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You are here: Home / Urban Forest Connections Webinars / Using Moss to Detect Air Pollution in Portland, Oregon: Details of a groundbreaking study

Using Moss to Detect Air Pollution in Portland, Oregon: Details of a groundbreaking study

Geoffrey Donovan collects moss samples in Portland, OR
U.S. Forest Service

Using Moss to Detect Air Pollution in Portland, Oregon: Details of a groundbreaking study
May 11, 2016

Rob Mangold, Director, Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service

Sarah Jovan, Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service

Katie McClintock, Air Enforcement Officer and Julie Wroble, Toxicologist, US EPA Region 10

In February, findings from a Forest Service study created a stir throughout the city of Portland, Oregon. Researchers had assessed whether mosses found on urban trees could be used to measure air pollutant levels, and their groundbreaking methodology identified previously unknown sources of toxic heavy metals. The maps created by the study team gave state regulators new information they could use to site air quality monitors within the city. The state's independent monitoring confirmed high pollutant levels at one particular hotspot-cadmium and arsenic levels were 47 and 155 times higher than state benchmarks, respectively. Using moss as a bioindicator to monitor environmental health had never been done in an urban setting, and the study has generated intense interest from residents, state and local government, the US EPA, and the media. The work has received months of local news coverage and was featured in the New York Times. Our panel of speakers will provide an overview of the cadmium study and describe how it presents an intriguing prospect for the way regulatory agencies monitor air quality in cities.


View the webinar podcast »

Using Moss to Detect Air Pollution in Portland (PDF)
Sarah Jovan
Research Ecologist
USDA Forest Service

How Moss Exposed Potential Health Concerns in Portland (PDF)
Katie McClintock and Julie Wroble
Air Enforcement Officer and Toxicologist
US EPA Region 10


Resources Mentioned in the Webinar

Sarah Jovan
Sarah Jovan provides links and resources to her work conducting research on the use of non-vascular organisms (lichens, bryophytes) as bio-indicators of air quality and climate change.

Toxic Moss in Portland Oregon Shakes City's Green Ideals
Feature article in the New York Times on the USFS study.

Safer Air Oregon
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Health Authority and Multnomah County Health Department website to share information about toxic metals emissions and what we're doing to protect the public's health.

US Forest Service Resources

Moss Study Helps Identify Pollution Hotspots
US Forest Service blog about the study.