PAPER 1:    A new mechanism for Tree Die-Back by Dr Chris Barnes Bangor Scientific and Educational Consultants



A brief history of tree dieback is presented. Routes for metal absorption are discussed. A new theory of a requirement for both radio frequency fields and metal pollution mainly magnetite in PM2.5 is needed to cause vegetation damage. General tree die back is discussed in terms of Oxidative stress. Effects of clustering of tree deaths are discussed in terms of a new quantum mechanical model.  



Tree –die back has been noted amidst various species since the 1970’s.  Acid rain and fungal and insect infestations   infections are usually blamed and indeed are probably still responsible for the majority of tree die-back. However, the question posed here is could other factors in our environment be accentuating the situation? 


The author has noticed an association between locations which experience the phenomenon known as the Hum and   general clusters species independent tree dieback.    Localities which experience the phenomenon known as the Hum often seem to occur at specific and quantised distances   from mobile phone antennas and/or are locations where there are strong a.c. electrical ground currents.   It is thus possible these self-same factors are involved in some way in contributing to the phenomenon now commonly referred to as tree die back.  Whereas some specific species tree deaths are accountable for simply in terms of disease, Dutch Elm probably being one of the most famous or because of predators such as the Oak Processional Caterpillar, the author has more recently noticed another much more species independent form of die -back and it is the purpose of this communication to seek to explain this latter phenomenon.       


Metals absorption by trees, their leaves and vegetation.

Metals and their compounds can appear on or in the leaves of deciduous trees or the needles of conifers by two main routes.  These are either translocation from the root system via the xylem and phloem, see Breckle and Kahle 1991 (1) and Baes and Mclaughlin (1984)  (2)  or by   deposition of nano-material  such as magnetite and nickel onto the leaves/needles directly from the air, especially by roadsides , see Speranza and Leopold (2012) (3).  

Some metals have a direct toxicity on entire plant metabolism but for others their outcome in terms of plant physiology is less clear. 

Magnetite, for example, is an excellent microwave absorber, indeed one of the most efficient and yet in human radio biology its presence has been totally disregarded in calculating SAR for cell phones and the like, see Kirschvink 1996 (4).  As well as for perception of some cases of the disturbing LFN like phenomenon known as the Hum which plagues people World –wide, maybe magnetite could account for so called ‘non-thermal damage’ of EM fields to living systems?  In any event one expects biogenic magnetite to be laid down in places where it is really needed in the body such as the brain.  On the other hand geologic magnetite due to PM2.5 pollution will, perhaps,   be spread more evenly including the blood stream and skin.  It is this geologic magnetite which will, amongst other pollutants, metals and their compounds find itself on and in tree leaves and needles.


So metals and their oxides are very strong microwave absorbers. There are probably multiple mechanisms by which leaf death and eventual whole plant partial die back or death could occur as a result of  r.f. radiation exposure involving either  in the traditional sense energy carried in the e.m field or in the quantum mechanical sense information carried by the magnetic vector potential (A –field).  This latter explanation is useful for other than in so much as electrical ground currents may disturb the root systems of trees it provides the missing link between tree deaths associated with modulated mobile telephony and data systems and tree deaths        associated with overhead electricity pylons.


Hitherto unexplained locations of clusters of tree die-back (various mixed species)

We hear a lot in the news recently about species specific tree die back and disease causality.  However, where the author resides in North Wales, if one is observant one can notice multiple species of trees and shrubs which appear to be in a partial state of die back with some deaths. These casualties always either seem to be located in clusters close to cellular phone transmitter or other antennas or at very specific distances from them.



Fig1                                                                               Fig2    

The illustration, figure 1, above shows non-specific species independent tree die back in the vicinity of one of Gwynedd's   first ever mobile phone masts, ironically one which is itself disguised as a tree.  Trees mainly to the left of the antenna can be seen dying from the top down.  The location is at the side of the busy Felinheli bypass, near Caernarfon.  There is thus both a source of RF radiation and nano- particulate pollution. 


Figure 3


Figures 2+3 show a number of dead and dying trees around another mobile phone mast near the busy Bangor to Bethesda A5 road.   The main beam of a mobile phone mast is usually made with a declination of about 60 degrees to optimise for pavement users.  Figure 2 illustrates elegantly a completely dead tree about 50m from the mast and at exactly the declination to receive maximum effect.   


Background radio waves

It has been shown very recently that background radio waves either stunt or accelerate vegetation (geraniums and aspen trees) (5). Although it is mentioned that r.f may make seedlings more susceptible to disease precise mechanisms for interaction are not advanced. The work also remarks on the fact that major World forest decline began in the late 1970’s.  The present author associates this date with the advent of UHF TV and UHF PMR transmission, together with more attendant use of microwave point to point systems.    Similarly road infra-structure particularly motor ways were vastly expanded.  Thus we have formulae wherein we provide both more UHF and microwave pollution and more PM2.5 particulate pollutants.  The present author believes both are requisite for tree and vegetation damage.


