Professor Rob MacKenzie 

Professor Rob MacKenzie of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, describes, in 60 seconds, his research into using plants as pollution filters to help makes cities cleaner. 

60 seconds with Professor Rob MacKenzie

I’m Rob MacKenzie, Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Birmingham.

Amongst other things, I’m interested in how plants affect the air that we breathe. As well as carbon dioxide, water, oxygen and pollen, which you know about, plants can emit and take up lots of other stuff. Many plants emit chemicals which react rapidly in the atmosphere leading to a pollution called smog, especially when the plant chemicals mix with traffic fumes.

We’ve shown that this is a major risk in tropical countries where large areas of oil palm plantation are being established next to rapidly growing cities. In Britain plants can reduce air pollution by acting as filters, so long as we use the right kind of plants – not oil palms, for instance – and put the plants in the right places.

We’re working with local governments, NGOs and businesses to help make cities greener and hence cleaner.

Professor Rob MacKenzie's profile