Research article
Tree distribution, morphology and modelled air pollution in urban parks of Hong Kong


Indicators associated with tree morphology were quantified through field surveys.

Tree morphology and distribution alter pollutant dispersion in urban parks.

Vegetation barrier is only effective with dense foliage in a limited width.

Tall trees seem suitable for small urban parks where ventilation is to be encouraged.

Appropriate planting strategies can improve air quality in near-road urban parks.


Trees offer a range of ecosystem services and remain important in providing human benefits. However, emerging literature questions the long-accepted view of trees being able to improve air quality in urban parks. The aerodynamic effect of trees was identified as a major reason for the change of pollutant distribution in near-road parks, where trees can act as porous barriers and cause localised concentration increase. Although not yet fully developed, planting strategies aiming to mitigate the negative effect of vegetation on air quality should be encouraged in future park design. In this study, we explored the effect of tree planting design on pollutant diffusion by integrating field surveys in urban parks in Hong Kong with computational fluid dynamic (CFD) modelling. A series of indicators associated with tree morphology and landscape were derived from the surveys and their influence on air pollutant distribution in parks was examined using ENVI-MET. Dense trees with low crown base were found effective in improving air quality within parks when planted as barriers with a width of ~15 m at borders. However, more extensive planting led to a decrease in wind velocity and an increase in pollutant concentrations, which should be avoided. Tall trees tended to have little influence on airflow at the pedestrian level, which means they seem appropriate for small urban parks where wide barriers are not applicable and rapid ventilation should be encouraged. The tree distribution also altered the airflow and pollutant dispersion in parks. Our study provides clues for thoughtful planting strategies which can optimise air quality in urban parks.


Aerodynamic effect
Leaf area index
Traffic emission
Tree growth form
Tree height
Wind pattern