Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Trees may play role in electrifying the atmosphere, study suggests

Date:
March 21, 2012
Source:
Queensland University of Technology
Summary:
Plants have long been known as the lungs of the Earth, but a new finding has found they may also play a role in electrifying the atmosphere. Scientists have long-suspected an association between trees and electricity, but researchers in Australia think they may have finally discovered the link. The scientists ran experiments in six locations around Brisbane. They found the positive and negative ion concentrations in the air were twice as high in heavily wooded areas than in open grassy areas, such as parks.

Plants have long been known as the lungs of the earth, but a new finding has found they may also play a role in electrifying the atmosphere.
Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

Plants have long been known as the lungs of the Earth, but a new finding has found they may also play a role in electrifying the atmosphere.

Scientists have long-suspected an association between trees and electricity but researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) think they may have finally discovered the link.

Dr Rohan Jayaratne and Dr Xuan Ling from QUT's International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health (ILAQH), led by Professor Lidia Morawska, ran experiments in six locations around Brisbane, including the Brisbane Forest Park, Daisy Hill and Mt Coot-tha.

They found the positive and negative ion concentrations in the air were twice as high in heavily wooded areas than in open grassy areas, such as parks.

Dr Jayaratne, who is also a member of QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), said that natural ions in the air were mainly created by ionisation due to two processes -- radiation from the trace gas radon in air and cosmic radiation from space.

Radon is a by-product of the radioactive decay of radium which is present in minute quantities in rocks and is continually exhaled by the ground.

"Because radium is found in rocks and radon is soluble in water, ground water is particularly rich in radon," he said.

"Trees act as radon pumps, bringing the gas to the surface and releasing it to the atmosphere through transpiration -- a process where water absorbed by the root system is evaporated into the atmosphere from leaves. This is especially prevalent for trees with deep root systems, such as eucalypts."

The QUT scientists estimated that, in a eucalyptus forest, trees may account for up to 37 per cent of the radon in the air when transpiration rates were highest.

Dr Jayaratne said though there was still a lot more research which needed to be done in relation to the role of ions, the findings, which were published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, have potentially important implications for the atmosphere, climate and human health.

"Although there is an established link between airborne particles and human health, the role of ions is largely unknown," he said.

"However, we do know that approximately one-half of the particles that we inhale during normal breathing are retained in our respiratory system and it has been shown that charged particles were more likely to be deposited in the lungs than uncharged particles.

"We do not believe that ions are dangerous -- the danger comes from the pollutants. If there are no dangerous particles in the air to attach to the ions there is no risk of ill health."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queensland University of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E.R. Jayaratne, X. Ling, L. Morawska. Role of Vegetation in Enhancing Radon Concentration and Ion Production in the Atmosphere.. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011; 45 (15): 6350 DOI: 10.1021/es201152g

Cite This Page:

Queensland University of Technology. "Trees may play role in electrifying the atmosphere, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120321105525.htm>.
Queensland University of Technology. (2012, March 21). Trees may play role in electrifying the atmosphere, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120321105525.htm
Queensland University of Technology. "Trees may play role in electrifying the atmosphere, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120321105525.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

Raw: Balloon Descends to Bottom of Croatian Cave

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) An Austrian balloon pilot has succeeded in taking a balloon deep underground, a feat which he believes is a world first. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

Bodies Recovered from Japan Volcano Eruption

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Rescue crews finished recovering the remaining 27 bodies from atop Japan's Mount Ontake Monday. At least 31 people were killed Saturday in the mountain's first fatal volcanic event in modern history. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan's Mount Ontake Erupts

Raw: Japan's Mount Ontake Erupts

AP (Sep. 27, 2014) A volcano erupted in central Japan on Saturday, sending a large plume of ash high into the sky and prompting a warning to climbers and others to avoid the area. (Sept. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins