Scientists measure tree cleansing powers in city carbon emission tests

dr rowan fealy

dr rowan fealy

Instruments capable of measuring the ability of surrounding trees and vegetation to consume carbon dioxide emissions have been located at sites across Dublin as part of a joint research initiative led by scientists from NUI Maynooth and University College Dublin. The idea is to understand how different types of urban landscapes cope with carbon dioxide (CO2)emissions, and how planners might create ‘carbon neutral’ or more sustainable city developments in the battle against carbon emissions.

The instruments, which also measure wind, temperature, humidity andsunshine, record the CO2 concentration of the air as it passes by. They have been fixed on masts above Marrowbone Lane (an urban site with little or no surrounding trees or vegetation), and above St. Pius X Girl’s National School in Terenure (a suburban site with plenty of surrounding trees and vegetation). A third instrument has been fixed to a mobile mast that can be located at different locations around the city. This will allow the scientists to measure the impact of heavy traffic and other key factors involved in the local carbon cycle. The instruments will be in place for 3-5 years.

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Globally, cities contribute about 80% of CO2 emissions attributed to human activities, but the nature of these emissions is rarely studied. Through this research the scientists hope to better understand the urban processes that give rise to these emissions and to determine the ability of particular urban spaces to capture CO2 after its generation. According to Dr Rowan Fealy, Department of Geography & ICARUS at NUI Maynooth, until recently, these types of studies were not made in urban areas as they were regarded as far too complex. “As a result, scientists have tended to estimate the CO2 emissions based how much fossil fuel is used. However, measuring the flux allows us to see the link between urban landscapes and their role in generating or consuming CO2,” he says.

“While industry, traffic and other fossil fuel burning activities act as sources of CO2 emissions, trees, through the process of photosynthesis, remove carbon from the atmosphere,” says Dr Gerald Mills, UCD. “In many urban areas, the absence of trees means that CO2 that might otherwise be captured in the city, drifts into the wider atmosphere and contributes to global climate change.”

*unfortunately when this press release was sent there were no contact details and no images attached…. normally I’d bin it that being the case – but it is a nice story. I did contact two of the people mentioned but… I got one answering machine and one simply rang out.

UPDATE: jan 21st 2010

I have just received an email from Dr Rowan Fealy who very kindly emailed the images now used above. The first image is of Dr Rowan with the devices at Marrowbone Lane in Dublin. The second is the instruments at Templeogue in Dublin.

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