Main content area

Improving local air quality in cities: To tree or not to tree?

Vos, Peter E.J., Maiheu, Bino, Vankerkom, Jean, Janssen, Stijn
Environmental pollution 2013 v.183 pp. 113-122
air pollution, air quality, cities, models, pollutants, traffic, trees, uncertainty, vegetation types
Vegetation is often quoted as an effective measure to mitigate urban air quality problems. In this work we demonstrate by the use of computer models that the air quality effect of urban vegetation is more complex than implied by such general assumptions. By modelling a variety of real-life examples we show that roadside urban vegetation rather leads to increased pollutant concentrations than it improves the air quality, at least locally. This can be explained by the fact that trees and other types of vegetation reduce the ventilation that is responsible for diluting the traffic emitted pollutants. This aerodynamic effect is shown to be much stronger than the pollutant removal capacity of vegetation. Although the modelling results may be subject to a certain level of uncertainty, our results strongly indicate that the use of urban vegetation for alleviating a local air pollution hotspot is not expected to be a viable solution.