Online calculator demonstrates how trees improve air quality

7 Nov 2019

An interactive online tool encourages landscape restoration initiatives by calculating how much pollution is removed by planting trees and related public health cost savings.

“Pollution Removal by Vegetation,” ­developed in Britain by scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and environmental economics consultancy eftec, aims to help local governments, non-governmental organizations and others planning tree-planting initiatives weigh the relative benefits.

It was developed in response to the country’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund, a fund of 10 million pounds ($12.8 million) in grants administered by the Forestry Commission to plant more than 130,000 trees, and help meet a target of a million more urban trees by 2022.

“While reducing harmful emissions at source is the best way to improve air quality, the addition of vegetation can play a role in removing pollutants within a local area,” said Laurence Jones, a professor with CEH, which is a Natural Environment Research Council research institute, part of UK Research and Innovation.

The tool maps the woodlands in each local authority in hectares, how much particulate matter (PM2.5) the trees remove from the air and the related projected public health cost saving within that area over a 100-year period.

Previous research published by Britain’s Office for National Statistics estimates that plants in the UK remove more than a million tonnes of air pollution and save 1 billion pounds in avoided health costs every year. 

“Trees make urban areas more attractive and improve local air quality, thereby boosting people’s health,” said Ian Dickie of eftec. “As our ongoing research has shown, this in turn can have significant positive economic benefits.”

On Monday, Britain announced a 50 million pound “Woodland Carbon Guarantee,” another initiative aimed at fighting climate change and enhancing communities with trees.

Participants will be offered the option to sell Woodland Carbon Units to the government over 35 years at a guaranteed price set by auction, providing new income for land managers who help businesses compensate for their carbon emissions.

Woodlands and forests are a key part of Britain’s strategy to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Overall, the country intends to plant 11 million trees by 2022.

Check out the free online tool, here

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