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Power Hardware Science

Scientists Discover Link Between Trees and Electricity 173

An anonymous reader writes "Everyone knows trees give us all oxygen so we can breathe, but according to Australian scientists, they also affect the concentration of positive and negative ions in the air. A team from the Queensland University of Technology's International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health ran experiments in six locations all over Brisbane and found that positive and negative ion concentrations in the air were two times higher in heavily wooded areas than in open grassy areas, such as parks."
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Scientists Discover Link Between Trees and Electricity

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  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @08:21PM (#39446673) Homepage Journal

    Static electricity occurs when one thing rubs against another thing. Trees have a lot more surface area for the wind to rub against than empty fields.

  • by FairAndHateful ( 2522378 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @08:52PM (#39446835)
    At first I was thinking "more positive and negative ions... Wouldn't they be attracted to each other and take care of that? Then I read TFA.

    "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.

    So... If I go into the forest, I'm more likely to be breathing radon, and at greater concentrations? Um... I do like the trees, but from this I'm not sure the feeling is mutual...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @09:07PM (#39446905)

    Not new. The paper's proposed mechanism (transpiring radon brought up from the ground) might be.

  • by Kagetsuki ( 1620613 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @10:31PM (#39447345)

    A few searches will give you quite a few hits for detailed analysis but I'll give you a quick rundown of how I understand it:

    What are the implications?

    Higher concentrations of negative ions in the air basically leads to "cleaner" air. The basic idea is that the negative ions are attracted to positively charged particulates which they latch on to and break down. Negative ions can also break down bacteria. More details in this wikipedia article: []

    Do the levels of various ions in the air impact human health in any way?

    Yes but I'm not personally aware of how much and I'm not sure how much scientific study could have a corporate bias behind it (to sell air purifiction technologies). Reguardless, it's pretty much been scientifically proven that particular levels of negative ions (not too much, but above a certain level) have human health benefits. Some studies I've seen claim negative ion rich environments make the environment more physicall comfortable (more refreshed and energized) to the body which leads to higher energy and lower stress - and personally that's why I purchased higher quality air conditioners and filtration units which I do *feel* make my living and working spaces more comfortable.

    How do they differ in cities vs suburbs vs the countryside?

    I'm assuming it is -generally- true that cities would likely have lower concentrations than the suburbs which would in turn have lower concentrations than the countryside.

  • Re:And yet. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @11:22PM (#39447599)
    We bought 160 acres of densely forested land a while back. The only part not wooded were a few acres at the front that had been used as farmland. One summer we rented a tree planter, pulled it behind a tractor and in a matter of 3 days planted 70,000 trees. (they're really cheap when you buy them in that volume) We also raised turkeys and released them into the wild (illegally) and brought the wild turkey back to the county in question over a period of 10 years or so. As we put out more and more broods the neighbors started getting involved. Some of our neighbors started gathering roadkill and leaving them in piles in strategically placed areas with pre-made nesting boxes... now we have bald eagles. I'm not sure where the bears and cougars came from but I'm sure there are similar stories involving them that I don't know about. The simple fact is, as a child growing up in the 70's, there were NO big game animals in that area besides deer. There were a few grouse and pheasant but that was about it. Now the countryside is so rife with wildlife we're starting to have problems with Car+bear accidents. It's an amazing change. If there's one thing the USA has got going for it, it's the return of the wilderness.
  • Re:And yet. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xquercus ( 801916 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @11:40PM (#39447685)

    How does that happen? Why do people stop using their land for farming? Do they just keep it to have a nice place to spend a weekend? Or is the land so cheap that they don't actually worry about paying property taxes?

    I can't speak for the midwest but in New England there were once a lot of fairly small farms. If a house comes with an additional 5-50 acres of property, at $1000 an acre for rural land, it may not add a great deal to the cost of the house. If it's wetland, and therefore difficult to develop or harvest timber from, around here it might go for $500 an acre. Many people with a few tens of acres in this area are engaged in small scale timber harvesting so having the extra land isn't necessarily a financial burden.

    As far as taxes, some people will place "the back 40" in to tree growth. State law here allows a landowner to develop a timber harvest plan and get a significant reduction on property tax. In unincorporated parts of the state, I've heard this amounts to $1/acre per year in total tax. I don't know how much of a tax rebate individuals get inside an incorporated town but it is very significant. A number of communities have been complaining about the state mandated tax abatement program and urging reforms because of abuse. For example, owners of waterfront property have been known to place the land into tree growth even though they couldn't possibly harvest the timber due it's close proximity to water -- environmental laws. Of course, this is some of the more expensive property as well.

    When I lived outside Seattle I heard of tax abatement programs for landowners who use their property for agricultural uses. Some of the requirements were pretty minimal. We had neighbors who stabled horses or bread a horse per year specifically so they could receive abatements which were only available for land used for agriculture. Property taxes were quite high there so I can certainly see the appeal of working the system.

Adapt. Enjoy. Survive.