Article published on Remote Sensing: Bird-Borne Samplers for Monitoring CO2 and Atmospheric Physical Parameters

Air quality monitoring in cities is significant for both human health and environment. Here, an innovative miniaturized active air sampler wearable by free-flying birds is presented. The device integrates a GPS logger and atmospheric calibrated sensors allowing for high spatiotemporal resolution measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, barometric pressure, air temperature, and relative humidity. A field campaign, carried out from January to June 2021, involved the repeated release of homing pigeons (Columba livia) from downtown Rome (Italy), to sample the air on their way back to the loft, located in a rural area out of the city. The measurements suggest the importance of green urban areas in decreasing CO2 levels. Moreover, a positive relation between CO2 levels, relative humidity, and air temperature was revealed. In contrast, a negative relation with distance from the point of release, month, and time of day was found. Flight speed and the altitude of flight were related to rising CO2 levels. The easy use of such devices paves the way for the application of miniaturized air samplers to other synanthropic species (i.e., gulls), making birds convenient biomonitors for the urban environment. 


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