Integrating vegetation into sustainable transportation planning may benefit public health

January 24, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--Strategic placement of trees and plants near busy roadways may enhance air quality and positively impact public health.

In recent years, the health of people living, working, or going to school near roads with high traffic volume has been a rising national concern. Studies conducted in the United States and throughout the world have shown that air pollution levels are especially elevated near high-volume roadways. A multidisciplinary group of researchers, planners and policymakers recently gathered in Sacramento, Calif. to discuss roadside vegetation as a viable option for mitigating these adverse health impacts from air pollution. The group combined their key concerns and findings for an article in TR News magazine.

The article, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and other organizations, addresses planning practices for locations along major transportation corridors, and considers options to address short- and long-term impacts of human exposure to pollutants emitted by transportation sources.

The group agreed that vegetation barriers are a form of green infrastructure that can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits to their surrounding areas. They provide aesthetic value while having the potential to reduce air pollution, because plants naturally capture some of the pollutants emitted by traffic.

"Properly designed and managed roadside vegetation can help us breathe a little easier," said Dr. Greg McPherson, research forester at the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Research Station. "Besides reducing pollutants in the air, these buffers can protect water quality, store carbon, cool urban heat islands and soften views along our streetscapes. They are essential components of green infrastructure in cities and towns."

Scientists in the group have conducted research using field studies, air quality modeling of pollutant transport and deposition in roadside vegetative barriers, and tree performance studies. Their research indicates that vegetative barriers will reduce pollutant concentrations in carefully designed sites, however, under certain circumstances, concentrations can be increased. The article provides guidance on optimal design considerations (length, width, height, density) for achieving maximum barrier performance based on research to date. Ongoing studies are providing valuable new knowledge about barrier design and management, however, further research is needed to explore effects of wind conditions and other variables.
-end-
The full article can be found at:http://treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/45250

Headquartered in Albany, Calif., the Pacific Southwest Research Station develops and communicates science needed to sustain forest ecosystems and other benefits to society. It has research facilities in California, Hawaii and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands. For more information, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/psw/.

USDA Forest Service - Pacific Southwest Research Station

Related Air Pollution Articles from Brightsurf:

How air pollution affects homeless populations
When air quality worsens, either from the smoke and ozone of summer or the inversion of winter, most of us stay indoors.

Exploring the neurological impact of air pollution
Air pollution has become a fact of modern life, with a majority of the global population facing chronic exposure.

Spotting air pollution with satellites, better than ever before
Researchers from Duke University have devised a method for estimating the air quality over a small patch of land using nothing but satellite imagery and weather conditions.

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy is associated with growth delays
A new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has found an association between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and delays in physical growth in the early years after birth.

Nearly half of US breathing unhealthy air; record-breaking air pollution in nine cities
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of air pollution on lung health is of heightened concern.

Air pollution linked to dementia and cardiovascular disease
People continuously exposed to air pollution are at increased risk of dementia, especially if they also suffer from cardiovascular diseases, according to a study at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

New framework will help decide which trees are best in the fight against air pollution
A study from the University of Surrey has provided a comprehensive guide on which tree species are best for combating air pollution that originates from our roads -- along with suggestions for how to plant these green barriers to get the best results.

Air pollution is one of the world's most dangerous health risks
Researchers calculate that the effects of air pollution shorten the lives of people around the world by an average of almost three years.

The world faces an air pollution 'pandemic'
Air pollution is responsible for shortening people's lives worldwide on a scale far greater than wars and other forms of violence, parasitic and insect-born diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and smoking, according to a study published in Cardiovascular Research.

Air pollution in childhood linked to schizophrenia
Children who grow up in areas with heavy air pollution have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia.

Read More: Air Pollution News and Air Pollution Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.