Reduction of the “carbon footprint,” increase in the energy efficiency of a building, and other environmentally friendly initiatives have gained considerable public and industry recognition through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC, 2011). Within this system, credits are given for the use of indoor plants because of their phytoremediation quality [removal of harmful volatile organic compounds (Yang et al., 2009)] and psychological benefits (Bringslimark et al., 2007; Lohr et al., 1996). There appears to be no published research on the aspect of indoor air quality: the impact of plants on removal of carbon dioxide from indoor environments. The principal question is whether carbon dioxide removal by indoor plants is of sufficient magnitude to substantiate claims for a significant impact on indoor air quality.
Photosynthetic activity results in the uptake of CO2 from the indoor environment because the photoassimilates are used for new growth and maintenance of existing tissues and organs. Because PPF is the driving force behind photosynthesis, generally more photoassimilates are produced as the PPF level increases. Indoor environments typically have low PPF levels, making PPF the most limiting factor for photosynthesis. The PPF levels in typical commercial interiorscape installations range from more than 40 μmol·m−2·s−1 (rated as a “good” level by interiorscapers), 35 to 30 μmol·m−2·s−1 (“medium” PPF), or 25 to 15 μmol·m−2·s−1 (“low” PPF) (Manaker, 1981). Under such conditions, plants have variable photosynthetic rates, mainly depending on the ambient PPF levels.
Although photosynthesis is the basic physiological process underlying carbon sequestration, the total amount of carbon sequestered by plants cannot be determined directly from leaf photosynthesis measurements, because leaf measurements do not integrate the whole plant, do not take into account diurnal variations in photosynthesis, and do not account for nighttime respiration (van Iersel and Bugbee, 2000). A more reliable way to determine carbon sequestration is to measure the increase in the total amount of carbon present in the plants. Such data would be valuable both under simulated conditions and in interiorscapes, because there is a lack of quantitative data on plant performance in situ. Our goal was to collect quantitative information that can be used to help predict the magnitude of carbon sequestration by plants in interiorscapes. The specific objectives of this study were to: 1) quantify the photosynthetic activity and carbon sequestration of common interiorscape plants under simulated environments, replicating typical interiorscape conditions; and 2) quantify the amount of carbon assimilation in situ in a commercial interiorscape composed of a variety of plant species and sizes.
Akhter, N.M., Rahman, M., Hasannazzaman, M. & Nahar, K. 2009 Dry matter partitioning in Garden Pea (Pisum sativum L.) as influenced by different PPF levels Acad. J. Plant Sci. 2 233 236
Alves de Alvarenga, A., Castro, E., Lima, M., de Castro, É. & Magalhaes, M.M. 2003 Effects of different PPF levels on the initial growth and photosynthesis of Croton urucurana Baill. in southeastern Brazil Rev. Árvore 27 53 57
Bringslimark, T., Hartig, T. & Patil, G.G. 2007 Psychological benefits of indoor plants in workplaces: Putting experimental results into context HortScience 42 581 587
Burton, A., Pennisi, S.V. & van Iersel, M.W. 2007 Morphology and postharvest performance of Geogenanthus undatus C. Koch & Linden ‘Inca’ following application of ancymidol or flurprimidol HortScience 42 544 549
Conover, C.A. & Poole, R.T. 1981 Environmental factors, p. 269–283. In: Joiner, J. (ed.). Foliage plant production. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
EPA 2011 Emission facts: Average carbon dioxide emissions resulting from gasoline and diesel fuel. 17 Oct. 2011. <http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/420f05001.htm#carbo>.
Giorgioni, M.E. & Neretti, U. 2010 Effects of artificial PPF intensity and ambient CO2 level on photosynthesis of Araceae species commonly used for interior landscaping Acta Hort. 881 607 702
Hull, J.C. 2002 Photosynthetic induction dynamics to sunflecks of four deciduous understory herbs with different phonologies Intl. J. Plant Sci. 163 913 924
Hunt, R. 1982 Plant growth curves. The functional analysis to plant growth analysis. University Park Press, Baltimore, MD
Kinyamario, J.I., Wang'ombe, T.P. & Wanyoundu, J. 2008 Growth characteristics of two tropical forest species Warburgia ugandensis and Polyscias fulva seedlings grown under contrasting PPF conditions Afr. J. Envir. Sci. Technol. 2 15 21
Larcher, W. 2003 Physiological plant ecology. 4th Ed. Springer-Verlag, New York, NY
Lohr, V.I., Pearson-Mims, C.H. & Goodwin, G.K. 1996 Interior plants may improve worker productivity and reduce stress in a windowless environment J. Environ. Hort. 14 97 100
Makino, A., Sato, T., Nakano, H. & Mae, T. 1997 Leaf photosynthesis, plant growth and nitrogen allocation in rice under different PPFs Planta 203 390 398
Manaker, G. 1981 Light, p. 32–76. In: Interior plantscapes: Installation, maintenance and management. 3rd Ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ
Mills, H.A. & Jones, J.B. Jr 1996 Plant analysis handbook II. MicroMacro Publishing, Athens, GA
Reed, D.W. 1996 A grower's guide to water, media, and nutrition for greenhouse crops. Ball, Batavia, IL
SAS Institute 2010 SAS® Enterprise Guide®. SAS Institute, Cary, NC
Taiz, L. & Zeiger, E. 2010 Plant physiology. 5th Ed. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, MA
USGBC 2011 U.S. Green Building Council. 1 Sept. 2011. <http://www.usgbc.org>.
van Iersel, M.W. & Bugbee, B. 2000 A semi-continuous, multi-chamber crop CO2-exchange system: Design, calibration, and data interpretation J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 125 86 92
Vladimirova, S.V., McConnell, D.B., Kane, M.E. & Henley, R.W. 1997 Morphological plasticity of Dracaena sanderiana ‘Ribbon’ in response to four PPF intensities HortScience 32 1049 1052
Yang, D.S., Pennisi, S.V., Son, K.C. & Kays, S.J. 2009 Screening indoor plants for volatile organic pollutant removal efficiency HortScience 44 1377 1381
Yeager, T., Gilliam, C., Bilderback, T., Fare, D., Niemiera, A. & Tilt, K. 1997 Best management practices: Guide for producing container-grown plants. Southern Nurserymen's Association, Marietta, GA