It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that tree removal could actually be beneficial to the long-term sustainability of the city’s open spaces, but research conducted at the University of Southampton seems to suggest that could be the case.
The reason for this is that some tree species – notably Douglas fir and sycamore maple – release volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere.
When these react with sunlight, they form ozone at dangerously high ground-level concentrations, which can in turn corrode structures ranging from heritage buildings (limestone and sandstone) to concrete and even structural steel.
Researchers suggest that future urban sustainability plans should take this concern into account, and opt instead for vegetation that does not lead to such high levels of ground-level ozone in urban green spaces.
Tree removal may therefore be instrumental in transforming inner-city ‘lungs’ so that the surrounding buildings are not placed under unnecessary threat of long-term damage.
“In the future, city planners should look into the species of vegetation they plant in green spaces,” says Dr Abhishek Tiwary from the University of Southampton.
“Such consideration might improve the structural longevity of buildings of historical importance.”