The effects of trees on air pollutant levels in peri-urban near-road environments

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Viippola , J V , Whitlow , T , Zhao , W , Yli-Pelkonen , V J , Mikola , J T , Pouyat , R & Setälä , H M 2018 , ' The effects of trees on air pollutant levels in peri-urban near-road environments ' , Urban Forestry & Urban Greening , vol. 30 , pp. 62-71 .

Title: The effects of trees on air pollutant levels in peri-urban near-road environments
Author: Viippola, Juho Viljami; Whitlow, Thomas; Zhao, Wenlin; Yli-Pelkonen, Vesa Johannes; Mikola, Juha Tapio; Pouyat, Richard; Setälä, Heikki Martti
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Urban Ecosystems
University of Helsinki, Urban Ecosystems
University of Helsinki, Terrestrial Interactions Research Group
University of Helsinki, Heikki Setälä / Principal Investigator
Date: 2018-03
Language: eng
Number of pages: 10
Belongs to series: Urban Forestry & Urban Greening
ISSN: 1618-8667
Abstract: It is often stated that plants remove air pollutants from the urban atmosphere with their large leaf area, thus providing benefits − i.e. ecosystem services − for citizens. However, empirical evidence showing that local-scale air quality is uniformly improved by urban forests is scarce. We studied the influence of conifer-dominated peri-urban forests on the springtime levels of NO2 and particle pollution at different distances from roads, using passive samplers and high time resolution particle counters in a northern climate in Finland. Passive samplers provided average values over a one month period, while active particle counters provided real time measurements of air pollution to mimic human inhalation frequency. NO2 concentrations were slightly higher in forests than in adjacent open areas, while passive particle measurements showed the opposite trend. Active particle monitoring campaigns showed no systematic forest effect for PM2.5, but larger particles were reduced in the forest, corroborating the passive sampling result. Attenuation rates of the mean values of the studied pollutants did not differ between the forest and open habitats. However, high time resolution particle data revealed a distance effect that was apparent only in the forest transect: peak events at the forest edge were higher, while peaks furthest from the road were lower compared to the open transect. Furthermore, the magnitude of PM2.5 peak events was distinctly higher at forest edge than equivalent distance in the open area. Vegetation characteristics, such as canopy cover and tree density, did not explain differences in pollutant levels in majority of cases. Our results imply that evergreen-dominated forests near roads can slightly worsen local air quality regarding NO2 and PM2.5 in northern climates, but that coarser particle pollution can be reduced by such forest vegetation. It seems that the potential of roadside vegetation to mitigate air pollution is largely determined by the vegetation effects on airflow.
Subject: 1172 Environmental sciences
Ecosystem services
Particulate Matter
Passive samplers
Urban vegetation
Ecosystem services
Particulate matter
Passive samplers
Urban vegetation

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