Scientists in Amsterdam are working on a plant that sucks carbon dioxide and other harmful gases out of the air at a gluttonous pace.

Generally, plants and trees do a really good job at purifying the air and acting as huge sinks for carbon. Some estimates claim that the Earth’s vegetation removes around 40 percent of all carbon from the air. In the process, they act as a buffer against climate change.

In cities, the effect of vegetation is keenly felt — that’s why when you step into the countryside or a forest after a train ride from the city, the air seems so much fresher.

When trees and plants are planted alongside traffic, for example, nitrogen dioxide can be cut by 40% and particulate matter by 60%.

Read more: A future without poverty is a future full of leaves

The enhanced plant in Amsterdam — a type of honeysuckle — will be able to clean the air even more efficiently.

Honeysuckle filters the air with little hairs on its stalk and leaves. The new version will be an especially hairy plant.

Image: Fastcoexist

The plant was created by using a special organic fertilizer that excites a gene that makes the plant larger and hairier. After several generations, the super hairy plant is ready for street use and is being planted along roads.

The team is eager to see how the plant fares out in the open, since so many variables — from weather to kids playing to cars — could jeopardize it.

If it proves successful, the plant will be rolled out elsewhere in the city and could even go global — or at least inspire other scientists to develop their own super plants for other climates and geographies.

Read more: Meet Moringa: the superfood tree that loves drought

Cities throughout the world are investing in green spaces such as parks, urban farms, rooftop gardens, and more to both clean the environment and provide new sources of food and pleasure.

It’s a trend that literally has no downside.

Countries all around the world are beginning to recognize the key role that nature — forests, oceans, fields — will play in the future.

Not only does nature provide all that sustains human life — food, water, resources — but it also protects us from the consequences of climate change.

When soil is bolstered through good agricultural practices, floods become less severe. When forests are restored, fires become less extreme. When marine reserves are set up in oceans, wildlife flourishes.

The symbiotic relationship humans have with nature is all-encompassing. And as climate change accelerates around the world, this basic fact is becoming more evident.


Defend the Planet

Scientists Developing Enhanced Honeysuckle Plant to Clean the Air

By Joe McCarthy