The work, by scientists at the University of Southampton, claims to show for the first time how much pollution could be removed from energy intensive industries in the future.

Focusing particularly on London’s trees the work, which is due to be published in next month’s Landscape and Urban Planning journal, also shows how trees improve air quality by filtering out pollution particulates, which can be damaging to human health.

According to the research urban trees in the Greater London Authority (GLA) area take out somewhere between 850 and 2000 tonnes of particulate pollution (PM10) from the air every year.
The research found that the targeting of tree planting in the most polluted areas of the GLA area and particularly the use of a mixture of trees, including evergreens such as pines and evergreen oak, would have the greatest benefit to future air quality in terms of PM10 removal.

It also goes on to praise the GLA’s plans to increase the area of urban trees by 2050 and the current government’s big tree plant drive.

Report co-author, Peter Freer-Smith, said: “We know particulates can damage human health, for example exacerbating asthma and this reduction in exposure could have real benefits in some places, such as around the edge of school playgrounds.

“Urban green space and trees give a wide range of benefits and this study confirms improving air quality is one of them and will also help us to get the most out of this benefit in future.”

Luke Walsh

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