Think you can Improve Air Quality by just Planting Trees? Think Again


April 22, 2019

Think you can Improve Air Quality by just Planting Trees? Think Again

There is a lot spoken about the need for planting a lot of trees to combat air pollution. But is that really that effective? Follow this link to know more.

The other day I was discussingthe effects of air pollution with one of my acquaintance,and she casually mentioned about growing trees.She said, “Buy some indoor plants foryour home and try planting a few trees inyour area; you should be fine!” That gotme thinking. Is it really that easy? If trees can really solve our problem thenwhy are cities like Bangalore that have trees in abundance not pollution free?

So the whole thing is morecomplicated than we think. So here is what I understood after days of reading researcharticles on this subject and talking to environmentalists. Plants DO help infighting pollution, but not to the extent we are led to believe,and it certainly can’t be your only means ofimproving air quality.

According to NASA clean air study, certain plants help in removing toxic VOX compounds from your indoor space and also make it breathable and fresh. A more recent study (2004) also points out that certain micro-organisms present in the potted soil can also help in removing the concentration of benzene from the air. However, prolonged exposure to such compounds can also harm the plants. It weakens plants and stunts their growth making them damaged and eventually killing them. While we are not here to discuss the ethics behind this, having indoor plants clearly doesn’t seem to be as effective as we have been made to believe.

Trees as a Source for Pollution

You read that right! Certain treeslike the pine emit volatile gases into the atmosphere. You would have noticed theorganic haze due to this emission in a mountainous terrain surrounded by pinetrees. You can also evidently smell the isoprene when you walk through a pineforest. These volatile compounds react with catalysts like nitric oxide in theair and form ozone, a major component of air pollution. So much for combatingair pollution, trees actually are the reason for air pollution in this case!

We can also not ignore the factthat during spring, many trees release pollen into the atmosphere which is amajor pollutant that can trigger a variety of respiratory ailments.

Some environmentalists also pointthat trees with a dense canopy can actually suffocate us. While on the outsidean urban space densely populated with trees on both sides would sound likeparadise, it is actually not so. This is because a dense canopy of trees canact as a barrier for airflow and restrict smoke and carcinogenicgases from getting dispersed into the atmosphere. This can over time severelyimpact the air quality of the area. Having more treesin an otherwise pollution-prone area can break the wind flow and restrict thepollution within the breathing zone. This again doesn’t help us in improvingair quality levels.

Always Remember,

While we are worried about the greenhouse effect, just planting more trees orinvesting in indoor plants won’t solve our problem. Plants may be able to absorbcertain chemicals, gases and particulate matter from the atmosphere but theoverall effect is not that significant,andcarbon dioxide levels are the furthest of our problems. There is a wide range of toxic gases, compounds andparticulate pollutants that pose a greater risk to us which can’t be eliminatedby planting more trees.

Yes, plants make our earth morelivable and green. Yes, it would help usbring down global warming,but it candefinitely not help as a standalone solution. If you do wish to have moretrees, talk to an environmentalist and understand the kind of pollutants you aredealing with, the shape of your locality, wind direction, the source ofpollution and the receptors before deciding on the kind of tree that you shouldplant. Trees can add color to your landscape and can make it more livable butdon’t forget to read all the terms and conditions that go along with thembefore investing!

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