Science Alert has an article advocating the monitoring of masonry in graveyards to track pollution.
Walking around an old graveyard may seem more like the stuff of horror movies, but it could actually help save the planet.
That’s the message from the Geological Society of Australia, which is calling on individuals, schools and community groups across Australia, to visit their local graveyards and measure the weathering rates of old marble headstones as part of an international project to track shifts in world pollution levels and climate change.
Rain contains more than just water — it also contains dust particles and acid from air pollution and chemicals. Given the acid in rain chemically erodes marble gravestones (and the more acid the rain contains, the more it erodes the marble) the rate of weathering of marble gravestones can indicate changes in pollution or climate between locations and over time. In this way, the Gravestone Project can help assess whether some regions of the globe are experiencing higher pollution and more rapid climate change than others.
Associate Professor Deirdre Dragovich from the School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, said: “It is amazing to consider that, because marble headstones are freshly cut when they are placed in a cemetery, the weathering ‘clock’ is effectively set to zero. Gravestones are also very accurate indicators of pollution levels—in places where pollution has increased the weathering rates of marble headstones have increased too (and, conversely, weathering rates have decreased in places where pollution has decreased). The Gravestone Project provides a unique opportunity to gather important information about this weathering from different countries, climates and pollution environments—and it is also a great way for the wider community to contribute to cutting-edge research on pollution and climate change.”