New toolkit measures the health benefits of urban trees

Tool to predict the particulate matter concentrations before and after greenspace establishment

News from Forest Research: December 2008

Modelled percentage reduction in PM 10 concentrations after greenspace establishment, showing highest PM 10 capture (6.8%, darkest green) to lowest capture (0%, palest green). Grey shaded areas are the East London Green Grid

Poor air quality in urban environments poses a serious risk to human health. Particulate matter (PM10) is known to cause respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disorders. Trees have long been recognised for their ability to capture these particles and remove them from the air we breathe, but now an integrated tool has been developed to model the impact of tree planting and its effect on human health.

Developed by Forest Research, along with the University of Manchester and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the tool uses air dispersion and particulate interception models (ADMS-Urban and UFORE) to predict the PM10 concentrations both before and after greenspace establishment. This has been demonstrated using a 10 x 10 km area of the proposed East London Green Grid. The health benefits for this area, in terms of premature mortality and hospital admissions for respiratory disease, were also modelled as a result of the local population’s reduced exposure. PM10 capture from a scenario comprising 75% grassland, 20% sycamore and 5% Douglas fir was estimated to be 90.41 tonnes per year, equating to 0.009 tonnes per hectare per year over the whole study area. The human health modelling estimated that two deaths and two hospital admissions would be averted each year in this area.

This model will enable those involved in greenspace establishment to select species for maximum PM10 removal, target tree establishment to those areas posing the greatest risk to the population and monitor the success of such schemes.

For further information please contact Tony Hutchings at:


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This and other news stories can be found in the December 2008 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.

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