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Comparing i-Tree Eco Estimates of Particulate Matter Deposition with Leaf and Canopy Measurements in an Urban Mediterranean Holm Oak Forest

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Pace, Rocco ; Guidolotti, Gabriele ; Baldacchini, Chiara ; Pallozzi, Emanuele ; Grote, Rüdiger ; Nowak, David J.; Calfapietra, Carlo

Year Published



Environmental Science & Technology


Trees and urban forests remove particulate matter (PM) from the air through the deposition of particles on the leaf surface, thus helping to improve air quality and reduce respiratory problems in urban areas. Leaf deposited PM, in turn, is either resuspended back into the atmosphere, washed off during rain events or transported to the ground with litterfall. The net amount of PM removed depends on crown and leaf characteristics, air pollution concentration, and weather conditions, such as wind speed and precipitation. Many existing deposition models, such as i-Tree Eco, calculate PM2.5 removal using a uniform deposition velocity function and resuspension rate for all tree species, which vary based on leaf area and wind speed. However, model results are seldom validated with experimental data. In this study, we compared i-Tree Eco calculations of PM2.5 deposition with fluxes determined by eddy covariance assessments (canopy scale) and particulate matter accumulated on leaves derived from measurements of vacuum/filtration technique as well as scanning electron microscopy combined with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (leaf scale). These investigations were carried out at the Capodimonte Royal Forest in Naples. Modeled and measured fluxes showed good overall agreement, demonstrating that net deposition mostly happened in the first part of the day when atmospheric PM concentration is higher, followed by high resuspension rates in the second part of the day, corresponding with increased wind speeds. The sensitivity analysis of the model parameters showed that a better representation of PM deposition fluxes could be achieved with adjusted deposition velocities. It is also likely that the standard assumption of a complete removal of particulate matter, after precipitation events that exceed the water storage capacity of the canopy (Ps), should be reconsidered to better account for specific leaf traits. These results represent the first validation of i-Tree Eco PM removal with experimental data and are a starting point for improving the model parametrization and the estimate of particulate matter removed by urban trees.


Air quality; PM removal; Eddy covariance; Vacuum filtration; SEM analysis; Modeling; Resuspension; Human health


Pace, Rocco; Guidolotti, Gabriele; Baldacchini, Chiara; Pallozzi, Emanuele; Grote, Rüdiger; Nowak, David J.; Calfapietra, Carlo. 2021. Comparing i-Tree Eco Estimates of Particulate Matter Deposition with Leaf and Canopy Measurements in an Urban Mediterranean Holm Oak Forest. Environmental Science & Technology. 55(10): 6613-6622.

Last updated on: May 31, 2021