UK's first air quality garden established at Sheffield Botanical Gardens

Sheffield children help to plant the UK's first air pollution gardenSheffield's Botanical Gardens has become home to the UK's first air quality garden, thanks to a project led by the University of Sheffield.

The garden will show the effects of air pollution on plants and their ability to absorb the air’s harmful chemicals, as well as raise awareness about the effects on health and how people can make a difference.

Dr Maria Val Martin from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at The University of Sheffield, is lead researcher on the project, which is funded by the White Rose University Consortium.

She has worked with Dr Steve Arnold and Dr Catherine Scott from The University of Leeds and Dr Patrick Bueker and Dr Alison Dyke from The University of York to establish the garden, based on similar projects in the USA, also known as ‘ozone gardens’.

The air quality garden will include species that are sensitive to ozone pollution, such as snap beans, wheat, clover and perennial plants, such as common milkweed and cutleaf coneflower. The project will also identify species already grown at the Botanical Gardens that are sensitive to nitrogen dioxide pollution.

21 Sheffield children aged between 8 and 10 years old helped create the garden and surveyed existing plants for signs of pollution damage. Air Quality information packs, including badges and notepads, were given to the children to encourage the message that ‘what you do makes a difference’.

Dr Val Martin said: “We are very excited to establish this garden in Sheffield. We want to show the community what polluted, bad air can do to the local plants and explain how harmful it can be to our health.

"Having clean air in Sheffield requires planning to help reduce traffic, but also needs individual actions. We hope this project will raise public awareness of air pollution effects in a tangible manner and changes people’s behaviours.”

Claire Pickerden, Project Development Manager for the White Rose University Consortium, said: "We are delighted to support this project that brings together academic expertise in air pollution, vegetation impacts and citizen science from across the three institutions.

"Working in partnership with Sheffield City Council on the garden is also key in increasing awareness of the impact of air pollution on our urban plants and highlighting the wider environmental issues .”

The air quality garden is now established and can be found just to the left of the Brocco Bank entrance to the Botanical Gardens. People can expect to see the effects of pollution on the plants within two months, when the growing season finishes at the end of August.