Evidence for author’s hypothesis

The author lives quite proximal to several mobile phone base stations and a VHF paging transmitter.  The r.f. field strengths are similar in inside the third floor of the author’s home and outside in the garden.  Some shrubs and trees in the garden show signs of die back and have leaves similar to those documented by Haggerty above.  Plants kept indoors on the third floor do not show such signs.  Plants kept by Haggerty outdoors in a Faraday cage also do not show such signs.  This observation leads to a conclusion is strong support for the authors’ hypothesis that both r.f. and particulate pollutants are required for damage.  


Oxidative stress Mechanism.

Certain metal nano-particles and their oxides make excellent microwave absorbers particularly when mixed with organic insulators (6).    The situation for such particles particularly magnetite, and iron and nickel nano-particles, major constituents in PM2.5 pollution, might well be very similar to this in whichever mode they adsorbed onto or absorbed into tree  or vegetation leaves or needles.  The proposal is then, that even at modest microwave or uhf field strengths, energy might be concentrated sufficiently to bring about oxidative stress and destroy critical biochemical pathways in the leaf. If leaves die then, unable to photosynthesize effectively, the entire plant might suffer partial or entire death or decline.     Such observations have been made under certain controlled conditions for certain species of plants without added pollution, see, for example,  for duckweed, Tkalec et al 2007  (7);   for tomato, Roux et al (8)  and in general references (9-11).  

The added pollution, mainly from the roadside,   according to the present author, will make the leaves act like dielectric antennas and focus up to twenty times as much energy into them. 


Quantum mechanical effects

It has also been previously noticed that tree deaths tend to occur at specific distances from transmitting antennas.  Previously this has been ascribed to the presence of antenna main beam (12) and secondary side lobes (13).


The present author has noticed a general effect which can only be described as being a quantum effect related to the electromagnetic Aharonov-Bohm effect and resulting in maximum bio –effect occurring for trees and vegetation located at distances from transmitting antennas such that the magnetic field B and magnetic vector potential A  are odd multiple numbers of PI radians apart (antiphase).  At 1000 MHz this is 0.5 nS as a time difference or   approximately 500 meters from the transmitter and odd integer multiples thereof.  

This is a difficult concept and is best understood by reference to (14) Or for a more rigorous mathematical interpretation of the background see also (15).


The SCALAR ‘A’ carries information if the transmission is modulated.  Magnetite is known to store information in biological systems by spintronic type interactions with biological organic molecules and water.  Thus we have a quantum oriented mechanism for how electromagnetic fields working in conjunction with PM2.5 pollution could conceivably alter transcription in plant cells and produce radial die back clusters.  The author has filed a UK patent application in respect of the spatial predictability aspects of die back.      Trees and plants stressed in this manner are also naturally more likely to succumb to fungi and parasites.


Other biological systems. 

The assimilation of metal nanometre sized metal/metal oxide   pollutant particles in the presence of electromagnetic fields could have implications for the decline of other species particularly insects and birds and is hoped to report on these soon and elsewhere. 







5.      International Journal of Forestry Research Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 836278, 7 pagesdoi:10.1155/2010/836278Research Article Adverse Influence of Radio Frequency Background on Trembling Aspen Seedlings: Preliminary Observations Katie Haggerty P.O. Box 553, Lyons, CO 80540, USA).Received 21 June 2009; Revised 31 October 2009; Accepted 17 February 2010 Academic Editor: Terry L. Sharik.

6.      Microwave absorption properties of the core/shell-type iron and nickel nanoparticles Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials Volume 320, Issue 6, March 2008, Pages 1106–1111)  and   polymers (  Journal of   applied Physics  Volume:111 Issue:6).


8.      Roux et al.: High frequency (900 MHz) low amplitude (5 V/m) electromagnetic field: a genuine environmental stimulus that affects transcription, translation, calcium and energy charge in tomato. Planta 2008 Mar, 227 (4): 833-91

9.      Roux et al.: A possible role for extra-cellular ATP in plant responses to high frequency, low amplitude electromagnetic field, 2008.

10.  Tkalec et al: Exposure to radiofrequency radiation induces oxidative stress in duckweed Lemna minor L.; Environ 2007 Sep 6 Sci Total Environ.

11.  Nilsson M, Sjunnesson R. Träd skadas av strålning från mobilmaster. Article in Miljömagasinet Nr 22, Aug 7, 2009.


13.  Confidential private communication regarding a report which was made for UK Forestry Commission.


15.  Toward a more complete electrodynamic theory


International Journal of Signal and Imaging Systems Engineering


Inderscience Publishers


1748-0698 (Print)
1748-0701 (Online)


Electronic Systems, Control and Artificial Intelligence and Systems Engineering


Volume 5, Number 1/2012





Subject Group

Science, Engineering and Technology

Online Date

Monday, May 07, 2012