Plants and pollution removal - estimating the value

There is continued interest from government and the public in recent work done by CEH for the Office of National Statistics (ONS). The ONS has just released an article looking in more detail at our air pollution estimates report and how plants can play a vital role in pollution removal leading to potential health benefits. Our work shows that woodland provides the greatest economic benefit in the UK in terms of estimated avoided health costs, far more than any other habitat.

Most of these health benefits come from removing the most harmful pollutant PM2.5 (fine particulate matter which can cause serious health effects). Although it only makes up 2% of the total amount of pollution removed, this accounts for almost 90% of the health benefit. Sources of PM2.5 can be both domestic and international, as we reported here.

Annual value of pollution capture by nature in 2015

Our work has shown that plants are removing pollution across the UK - the benefits are greater in urban areas because that’s where most people live. My earlier blog post gives more details about the methods behind the study including the atmospheric pollution transport model we used.

It’s been great to see interest in the work from publications as varied as Horticulture Week and Inside Conveyancing, which suggests that “air pollution has become a key concern for aspiring UK home buyers as they become wiser to its associated health issues”.

Woodland in England
Trees are good filters of pollution. The study found that the value of woodland is far higher than other habitats despite covering less land than farmland and grassland.

Laurence Jones

Laurence led the study team on the report: Laurence Jones (CEH), Massimo Vieno (CEH), Dan Morton (CEH), Jane Hall (CEH), Ed Carnell (CEH), Eiko Nemitz (CEH), Rachel Beck (CEH), Stefan Reis (CEH), Neil Pritchard (CEH), Felicity Hayes (CEH), Gina Mills (CEH), Phil Cryle (eftec), Ian Dickie (eftec), Adams Koshy (eftec), Mike Holland (EMRC)

See the report here: Developing estimates for the valuation of air pollution in ecosystem accounts

See the statistical bulletin: UK natural capital: ecosystem accounts for freshwater, farmland and woodland

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