Trees play an important role in earthly habitation like providing oxygen, giving food, shade, conserving water, preserving soil from erosion and the list goes on. Recently scientists have found one more equally significant role to add in the existing list. In a recent observation, silver birch tree was found absorbing the harmful particulate matter of various sizes present in the air, which can also be inhaled by us. The trees are competent in absorbing about 50% of the tiny particulate matter generated by the automobiles. These particulate matters originate from break pad dust, vehicle exhaust and other road dust containing metals like iron & lead and are extremely hazardous for humans health causing numerous cardiovascular, neurological and respiratory disorders.
The study performed at Lancaster University focuses on understanding how the tree collected the matter, thus controlling the pollution and implementing the methods in urban area for the maximum benefit. However, it is not as simple as it seems because it depends upon many factors like airflow and the movement of the particle follow a complex fluid dynamics. Capacity of rate of absorption too varied from tree to tree, for example, some were found capable of absorbing as much as 50% and other as low as just 1%.
Barbara A, Maher and her team for the study observed eight houses on a busy street of Lancaster, which were not lined by trees. They traced the amount of particle that slips inside each house using moist wipes covering the plasma TV and other dust monitoring devices for every 10 minutes for the next five days. The device gave them insight on the sizes of the particulate matter and their concentration in each house under observation. Soon after accumulating the required data, four of the houses were lined with silver birch trees creating a screen between the house and the busy street.
For next 2 weeks, the data were collected from the houses with trees acting as screens and the ones with no trees. The result confirmed that the houses guarded with the silver birch trees in the front showed 50% reduction in particulate matter entering the houses. The team scanned the leaves under electron microscope and found tiny hair like arrangements on the leaf surface that sized the particles from the atmosphere and thus filtering it too.
Nevertheless, the researchers believe a lot of study is still to be conducted to understand the rate at which these particles are absorbed by the trees and the it’s adverse affect on them. Does rain water washes off these matters from the tree leaves or are the blown off by air currents to other places is also under observation.
By the time researchers come to any concrete conclusion it is not harmful if we keep planting trees around us and make the planet a greener and a better to place to breath in.