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We know that maintaining a garden hedge can sometimes feel like a never ending battle, it’s one of the reasons we offer a long-term garden maintenance service.
However, a paper published recently in the journal ‘Atmospheric Environment’ suggests it might be worth the battle after all.
Your unassuming garden hedge could in fact be the unsung hero of your garden, trapping toxins and protecting you from harmful pollutants.
Lead author of the paper Prof Prashant Kumar and his international team of researchers have found that the majority of hedges serve as a highly effective natural filter for toxic air pollution, due in part to their short size and tight-knit foliage.
The study has found that while tall trees are good at absorbing pollution in wide open areas, hedges are in fact far more effective at trapping harmful pollutants at exhaust pipe level in our towns and cities.
The research comes after the level of toxic air in London hit an all time high back in January of this year. Only six days into the New Year and a number of boroughs within London had exceeded their EU pollution limit for the entire twelve months. Alarmingly air pollution in these areas hit such high densities that primary schools were forced to restrict the time children spent outdoors. These events culminated in the city being placed on the highest black alert for pollution.
Understandably Professor Prashant Kumar, who led the study, is now urging local councils to consider populating our busy pavements and streets with hedges. He advises that wherever the pavements are wide enough to accommodate, councils should try to plant low hedges between pedestrians and the main road allowing damaging particles to be absorbed before they disperse into the air.
Its interesting to note that previous studies have also gone along way to back up these findings. A study carried out in Guildford, Surrey found that planting hedges along a busy main road cut toxic fumes by more than a third.
Whilst Prof. Kumar’s study focused on hedges it is important to remember that that trees also play a vital part in battling pollution in our ever expanding towns and cities. The paper actually suggests many more trees should also be planted as part of a well planned, targeted planting campaign.
Professor Prashant Kumar admits that there are no hard and fast rules about the best planting for any given area rather that this will depend upon local conditions and circumstances, with each planting campaign tailored to meet a particular areas requirements.
His team are currently carrying out further tests to ascertain which species of hedge proves to be the most pollution absorbent. For the time being he advices authorities should plant hedges with the greatest leaf surface area.
As subject matter close to our hearts, we’ve covered a number of environmental issues over the past months. If you have found this article interesting you may also enjoy some of our previous articles - Urban Forests And Why We Need Them, Bees In Crisis and Front Gardens On The Decline.