Taller trees only served to reduce air pollution in more open areas with fewer tall buildings, they claim in the paper, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.

Kumar said: "This comprehensive review highlights that trees and hedges, as well as other green infrastructure, must be used strategically to help create healthier, less polluted cities that are also more pleasant for everyone to live and work in."

An earlier research study by Kumar and colleagues showed the weathering impact of air pollution on building materials such as limestone, sandstone and carbon steel.

"This is why we need to protect buildings as well as humans in cities in future urban planning, so the strategic placing of hedges, trees and other green infrastructure can have a direct benefit as an air pollution control measure in cities," he said.

"We are currently performing targeted field investigations to quantify the effects of different types of green barriers along busy open-road sides. This will help to develop evidence-based guidelines to support future urban planning and the public to make informed choices to 'green up' their surrounding environments."

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