Leaf trapping and retention of particles by holm oak and other common tree species in Mediterranean urban environments


Holm oak (Quercus ilex), a widespread urban street tree in the Mediterranean region, is widely used as biomonitor of persistent atmospheric pollutants, especially particulate-bound metals. By using lab- and field-based experimental approaches, we compared the leaf-level capacity for particles’ capture and retention between Q. ilex and other common Mediterranean urban trees: Quercus cerris, Platanus × hispanica, Tilia cordata and Olea europaea. All applied methods were effective in quantifying particulate capture and retention, although not univocal in ranking species performances. Distinctive morphological features of leaves led to differences in species’ ability to trap and retain particles of different size classes and to accumulate metals after exposure to traffic in an urban street. Overall, P. × hispanica and T. cordata showed the largest capture potential per unit leaf area for most model particles (Na+ and powder particles), and street-level Cu and Pb, while Q. ilex acted intermediately. After wash-off experiments, P. × hispanica leaves had the greatest retention capacity among the tested species and O. europaea the lowest. We concluded that the Platanus planting could be considered in Mediterranean urban environments due to its efficiency in accumulating and retaining airborne particulates; however, with atmospheric pollution being typically higher in winter, the evergreen Q. ilex represents a better year-round choice to mitigate the impact of airborne particulate pollutants

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    Central Archive at the University of Reading

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