Trees benefit air quality and our well-being

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Trees not only beautify our environment, but they also provide countless health benefits for us and nature, itself.

A new Ohio State University study focused on native vegetation mitigating air pollution and reducing the costs of keeping our air cleaner around industrial sites, and in urban areas.

In 75 percent of the 3,109 counties in the lower 48 states analyzed in the study, it was less expensive to improve the air quality by planting trees than through technology such as smokestack scrubbers to remove pollutants,

The Ohio State researchers concluded that returning the average canopy cover — vegetation that included grass, shrubs and trees — mitigated pollution “an average of 27 percent across the counties,” taking into account varying county sizes and populations.

Bhavik Bakshi, lead study author and a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State, said there are health benefits that go beyond natural air and water filtration. “Being in nature has a natural effect of relaxing us and reducing our blood pressure, and benefits our emotional and mental well-being.”

“Trees provide a lot of services that we haven’t always appreciated or taken into account while making decisions,” noted, Bakshi, such as the ability of vegetation and tree leaves to filter out pollutants and regulate air quality and groundwater recharge.

Additional benefits from trees is a reduction in ground-level ozone and improved visibility on hot summer days because trees filter contaminants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter.

Dr. David Shetlar, an Ohio State University entomologist, said that “all the tree species that we, as humans, have brought in here has created an extremely biodiverse habitat, with lots of other insects and other animals that utilize those trees.”

Shetler said that trees filter out storm water pollutants that otherwise would end up in the watersheds.

“Many people are so surprised we’ve had freshwater sponges in the Olentangy River,” which Shetler said was discovered when spongillaflies were spotted in a light trap that attracts flying and terrestrial insects.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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