The removal efficiencies of several temperate tree species at adsorbing airborne particulate matter in urban forests and roadsides

Myeong Ja Kwak, Jongkyu Lee, Handong Kim, Sanghee Park, Yeaji Lim, Ji Eun Kim, Saeng Geul Baek, Se Myeong Seo, Kyeong Nam Kim, Su Young Woo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Although urban trees are proposed as comparatively economical and eco-efficient biofilters for treating atmospheric particulate matter (PM) by the temporary capture and retention ofPMparticles, the PM removal effect and its main mechanism still remain largely uncertain. Thus, an understanding of the removal efficiencies of individual leaves that adsorb and retain airborne PM, particularly in the sustainable planning of multifunctional green infrastructure, should be preceded by an assessment of the leaf microstructures of widespread species in urban forests. We determined the differences between trees in regard to their ability to adsorb PM based on the unique leaf microstructures and leaf area index (LAI) reflecting their overall ability by upscaling from leaf scale to canopy scale. The micro-morphological characteristics of adaxial and abaxial leaf surfaces directly affected the PM trapping efficiency. Specifically, leaf surfaces with grooves and trichomes showed a higher ability to retain PM as compared to leaves without epidermal hairs or with dynamic water repellency. Zelkova serrata (Thunb.) Makino was found to have significantly higher benefits with regard to adsorbing and retaining PM compared to other species. Evergreen needle-leaved species could be a more sustainable manner to retain PM in winter and spring. The interspecies variability of the PM adsorption efficiency was upscaled from leaf scale to canopy scale based on the LAI, showing that tree species with higher canopy density were more effective in removing PM. In conclusion, if urban trees are used as a means to improve air quality in limited open spaces for urban greening programs, it is important to predominantly select a tree species that can maximize the ability to capture PM by having higher canopy density and leaf grooves or trichomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number960
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Adsorption
  • Leaf surfaces
  • Microstructure
  • Particulate matter
  • Roadsides
  • Urban forests


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