Problem Addressed

There is a growing sense of urgency regarding the environmental health problems associated with air pollution in the UK. As well as efforts to reduce emissions, responses increasingly recognise the capacity of the natural environment to remove pollutants from the air. This tool helps users to better recognise the benefits that the natural environment has for removing air pollutants and improving health outcomes in the UK. The outputs of this tool can help ensure the value of woodlands is incorporated into planning and decision-making.

Solution Overview

Three calculation steps underpin the tool:

  1. The quantity of pollution removal and change in pollution concentrations: the atmospheric chemistry transport model EMEP4UK calculated the quantity of pollution removal by all UK vegetation types, and the change in pollutant concentrations as a result. The model takes into account pollutant emissions, chemical interactions in the air, atmospheric transport, the weather, and vegetation removal on an hourly time-step.
  2. Pollutant-health dose-response models: used the AlphaRiskPoll model to link changes in PM2.5 concentrations to changes in health outcomes. Health benefits included are avoided cases of respiratory hospital admissions, cardiovascular hospital admissions, and life years lost associated with changes in the concentration of PM2.5.
  3. The economic valuation of health benefits. The economic value of health benefits is based on Defra guidelines, which uses household willingness to pay estimates for reductions in health risks associated with air pollution.

The tool presents the health benefit in terms of £ per hectare of woodland to facilitate adding this benefit to the value of other ecosystem services provided by woodlands, and to assess trade-offs with other land management options. Pollutant removal benefits are not distributed uniformly across the UK, but varies according to amount and type of pollution in the air; vegetation cover and mix of species within this; and population size and composition, and climate. As such, removal rates and £ values are reported by UK local authority. The only data inputs required by the users are to select a local authority and the number of hectares of existing and/or newly planted woodland within a project site.

This tool is free of charge and is publicly accessible. Additionally, there is no maximum or minimum scale that a project must meet in order for this tool to be used.

More information can be found here.

Case Study

Environmental Land Management Scheme Test Pilot for Defra

This was a government test and trial project to demonstrate how natural capital accounting can be used to put the ‘public money for public goods’ principle of the ELM scheme into practice. For estates within the project area, natural capital baseline accounts were developed which valued the benefits of several ecosystem services produced by habitats within the project area. Air pollution removal services provided by woodlands, estimated using the air pollution removal tool, was one of the services valued and included in the accounts produced. Air pollution removal values, in combination with the other benefits valued, helped to better inform land management planners about the value of habitats and lands on the project site.

The tool is also referenced in Defra’s Enabling a Natural Capital Approach (ENCA) guide.

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