A new online tool which can help councils calculate how much pollution would be removed by planting trees in local areas has been launched.
Developed by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and eftec, a leading environmental economics consultancy, the tool shows how much woodland there is in each local authority area.
The ‘Pollution Removal by Vegetation’ also shows how much particulate matter the trees remove from the air and the resulting predicted public health cost saving within that area over a 100-year period.
It also estimates the effects of felling existing woodland.
The new tool builds on previous research that CEH and eftec carried out for the Office of National Statistics which estimated that plants in the UK remove 1.4 million tonnes of air pollution and save £1bn in avoided health costs every year.
‘There is a lot of public concern about the potential health risks that pollution poses in many urban areas of the UK,’ said Professor Laurence Jones of the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
‘While reducing harmful emissions at source is the best way to improve air quality, the addition of vegetation can play a role in removing pollutants within a local area.’
Ian Dickie of eftec commented: ‘Trees make urban areas more attractive and improve local air quality, thereby boosting people’s health. As our ongoing research has shown, this in turn can have significant positive economic benefits.
‘We regularly hear political commitments to plant more trees in urban areas – our new online tool will inform and support the efforts by local and central government, NGOs, businesses and individuals in adding trees in our towns and cities.
‘We were very pleased with the positive feedback we received about the valuation tool from these stakeholders at a recent webinar and hope it will encourage and support their tree planting initiatives in pollution hotspots.’