Leeds university trees removing 350kg of pollutants every year

Trees on the University of Leeds’ campus removes 350kg of air pollution every year, researchers have found.

During the summers of 2017 and 2018, over 1400 trees were surveyed by volunteer staff and students on the University of Leeds campus, with more than 130 different species identified.

By combining measurements of the trees with software called i-Tree Eco, the scientists were able to estimate the benefits being provided by the campus trees.

The trees were particularly effective at soaking up nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from the area, removing 124kg from the air every year which scientists say is the equivalent to around 1 million cars driving past the campus.

The trees also remove 12kg of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and 7kg of particulate matter (PM2.5) from the atmosphere every year.

Leeds4Trees is a project that explores the value of trees and green spaces across the city of Leeds, in collaboration with the United Bank of Carbon, the Sustainability Service at the University of Leeds, Leeds City Council, The Woodland Trust, Treeconomics and Forest Research.

Over their lifetimes, the campus trees are also estimated to have taken in, and are now storing, over 540 tonnes of carbon (which is almost 2000 tonnes of CO2), the equivalent to the annual carbon footprint for around 180 people living in the UK.

Every year, they estimate that the campus trees are removing a further 18 tonnes of carbon (66 tonnes of CO2) from the air.

They also found that the biggest trees on campus are having huge benefits: the largest 100 trees, which make up only 7% of the total number, provide over one-third of the total environmental benefits in terms of carbon sequestration, pollution removal and flood risk reduction.

Read the report here.

In related news, a leading UK environmental research centre has published a new interactive calculator to raise awareness of how trees can help remove air pollution.

Scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) teamed up with the environmental economics consultancy Economics for the Environment Consultancy (eftec) to develop the online tool, called Pollution Removal by Vegetation.

Photo Credit – The University of Leeds