In the last two decades, the deployment of phone masts around the world has taken place and, for many years, there has been a discussion in the scientific community about the possible environmental impact from mobile phone base stations. Trees have several advantages over animals as experimental subjects and the aim of this study was to verify whether there is a connection between unusual (generally unilateral) tree damage and radiofrequency exposure. To achieve this, a detailed long-term (2006-2015) field monitoring study was performed in the cities of Bamberg and Hallstadt (Germany). During monitoring, observations and photographic recordings of unusual or unexplainable tree damage were taken, alongside the measurement of electromagnetic radiation. In 2015 measurements of RF-EMF (Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields) were carried out. A polygon spanning both cities was chosen as the study site, where 144 measurements of the radiofrequency of electromagnetic fields were taken at a height of 1.5m in streets and parks at different locations. By interpolation of the 144 measurement points, we were able to compile an electromagnetic map of the power flux density in Bamberg and Hallstadt. We selected 60 damaged trees, in addition to 30 randomly selected trees and 30 trees in low radiation areas (n=120) in this polygon. The measurements of all trees revealed significant differences between the damaged side facing a phone mast and the opposite side, as well as differences between the exposed side of damaged trees and all other groups of trees in both sides. Thus, we found that side differences in measured values of power flux density corresponded to side differences in damage. The 30 selected trees in low radiation areas (no visual contact to any phone mast and power flux density under 50μW/m2) showed no damage. Statistical analysis demonstrated that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phone masts is harmful for trees. These results are consistent with the fact that damage afflicted on trees by mobile phone towers usually start on one side, extending to the whole tree over time.
Keywords: Effects on trees; Electromagnetic radiation; Phone masts; Radiofrequencies.
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