Published: 07 April 2020

Supporting the local community in designing vegetation barriers for air pollution abatement

On Thursday 26 March 2020, our most recent review paper was published in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.

Co-authored by Yendle Barwise (Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) student) and Professor Prashant Kumar (GCARE Director and Yendle’s principal supervisor), this paper comprises the initial literature review for Yendle’s PhD thesis, although the PhD literature review is inevitably a fluid entity until the date of submission. The paper is also the GCARE student’s first peer-reviewed publication, which is a great cause for celebration during this difficult period in history. 

Indeed, this paper has already been the subject of at least 50 news articles and generated significant impact – despite the current media focus on Covid-19.

The review concerns plant species selection, configuration and management for urban air pollution abatement. This has been a hot topic in previous Guildford Living Lab activities, with many Guildford community members expressing concern and confusion regarding the potential effectiveness of any existing or proposed planting. The authors hope that this review goes some way towards supporting local residents, schools, practitioners and decision-makers in choosing what species to plant and where.

Key outcomes of the work include a compilation of data on 12 influential traits for 61 potentially viable tree species and a supplementary, schematic plant selection process (above) for air pollution abatement, with a focus on particulate matter.

The authors conclude that: “Interactions between green infrastructure and air quality are part of a complex socio ecological system, which makes the isolation and manipulation of functions for a specific objective, such as improved pollution mitigation, highly problematic.

However, if the spatial scale of the intervention, the context and conditions of the planting site, and the target air pollutant type are taken into account, the selection of plants that exhibit certain biophysical traits can optimise the dispersive and depositional effects of a roadside vegetation barrier.”


Barwise, Y., Kumar, P. Designing vegetation barriers for urban air pollution abatement: a practical review for appropriate plant species selection. npj Clim Atmos Sci 3, 12 (2020).


This work was supported by the EPSRC INHALE project (EP/1003189/1), an EPSRC PhD studentship (2124242), and the H2020 iSCAPE project (Grant Agreement #689954). It builds upon previous GCARE research into green infrastructure and air pollution mitigation. Read more about the iSCAPE Guildford Living Lab work.

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