Redbud trees are among the plants that will help monitor air pollution in the Turkish cities of Tarsus and Erdemli. Photo by B~ via Flickr.
The bounty of tulips that the Istanbul municipality plants in the city's public squares, parks, and gardens each April to celebrate the coming of spring shows how radically--and attractively--a bit of nature can transform urban space. But decorative plants are more, so to speak, than just a pretty face. By using them to monitor air pollution, cities can clean up as well as green up.Monitoring heavy metals
A pilot project has been launched in two cities in the eastern Mediterranean province of Mersin to monitor the heavy metals and other pollutants in exhaust fumes using decorative plants, trees, and shrubs. A joint effort of the Alata Horticultural Research Institute, Çukurova University, and the Tarsus Municipality, with support from the country's Ministry of Agriculture, the project will last for three years and will be conducted in Tarsus and Erdemli.
Some 390 redbuds, rubber plants, magnolias, orchids, Jacaranda, oleander, and Pyracantha have already been planted along busy roadways in the two cities.
A model for all of Turkey
Dr. Ayhan Aydın, the project officer at the Alata Horticultural Research Institute, where the plants to be used in the research are being cultivated, said if the pilot project is successful, it may be launched nationwide after the conclusion of the initial study period.
Istanbul could certainly use the additional greenery, as well as the new tool in its ongoing, and often seemingly futile, battle against pollution from cars, burning coal, industrial operations, and other sources. The capital, Ankara, and the Mediterranean city of Adana, the country's fourth largest, are also air-quality trouble spots.
Air pollution a big issue
According to data compiled by the Environment and Forestry Minstry in 2007, out of the country's 81 provinces, 73 are "faced with serious environmental problems." Air pollution was named the most pressing problem in 27 provinces, but the ministry said it was an issue in almost all provinces.
A European Union report the same year said progress on the subject has been "limited" and "Turkey needs to adopt further legislation and take steps to start implementation, including upgrading air quality monitoring." In making this recommendation, the EU may have envisioned something more high-tech than magnolia plants, but from small seeds, great things can sprout. Via: "Plants to measure effects of exhaust gas," Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review
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