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Natural Gas Leaks Responsible for the Death of Trees in Urban Areas, According to a New Study

A new study conducted in Chelsea, Massachusetts is the first to quantify the effects of natural gas leaks on the health of urban trees.
May 31, 2020, 7am PDT | Lee Flannery
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Sierra Nevada Drought

"A new study finds dying trees are 30 times more likely to have been exposed to methane-contaminated soil, confirming long-held suspicions that gas leaks kill plants," reports Phil McKenna, sharing the findings of a new study published last month in the journal Environmental Pollution. This study is the first to measure the effects of natural gas leaks on the health of trees in urban settings. 

Researchers quantified the concentration of oxygen and methane in the soil surrounding 84 dead or dying trees as well as nearly 100 healthy trees in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a predominantly low-income Latino community. McKenna draws a connection between the high rate of COVID-19 in Chelsea and the research conducted by Harvard University researchers which found increased death COVID-19 death rates to be caused by small increases in long-term exposure to air pollution. 

Chelsea, an urban heat island, has fewer trees and vegetation as well as consequentially hotter summer temperatures than surrounding communities. The study presented even further motivation to repair the leaking gas pipelines.

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Published on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 in Inside Climate News
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