Urban forests (UF) provide a range of important ecosystem services (ES) for human well-being. Relevant ES delivered by UF include urban temperature regulation, runoff mitigation, noise reduction, recreation, and air purification. In this study the potential of air pollution removal by UF in the city of Florence (Italy) was investigated. Two main air pollutants were considered – particulate matter (PM10) and tropospheric ozone (O3) – with the aim of providing a methodological framework for mapping air pollutant removal by UF and assessing the percent removal of air pollutant. The distribution of UF was mapped by high spatial resolution remote sensing data and classified into seven forest categories. The Leaf Area Index (LAI) was estimated spatially using a regression model between in-field LAI survey and Airborne Laser Scanning data and it was found to be in good linear agreement with estimates from ground-based measurements (R2 = 0.88 and RMSE% = 11%). We applied pollution deposition equations by using pollution concentrations measured at urban monitoring stations and then estimated the pollutant removal potential of the UF: annual O3 and PM10 removal accounted for 77.9 t and 171.3 t, respectively. O3 and PM10 removal rates by evergreen broadleaves (16.1 and 27.3 g/m2), conifers (10.9 and 28.5 g/m2), and mixed evergreen species (15.8 and 31.7 g/m2) were higher than by deciduous broadleaf stands (4.1 and 10 g/m2). However, deciduous forests exhibited the largest total removal due to the high percentage of tree cover within the city. The present study confirms that UF play an important role in air purification in Mediterranean cities as they can remove monthly up to 5% of O3 and 13% of PM10.
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