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Research Into Effects Of Traffic Fumes


The damage that traffic fumes can do to vegetation close to roads has been the subject of new research carried out at the University of Bradford.

PhD student Keeley Bignal monitored moss and lichen over a six-month period to compile the study. Keeley took specimens from sites where there is no pollution and placed them at various distances from busy roadsides.

She said: "We are using lichens and mosses because they are known to be sensitive to air pollution.

"Previously research has concentrated on other types of pollution and their effects on the environment, but little is known about the effects of vehicle pollution."

Keeley used two sites adjacent to the M62 motorway - one oak woodland site near Brighouse, and one blanket bog site at the side of the M62 motorway as it crosses the Pennines. The blanket bog site is already designated as a Special Area of Conservation.

At these sites, Keeley placed specimens at various distances from the motorway, with the closest at 15 metres and the farthest at 250 metres.

Impacts were seen in growth, visible damage and physiology up to 50-100 metres from the motorway edge.

The results are part of a report compiled at the University, and commissioned by English Nature, which aims to give a better understanding of how traffic fumes can affect vegetation.

The English Nature report, which has yet to be published, uses evidence from Keeley’s findings as well as from existing research to evaluate the impact of road transport pollution on the environment.

Keeley’s research also formed part of a wider project between five other institutions which are looking at the impact of traffic pollution on everything from trees to ornamental shrubs.

Funding and support for the research came from the University of Bradford, English Nature, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Emma Scales | University of Bradford
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